A few years ago, I was presenting a series of ads to an auto dealer. The spots were of a "branding" nature, were to run over a longer period, and were humorous. (I work "funny" 'cause "funny" works.) The regular suspects were gathered ? dealer principal, sales managers, and a few other associates. The spots were playing; the folks behind the dealer were stifling guffaws when the dealer snorted, "Don't make me want to buy a car!"
As I wasn't ready for that one, my brain was instantly sucked into a black hole. Even though the pitch and my expectations of human nature had been lowered on the spot, I said what I had to say. "These spots," I explained, "are designed for influencing the audience into accepting this single dealership as an approachable, safe, reasonable, and desirable place to buy a vehicle or have work done. Direct-response ads, I continued, are for you to drop your pants and give up any worthwhile margins while spending money on advertising that tells everybody how all the dealership really has is price."
Meanwhile, the state of local dealership advertising has hardly changed in decades ? including those amateur dealer principals embarrassing themselves and frightening their own children by going on the radio (or TV) and behaving like a deeply disturbed inmate who has freshly busted out of the institution. Rank, amateur dealers soiling themselves and their personal reputations on the air. Nasty business, that.
Meanwhile, I am delighted with all those ad agencies that made the distinction about what strategy the Super Bowl TV advertisers were going to be applying. Seems all the major agencies have finally been able to convince their clients to go down this magnificent road. The ads used 90 percent of their time to generate emotions in the audience before introducing the product, service, or brand. That's all with multi-million-dollar production costs and the millions more to run the ads?once! These spots were representations of spectacular advertising.
So, who doesn't understand what? Who is responsible?
Let's stay with the environment of the local auto dealerships that use radio. Indeed, it could be argued the responsibility of the dealers to understand the workings of the media they buy is reasonable. Is this fair? Of course not! Dealers principal expect their media associates to be as knowledgeable at their business as are the dealers at theirs.
But, since the medium (radio) has had little clue as to how their own medium is impacting an audience, it is the ownership and management of the station(s) who must bear the greater responsibility. But, to my knowledge, they haven?t been doing anything about this situation at all.
The aforementioned sea change, I realize, is spectacular and an equally magnificent challenge to radio. And I take no delight in making it. (Doing so is a terrific strategy for pissing people off, after all.) Unfortunately, so far the challenge has gone unheeded. Plus, mine is not the only voice calling for significant improvements in the creative departments and in programming staffs.
Radio is running straight ahead in top gear and with the hammer down. What radio can't see is the 12-foot-thick concrete wall across the road -- not all that far away. This wall is broadened and solidified every time radio generates commercials that are only content-based, that are authoritarian in presentation, that are bereft of any emotional appeal, and that arrogantly presume a connection with each individual audience member has been made.
I have been accused, from time to time, of withholding alternate, more effective strategies. It's not true, but I am unwilling to give away the whole farm.
Since I have a series of radio commercials for auto dealerships ready for market, I am willing to provide a sneak preview to any interested parties. I will provide, by MP3, the first six (copyrighted) demo cuts of a 13-spot package ? designed for a 13-week run.
I will also include a five-pager that demonstrates the contemporary realities of radio advertising. The document also addresses relative costs of producing such a series and the benefits of applying a longer-term strategy for the benefit of the advertiser ? and the station. The functions of applying this approach and this strategy are also addressed.
The benefit to a radio station is in being able to present the package ? with or without an extra invoice ? as a marvelous opportunity to do some powerful, longer-term radio advertising. As managers will appreciate, the cost of the package can become an insignificant factor.
All recorded materials are copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any fashion.
A simple request for the preview to my email (below) will get my quick attention. Might be educational -- and fun! Profitable, too.
Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to talent and creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website www.voicetalentguy.com
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