Why Isn’t Radio Working?

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I recently stumbled across a message like this on a forum. You’ve probably seen or heard something similar yourself.

“.. we’ve had advertisers buy packages and then back away. They say their radio ads didn’t work. I asked what did work and they said [nothing did].

Sound familiar?

Is it our society who is oblivious to advertising?

Yes. Absolutely, yes.

Any thoughts on what is affecting the masses to be deaf and dumb regarding radio advertising.”

A few, yes.Yes. We are becoming oblivious to advertising. We’re inundated with so much, everywhere, every day, that we’re getting rather excellent at unconsciously filtering it out. But we also know that radio works.

If your ads aren’t working, it’s likely a combination of a bad schedule and bad copy. Bad copy is a plague on the industry. But when so much of it is being written by people with no training, and with so little actual training even available, what do you expect? Then, when you give that a two spot a day schedule for three whole days, it’s guaranteed to do nothing. Or pretty close to nothing.

Oh, I hear it now – “But, they were PRIME TIME spots!”  Whoop-de-fricking-ding! Unless that ad said something truly incredible, in the first few seconds, nobody paid any attention to it.

Here’s the other question: Who is writing the ads? Followed quickly by: What kind of training do they have? Do they check of all the blah blah Encyclopedia Generica cliché-ridden boxes of “friendly staff,” “locally owned,” and “conveniently located at,” (insert civic address here, only to discover that the business advertising 596-G Main St. doesn’t even have a visible street number on the 7th unit of that strip mall people might recognize if you mentioned it by landmark).

Let’s go through just those few little points we hear so often.

“Friendly staff.”

That’s the honest-to-insert-your-deity-here minimum expectation everywhere you shop. Where do you shop where you do NOT expect the staff to be friendly to customers?  Yes, okay, there are a few themed restaurants out there who intentionally mistreat their customers, but that’s their schtick.  Everywhere else?  It’s expected.  It’s not a point of differentiation.  Ask all the other advertisers out there using that same old line.

“Locally owned.”

Be honest with yourself.  Does that REALLY influence pretty much anybody to buy from a certain store over another?  Yes, there are a very small handful out there who will be influenced by it.  But here’s the thing – those people were going to shop there already.  They’re not the ones you need to reach with advertising.  If locally owned mattered to the masses, the “big box” giants wouldn’t even exist. Sorry if that little bite of reality stings, but it’s true.

“Conveniently located.”

No brick and mortar business is conveniently located today. Amazon is conveniently located.  It’s already wherever the heck I currently am. It’s in my pocket, in my hands already.


Literally two seconds away at any given moment. Even less, now that you can do voice command shopping with Google Home or … yes, Amazon Echo.

I have LITERALLY, in the last 6 months, ordered an item of clothing on my phone from Amazon while IN a brick and mortar clothing store, waiting for my daughter to try stuff on … and had it on the doorstep the next morning. No brick and mortar can beat that level of convenience. So stop saying it.  It’s meaningless. (And eats up two seconds you could be using to say something that benefits the client.)  Those two words just help trip the listener’s built-in Ad Block.

Oh, and let’s not get started on those two voice spots that waste the first 4 seconds – critical time in ads, where you have to grab the ear – establishing fake names for fake people who are usually station announcers acting badly. Then throw in some extra fake names for good measure.

Hi Jesse!
Oh, hey Bill. Did you hear about Fred and Nancy?

You’ve already lost the listener. That’s why your ads didn’t work.

If your client REALLY believes radio doesn’t work, ask them to do a giveaway – with a limit – that is ONLY mentioned on your station.  No other media. No in-store signage.  But it has to be big.  Something that could cost them thousands. Like a butcher shop advertising 10 pounds of T-Bone steaks FREE to each of the first 20 people through the door that morning.  Run the ad twice, the hour before opening. If there’s no crowd, the ads are free. They’ll likely come back with something about that being crazy and they’d lose a whole pile of money.

And they just shut down their own argument, because … “If nobody listens to the radio, as you say, they won’t know anything about it, and it won’t cost you a dime.”

Radio works, but it doesn’t work the same at every station. It’s not just where you say something, it’s how you say it too.

How good are your writers? Great writers help your avails sell themselves – because businesses will come to know how well radio works – if they’re advertising with YOU.

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