By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — This past month, I presented at two state broadcasters’ association conventions: Illinois and Iowa. My topics: “The Six Most-Dreaded Words in Sales: ‘Radio Doesn’t Work,’” specific techniques for creating commercial copy that produces better results; “How Millennials Use Media”; and “Quick, Actionable Sales Ideas to Make Money Selling Digital.”
Here are the common threads from all three sessions…
Recent years’ radio revenue data has many shrugging that “flat is the new up.” Less so in small and medium markets, where local direct retail comprises more of radio’s income than in big markets where transactional business is the ball game. And in every market, digital is the shiny object sucking dollars away from legacy media. Especially ours. Ask car stores: Detroit is telling them to move radio money online.
Forecast: Digital will become the #1 advertising platform by 2017, after elections and Olympics pump-up TV in 2016. Magna Global projects that digital will grab 38% of all ad dollars in 2017, $72 billion (topping TV’s $70.5B, excluding retransmission revenue), and dwarfing radio.
Has new media been over-estimated?
If you attended last year’s NAB/RAB Radio Show in Indianapolis, you probably cheered-and-chuckled-through the keynote by longtime ad agency exec and “101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising” author Bob Hoffman. He dissed results from banner click-through rates and other disappointing digital campaigns.
Broadcasters will also feel affirmed by USA Today/Vanity Fair/Hollywood Reporter/New York Magazine columnist Michael Wolff, author of the just-released Amazon.com best-seller Television is The New Television: The Unexpected Triumph of Old Media in The Digital Age (2015 Portfolio):
“While everywhere there was the belief, near absolute, that the future of media lay with some ever-transforming technology, twenty years into this revolution, the value of traditional media, even with big losses in print and music, dramatically grew, with an Ernst & Young study in 2014 finding traditional media and entertainment companies increasing ‘their lead as one of the most profitable industries,’ with television margins as high as almost 50 percent.”
Lots of radio stations do even better, still. How?
EVERYTHING that comes out the speaker of a good radio station is storytelling.
It’s obvious when you hear a country station. Every song tells a story. I specialize in news/talk/sports radio, and I rant… er, “remind,” clients that there are no “stopsets.” Commercials are part of the programming.
- So — like the news copy we write, and the talk topics we set, and the stories callers tell – the spots we craft for advertisers need to tell the advertiser’s story.
- And the best way to do that is to explain how the product or service being offered relates to the listener’s story.
- ICYMI on TalkersTV a while back, hit YouTube and search “Holland Cooke Writing Results-Producing Radio Commercials.”
Brainstorm in a sales meeting: Is there “digital backlash” that local service retailers can exploit?
- How might consumers have been disappointed by E-commerce? How can good, old-fashioned hand-holding offer consumers a better experience, or more peace of mind?
- Example: “YOU ONLY GET ONE SUMMER VACATION A YEAR. AND MAYBE LAST YEAR’S ONLINE BARGAIN TURNED-INTO THE-TRIP-FROM-HELL. WHY RISK IT? LET NANCY HARTMAN PLAN THE GETAWAY YOU NEED…”
- Example: “THERE’S A REASON THEY CALL IT CAR ‘INSURANCE.’ HOPEFULLY, YOU’LL NEVER NEED IT! BUT IF YOU DO HAVE AN ACCIDENT, WHO WILL YOU CALL…FLO? WHEN RON JOHNSON WRITES A POLICY, HE GIVES YOU HIS CELL PHONE NUMBER…”
- Nancy and Ron can help you with copy points. Listen to their elevator pitch, and ask about horror stories they’ve heard. And when you do, record the conversation. Reps at stations I work with use iPhone. The mic is fine…so you can….
- Use the advertiser’s voice. It conveys The Personal Touch the spot promises. And people will tell them “I heard you on the radio.” So much for “radio doesn’t work.”
As for those Millennials…
Yes-they-DO listen to radio…more than Baby Boomers! According to Nielsen, each week:
- 66.6 million Millennials listen.
- 57.9 million Generation x-ers listen.
- 57.9 million Baby Boomers listen.
They’re not averse to commercials. My session at the Iowa conference began with a mini-focus group of Millennials we had recruited. And these young listeners echoed what we’ve heard in similar Q&A and other meetings where we’ve probed this. Asked about radio commercials, one said, “If it’s funny or unpretentious or relevant to me, I’ll check it out.” BUT…
Authenticity is key.
- “People our age find radio gimmicky.”
- “Be transparent and honest, like there’s another person there talking to you. It has to come across as 100% sincere.”
- “Telling the truth” is imperative.
- The young consumers taking the reins of our economy “hate hype.”
They’re also community-minded. So local insurance agent Ron Johnson’s assuring tone can resonate better than Flo’s shtick.
Holland Cooke (www.HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and a TALKERS magazine and RadioInfo contributor. Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke