A Dangerous Way To Sell Radio

by Jeff Left

I recently heard a “Radio Works” ad in the market. It’s one of those “feel good about us” ads that say little and do little to increase or maintain ratings and revenue. Basically, these ads are used to try to reinforce the client and the listener, as well as the radio staffers, that what we do is correct and our product is worth it. Fine! That is, until I really started to listen to the ad over and over again. Then I realized what this ad really represented and how it could affect sales and production.

First, clients do not buy into these ads. The truth is serious. Flags go up to everyone that you have a real avail problem. Ask yourself, would you play this ad if you were sold out? NO! Like clients don’t know your light on space? NO! Like your competition doesn’t know you’re having a bad sales day? NO! And other stations would never be mean enough to sell the client on this poor marketing effort and pull the rug out from under your budgets! NO!

Most stations that run this kind of ad are at defcon 4 in sales, grasping for straws because you can park a car in the empty space on their program log. It’s only a matter of time before this seriously backfires on you. This ad had a focus on the industry. “RADIO WORKS!” If a station has to resort to this to sell the industry in general, the station is too far gone. You can’t sell what the industry has to offer in a sixty-second jingle! The only client you attract is the same defcon 4 mentality who is as desperate as you are to make it, and don’t be surprised if you end up in collections with this client. What a way to showcase our industry, with a jingle and a live tag with a salesperson’s name at the end of it. I would rather use bench advertising in the winter!

It’s time stations stop taking the easy way out. Nowadays, clients are way too informed about marketing and advertising to play into this kind of message that is really covering a bad problem in the sales department. This aired in the fourth quarter when we are supposed to be making money! Nineties clients get what we do, the language of our business and the methodology by which we are measured. This is dangerous to your P&Ls as well as your perception in the market.

Here is the way out:

1. Produce a spot that showcases the best spots your station has created. Use the SFX, creative edits, music montages, or the techno end of the biz--a sort of on-air Addy or Best of RAP Cassette from your station. Call former jocks. They have a copy of the spots they did when they worked for your station. How do you think they got the job out of the market? Create an open and a close and make this first kind of ad about what the machines have done and can do to increase store traffic.

2. Get a list of the best thirties ever done. Get an okay from the client to run his old ads that really worked for him. Cut the open and close and run the old thirty everyone remembers or can remember again for the first time. Now you’re selling some of what radio is all about!

3. Take a current spot you think is very creative and rotate it with the other two ideas. Sell these clients an added on value because they are in this “BEST OF RADIO” showcase. Create as many as you can because they will burn fast. Place them smartly, and the other stations will be caught off guard with what the market will hear as a great production AND programming tool. It could get hot! You may even get requests for some of the ads. This could overtake the market, and wait until you see how it affects your production department, how you’ll start to get one creative spot after another, and schedules that will come your way from clients who now think “RADIO WORKS.”

If the generic jingle works for you, great. For most stations, using these three ideas will produce what the jingle could not, results! If you’re only as good as your last spot, show the market how many last spots you’ve been doing. If you don’t have any or can’t get any of these spots, ask yourself what you are really selling. If it’s creative ads that create and maintain store traffic, okay. If you’re just selling time, it’s only a matter of time before time runs out and the format changes or new owners take over. How far are you willing to take your position in the market as leader? Production gets you there!