One of my favorite books is “A Confederacy of Dunces” by the late John Kennedy Toole. “Confederacy” is synonymous with “Synergy,” which is the title of a new study from the Radio Ad Effectiveness Lab available from the Radio Advertising Bureau www.rab.com.
“Synergy” purports to be a study of the effectiveness of combining radio with other media. In typical “Please sir, may I have more?” fashion, the RAB suggests that replacing some “but not all” of your newspaper or television ad with radio improves results.
I’ll leave my criticism of the methodology for another time. The RAB concludes that consumers are more likely to change brand preference if advertisers replace one of two television or newspaper ads with two radio ads. Hmmm.
I love radio. The radio industry has helped me clothe and feed my family for the better part of my adult life. But simplistic thinking like this makes my head itch and makes the business I love look bad. I predict radio salespeople from sea to shining sea will actually persuade some businesses to follow this advice then wonder why the advertising failed.
Here are a few reasons:
Fallacy Number 1 – It’s not about the number of ads - it’s about the frequency of exposure. One would expect a three frequency (two radio ads and one television ad) to be more effective than a two frequency (two television ads). The question of how many ads are needed to achieve this frequency isn’t addressed in the presentation. Oops. We probably should also consider the frequency of the smaller television schedule. Too much reach with too little frequency is the downfall of many campaigns.
Fallacy Number 2 – You can’t measure what hasn’t occurred. The researchers asked questions of to determine brand preference pre and post exposure by asking questions like “If you were going to buy product “x” today, which brand would you buy?”
For years I told friends and family that the next barbeque grill I’d purchase would be a Ducane gas grill. I was absolutely positively no doubt sure. But the day my trusty 30 year old Weber Kettle collapsed I immediately bought another Weber Kettle (although it does have a gas starter).
The Coca Cola Company had mountains of research indicating that consumers loved the taste of New Coke and would buy it by the truckload.
I’ve seen hundreds of people start retail businesses because all of their friends told them that they would definitely buy from them.
The road to business failure is paved with consumer intentions. You can only measure what people do.
Fallacy Number 3 – Advertising is more important than the personal experience factor. Researchers were confused by the results of post study questions comparing attributes of advertised brands with those of unadvertised competitors. There was no difference between the single media and synergistic campaigns. The RAB feels the questions should have been more closely related to the attributes presented in the ads.
Boys and girls it wouldn’t have made any difference. Even assuming that advertising can change perceptions, three ad exposures won’t outweigh a) the amount of prior advertising participants were exposed to, or b) the personal experiences of the participants. It’s tough to move the experimental needle toward Brand X Cellular while out in the real world participants have been exposed to a significant amount of Verizon’s 880 million dollar ad campaign. And no matter how many ads my wife encounters telling her how great Pepsi is, she still prefers Coke. “Can you hear me now?”
When I started out as a DJ the radio industry’s share of ad revenue was around six or seven percent. That percentage hasn’t changed much in the ensuing 32 years. I don’t think the radio industry’s approach has changed all that much either. It was Benjamin Franklin or Albert Einstein (depending on your source) who said, “The definition of insanity is doing what you’ve done in the past and expecting a different outcome.”
Are you one of the voices in the wilderness trying to change the way we do things? Remain positive, challenge ignorance and misinformation (even from those who speak for our industry) and help your customers achieve the success they seek.
Interested in creating some real synergy? Join us for “Radio in the 21st Century” at the Wizard of Ads Academy in Austin. www.wizardofads.com