Bad advertising for radio stations is everywhere.
I see it on busses, billboards, Web sites, newspapers and television. I even hear it on the radio. This bad advertising might communicate no message, too many messages, an incoherent message or even the wrong message entirely.
The problem starts with the general manager or market manager of the station. He or she likely has no marketing background.
Unfortunately, many of these strong-willed leaders believe they do know marketing thanks to their background in advertising sales. Wrong! Selling advertising requires a different skill set than communicating a message to the public to induce action.
If you’re the general manager and you have ever started a conversation about consumer preferences with “Well, all of my friends think ...” you need outside marketing help to craft your messaging. Your friends may live in expensive houses, drive nice cars, employ household help and, in short, are nothing like the target demo of your radio station.
Even if your friends aren’t like that, the mere fact that you believe such a sample could justify any conclusion indicates a problem.
Since few pure marketing people remain in radio, the task of execution has fallen to program directors, already overwhelmed with too many projects, who probably learned what they know about marketing indirectly, either from a former marketing director or from reading articles and books.
Shop for quality
Who should handle the task? Answer: The best agency or marketing consultant you can locate.
Shop for someone with a great reputation who can show and play amazing creative that has already delivered results.
Check out their claims. If they show you a campaign that allegedly increased sales at car dealership, call the manager and find out if this was an accurate recounting.
If in the pitch to you the agency comes across as considering radio itself a product category, you’re talking with the wrong agency. They’re not here to sell radio; they need to be selling your radio station.
Don’t choose any creative agency based on business they might be able to deliver later to your sales department from their other clients.
Do consider using a different creative agency than the one that will actually purchase your media.
See if your creative agency will offer a guarantee that their creative will pass a focus group in terms of communicating the intended message. If that creative fails the test, the agency owes you fresh creative.
Push your agency for a guarantee that their creative will pass a focus group in terms of communicating the intended message. ©iStockphoto/Dodeskaden Too often stations will spend precious marketing dollars on untested creative. Just because you like the creative they deliver doesn’t necessarily mean it will create action. Often, what appears to be the best creative goes over the head of intended recipients. It’s easy to be too cool for the room.
If you feel you don’t have enough money to test, do your own focus groups. Show the creative without making comments and simply ask your test recipient to tell you what the message means. If the majority of viewers don’t get it, your agency owes you new creative.
How to spend
As you mull this concept of going outside for your marketing creative, you also may be trying to figure out which of the stations in your group actually will get the marketing dollars.
Will it be the new station in the cluster? Should it be the cash cow? Should it be station whose PD bugs you the most for the budget? Should you spread a little here, a little there?
I’ve tried all four approaches and I can tell you for sure that spreading money around so that every station gets a piece of the budget never works. A pushy PD does not necessarily have any reason to get the nod. The cash cow likely can take care of itself with the correct on-air messaging.
It’s your new station (assuming the product is as good as it can be) that deserves the push.
How much is enough money for a marketing campaign? Another excellent question, one that can be answered best by a media buying service in your town. Be sure to check out more than one. Because they work on commission, some will lowball the figure just to take their cut of the pie.
What? You have no marketing budget? There is always trade. Yes, it can be effective if used correctly. However, even with trade you need ... you guessed it ... excellent creative messaging.
The author is president, Lapidus Media. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org