When Radio Is The Client – by Sean Ross

posted in: by Sean Ross | 4
nab radio show panel 2016
The panel, which happened on September 22, 2016.

By Sean Ross (@rossonradio)

It is easy to be critical of the ad campaigns that surface on radio’s behalf from time to time. Sometimes they sound defensive. Sometimes they sound like they were jobbed out to the very millennials least inclined to be our biggest fans.

So when we prepared to discuss “Secrets of the Top Entertainment Brands,” the Megatrax-sponsored panel at September’s Radio Show 2016, we gave panelists an additional assignment. Create a :30 spot on behalf of radio itself, not just your organization. Then we presented the spots at the end of the session. Who wouldn’t want to hear Radio Disney’s brief on behalf of radio? Or iHeart’s? Or CMT’s?

Having contributed my own spot to the proceedings as well, I can say that the task wasn’t quickly disposed of for anybody. Many of the spots went through multiple iterations. One panelists sent several different spot ideas, and I realized that we had covered a lot of the same turf. My spot depended on listener testimonials, and it’s always difficult to get natural sounding ones.

But I’m happy with the way that spot and others came out. It provided a coda to one of the greatest panel experiences I’ve had, thanks to the great people involved, and especially the work of IMGR’s Chris Nicoll, whose own spot is represented here as well. You can see the coverage of the panel at All Access and Inside Radio, which made panelist Tony Coles’ remarks the rallying cry of the entire Radio Show.

And here are the spots from iHeartMedia’s Tony Coles, CMT’s Cody Alan, Radio Disney’s Phil Guerini, IMGR’s Chris Nicoll and myself:

4 Responses

  1. Mike Saffran (@MikeSaffran)

    Thanks for sharing these, Sean. The task seems like it was an interesting and, undoubtedly, a challenging one for the panelists (clearly, each extended a fair amount of effort). As highlighted in your remarks, a hurdle would be trying not to come across as sounding defensive. In other words, scriptwriting isn’t easy. Another challenge in all commercial scriptwriting is avoiding lapsing into clichés (in both words and themes).

    To be honest — and no offense intended toward any individual (because, in fact, the production value of each spot is very good) — I believe four out of these five radio commercials fail in terms of originality: By presenting tired themes, vague generalities, unsubstantiated claims and/or clichés, or by demonstrating out-of-touch thinking. But one is actually very good, in my opinion. So, as students and I do from time to time in class, here are no-holds-barred “dissections” of each:

    Radio Disney: Clearly, excellent production value … but, unfortunately, not much originality, in my opinion. The opening line referencing “the full power of this station” is vague, boastful (in an overly broad sense — thus, it comes across as somewhat defensive), and largely irrelevant to listeners (“Who cares about your ‘full power’?”). Next comes a cacophony of a kind listeners have grown weary of hearing in commercials, followed by a series of unsupported claims: “delivering the latest in music, entertainment” (cliché) and “engaging content” (overly general). Boasting about “engaging content” is particularly troublesome, I believe, as it represents radio doing the same old thing: simply telling listeners — oftentimes via empty promises — why radio thinks it’s so great (while not always delivering). Meanwhile, by drastically changing their media-consumption habits in recent years, listeners are saying otherwise (so, with whom is the so-called, non-specific “engaging content” actually engaging?). The “new music heard first” claim is OK (as still a true benefit for some listeners) … but the reference to contesting is, arguably, rather worthless (since a high percentage of listeners don’t participate in contests, the reference would be merely mind-numbing chatter to those who couldn’t care less). Because it sounds like a generic promo for any old station tying in vain to convince listeners as to how great it is, I believe most listeners would tune it out (so it would not have the intended result).

    iHeartMedia: So, radio offers good “theater of the mind.” We get it. While true, it’s also, in this particular use, cliché, in my opinion. The first 24 seconds of this 30-second spot are squandered on painting a picture of an airport security checkpoint (including an overuse of SFX and a few lame attempts at humor). Plus, when it comes to SFX, remember: “Less is more.”

    CMT: This one includes the most cliché and out-of-touch-with-reality line of them all: “Knows all of my favorite stars” (no you don’t — and listeners know it). And the “What’s radio?” theme is tired and trite. (This one sounds like it was written by one of those “millennials least inclined to be our biggest fans” mentioned in your introduction.)

    IMGR: “We’re there … we’re everywhere.” Sorry, but if this is the best radio has to offer, we’re all in trouble. (Plus, more lame humor attempts and an overuse of SFX.)

    Finally, the best one (and not just because this is your blog — yours truly is quite good, in my opinion)….

    Ross on Radio: Real problems, originally presented, that people encounter with other media platforms (such as the need to “unfriend” due to incivility in social media) … real benefits of radio (particularly in comparison to social media — again, very uniquely and creatively presented), such as shared-listening cultural experiences: “not just a playlist,” “radio is connection … radio is community” (plus, “count on it in an emergency”). My only negative criticism: While some PDs, MDs and radio columnists (along with a few record promoters and label reps) might sit around pondering “the big song of the summer,” most listeners almost certainly do not. Other than that, though, I love it (and would love to air it on my station).

    Again, thanks for sharing these !

  2. Paul Cramer

    I’ve heard the IHeart spot several times already in use. It reminded me of how good imagination radio spots used to be in general long ago, before people were given license not to think anymore.

    I’m curious Sean, besides your reference to it in your spot here and forever in your columns, I have never heard of the importance of the “song of the summer” impressed upon me by anyone, in business or by a listener, EVER. So to hear your imaginary listener say to me in your spot that they want to know what the song of the summer is, is like hearing someone pushing a catch phrase on me that hasn’t caught on. Sure, there is always a song or two that defines a summer season but has anybody on the street ever defined it that way for their daily lives? Years ago when generic 80’s rock was a thing, I would often call Starship, Survivor, and other such bands “Generock”. I thought it was clever too. Didn’t exactly become viral though. 😀

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