The Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) is out with “If It Works, Don’t Ignore It,” a print campaign touting the medium as an essential advertising tool created by New York ad agency DeVito/Verdi, which also created the absolutely brilliant campaign for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. (Dinner Date ) We’ve all experienced situations similar to those presented in the NTRA campaign. In other words we can relate to the campaign. That can't be said for the "Works" campaign.
I am not bashing radio advertising. When done right – radio advertising is a beautiful thing. As a matter of fact, I’m currently working on radio ads for about a dozen or so advertisers. But while the ads are clever but they don't prove that radio “works.” One ad touts "radio delivers a 40% greater return on investment than
television ." Well maybe – if you read the study, you'll find that the statement is technically true but the conclusion is based on a seriously flawed experiment. Another "Works" ad states that "Radio reaches 298 million people every week." So what? This is totally useless information unless you're playing Trivial Pursuit. It's like saying that as of 1313:19 GMT (CST +6) April 14, 2006 the population of the United States was 298,515,373. How does that prove "Radio Works" and what are the other 515,373 doing with their time?
But hold the phone. What exactly does the word “Work” mean? In my briefcase toting, radio salesperson days of the early 80’s, I’d happily march into a businessperson’s office proclaiming “Radio Works.” Sometimes I’d get the sale, run the ads – then be told by the advertiser that it didn’t “work. It took more years than I’d like to admit before I started asking advertisers what “work” meant to them.
Making radio (or any media) work isn’t simple, but it’s fairly straightforward.
1) Define the client’s definition of “work” (what has to happen).
2) Develop a strategy to make it happen
3) Create a powerful campaign combining effective reach, frequency and a meaningful message.
Using this formula, I've seen radio “work” fabulously well for hundreds of advertisers. That being said, I’m fairly sure that most agency people don’t ignore radio because it “works.” They ignore it because in many cases it hasn’t “worked” for their clients, studies and statistics not withstanding. Will splashy ads in trade magazines change this reality? No. So dump the print campaign and the useless facts and figures. Instead launch an updated radio campaign similar to 1985's "Plummet Mall" campaign in Cincinnati (Pages 33-35).