A lot of us will spend a good deal of this Memorial Day Weekend behind the wheel, which is an ideal position to consider the sorry state of radio advertising. Given that people in cars make a truly captive audience for ad messages, the generally abysmal quality of radio ads is as inexcusable as it is undeniable. Just tune in a few stations for an hour or two and you’ll realize most of the messages feel about as welcome as your Uncle Don’s college golf stories: they may mean the world to him, but you? Not so much…
This isn’t just my opinion; a sad blurb in Mediaweek notes that the radio advertising business posted its worst quarter in history. Salespeople will blame this on the recession, but radio’s affordability should have perfectly positioned it to profit from media re-allocations. And they would have, if the end product weren’t so uniformly boring and non-engaging.
But let’s not curse this audio darkness, let’s light three candles, with these three simple ways to boost the quality of radio creative.
1. Let’s end the uninterrupted monologue.
Yes it’s cheap to park a voice behind a mic and hand him a script, but it sounds cheap as well, and who wants that? The world of radio lives in the imagination and unlike television, it doesn’t take millions to create rich luxurious vistas in the mind. The first step is to break up all that yapping. Find places to work in sound effects and your message will breathe. Early on in my career as I was hammering out beer ads, now radio legend/then merely radio savant David Lewis introduced me to the ear-relaxing magic of Pops and Pours–simple SFX of beer cans and bottles popping open and pouring into a glass. That’s all it took to greatly enhance Martin Mull’s monologues on Michelob Dark, bless him.
2. Let’s cast more interesting announcers
Take a minute and listen to the voices in your world–very few of them have the innocuous Stepford sounds of your typical TV news reader. So why doesn’t anybody have an accent in radio ads? When did someone decide it was a smart idea to overcook the great melting pot of regional inflections into an inoffensive but unmemorable reduction sauce of sameness? Sam Kinison had a voice, Denis Leary has a voice, Samantha Bee has a voice–and none of their deliveries have been ground down into anonymous audio sausage. Cast voices with singularity and your message memorability will immediately spike upwards.
3. Remember music? People like music.
Music hath charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks or bend a knotted oak. That’s what William Congreve wrote in 1697 and his point still stands: music can make the difference between passing and failing, between soaring and crashing, between mindsticking memorability and forgettable tan wall paint. Needledrop may be a cheap alternative, but do you really want to sound cheap? If you’re creating a radio campaign, spend a few bucks and call in a music house. If you partner well, the investment will reward you richly. Maybe it’s this David Letterman/Jon Stewart/Lonely Island post-ironic age we live in, but somewhere, somehow, for some long lost reason, copywriters lost their never for crafting a few lyrics and recruiting a music house to make them interesting. And the jingle died. If you think that’s right, I have three words for you: American Family Insurance. Yeah that’s right, you just hummed those nine notes in your head–don’t pretend you didn’t. Invest in music–it’s powerful magic.
So there you go: three ideas for punching up the quality of radio creative. Admittedly, I thought these up three during my morning commute. If you dream up some during your drive this weekend, send them along.
And of course, click it. Or ticket.