BRADENTON, Fla. — There is a recent U.S. Congressional Report that reveals that the Army National Guard doled out more than $32 million of its marketing and recruiting budget so far this year. Most of it went to NASCAR coverage – TV, radio, cable, etc. And, at best, they only could attribute about 3% of it to getting recruits. A spectacular and costly failure.
Why do ad campaigns fail and what to do about it? Well, this one fundamentally tanked because of poor research. According to the investigative report, about 90% of NASCAR fans are between 35 and 54 years old. Not exactly National Guard possibilities when they are seeking 18-to-24-year olds.
There is no question that research is critical. You must know who your station or show is trying to reach, and, if, in fact, what you are presenting has any chance of reaching them. Independently syndicated programs boast of the number of their affiliates, then cry mightily when that hard-fought-for ad schedule is canceled or not renewed. And individual radio stations face a similar dilemma with their local business accounts that include the added obstacle of having to face their home business community.
Proper research is critical and not that difficult to gather. But it’s not the only challenge. Another important one is presentation. Yes, there are program hosts who “kiss-off” commercials because they are in the way of some element they believe is more interesting, entertaining or important. Sometimes they face a “hard-break” and race through the spot to meet the time deadline. If I were the account executive or sales manager, I would scream to the high heavens about this. Fortunately, with a couple of exceptions, most of the top nationally syndicated hosts are really good at delivering “live-reads.” The issue appears to be more of a local matter than a national one.
Local radio stations suffer the greatest shame particularly with those short-form commercially sponsored regular features such as the weather forecast, the traffic report and the sports headlines. I actually feel sorry for the poor feature broadcaster who has 90 seconds to two minutes to squeeze in all the information plus a thirty second spot. It’s tough enough to get in all the scores if there was a complete major league schedule the night before, or more than one accident on area highways or a big storm is brewing.
The availability of these features is an important part of a salesperson’s arsenal. But if the commercial is plunged through and not understandable, it’s a disservice to the advertiser and the chance of it being effective is remote at best. Have you ever tried to catch the sponsor’s phone number in one of these?
This issue has been around for years and obviously nothing has ameliorated the matter thus far. So what to do? Talk about your rock and a hard place, the sales rep has two difficult choices: either say “no” to the order or take the money and run. Saying “no” at least keeps the door ajar to go back when the advertiser has a product or service that might be more appropriate and has a chance of success. Repackaging the feature to a sponsor ID and a ten second spot with a :30 or :60 elsewhere is just one possibility. Taking the money and running closes the door forever.
Al Herskovitz is president of H&H Communications. He can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.