Monetizing radio….with commercials.

I found myself in a discussion the other day about radio advertising. In fact, as much time as I’ve spent talking about
monetizing new media, there is still plenty of opportunity to reach consumers,
a lot of them, with great radio…including the commercials.

In my recent discussion I found myself revisiting a lot of the same topics I have addressed
to my staffs of every station or company at which I’ve worked as a broadcaster.
In fact, the following comes directly from memos to those staffs.

Please note: This doesn’t have to be just
for my radio buddies. It can be applied to any commercial production whether it
is new or traditional media.

Radio must make every minute of an hour great. That includes the minutes in commercials.
Don’t think of it as sales gets 12 minutes of commercials and programming gets
48 minutes of music. Consider it as the listener gets a full hour. It
might be worth considering that the reason listeners tune out during
commercials is that they have been trained to do so because, frankly, the spots
are just plain bad.

What will keep listeners listening? Great radio. That means entertaining and informative
content…during music and commercials. For those that sell commercial advertising, the great thing about producing great commercials is the less talked about benefit of getting results for the clients. That means they come back and spend more money. This is a good thing.

Here are some things to remember:


1. With very few exceptions, cold voice spots are bad. They
stop the momentum of the station dead in its tracks…especially on music driven
stations. They also don’t really work for the client. Think about it. Would you
rather be sold something or be entertained and sold something? The old
thinking of “cold voice spots stand out” doesn’t hold water if a) they make the
listener change the station or b) every other client is doing it.

2. Endorsements are great…if the talent doesn’t endorse everything.
The basic premise of endorsements is that listeners will be enticed to buy
something if they feel their favorite personality uses the product and thinks
it’s great. They will be turned off to both the talent and the product if they
perceive the talent as “just another shill for yet another sponsor or product.”
Endorsements are all about trust. If the talent betrays the trust then the
commercial is ineffective.

3. Spend more time writing and producing. Radio is show biz. Theater of the
mind makes for better production. Sure you could just read the copy from the
print ad but, WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO?

4. Keep your eyes
and ears open for production that is supplied to you that will hurt you by
driving away listeners or, for that matter, make you look bad in front of other
clients. Here’s a reminder…listeners are often sales clients and clients are
often listeners. Obviously, you can’t keep everything that you consider bad or
in poor taste off the air. But it’s your job to try.

Things you can do
to help.

a few more minutes with some copy won’t hurt. Taking some extra time calling an
account executive about some less than top-notch production could yield a
better spot. If you’re endorsing something be a fan. Don’t just do it
for the dough. Listeners can tell. Also, spend some time talking with the AE’s.
Maybe you have some ideas that can help them close the deal or make the spots
better. In short, are you doing the best you can for the client and the

of selling means overcoming negatives. If a client gives you a spot that is
bad, do them a favor by suggesting something better, even if it’s just putting
music under their copy. It will get them better results and you’ll also be
doing the station a favor by doing your part to make the next commercial
cluster better. Also, make sure that the endorsement is right for the talent. For
that matter, is it right for the station?

One more
thing, technology has made it possible for us to make the human voice sound
great except in one case…the sound of that voice on a telephone. It has changed
little since the words “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” were
uttered by Alexander Graham Bell on March 10th, 1876. If you need to
have a client on the air in a spot…get them in to the studio to record it or
take a cassette, DAT, Mini-disc or MP3 to record them where they are. Save the
phone for an interview or calling home…not for a commercial.

The bottom
line is that make it all great. Not just part of it.