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Cooke: Radio Show Wrap-Up

| October 2, 2015

Cash, Cars, and (one) Commish’
NAB/RAB Radio show coverage by consultant Holland Cooke


By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

cookewriterATLANTA — Even after night-before conventioneering, a big crowd was lined up when the doors opened before 7:30 for Thursday’s Advertiser Breakfast session, featuring decision makers for radio’s biggest advertiser, The Home Depot.  RAB president/CEO Erica Farber interviewed affable VP/integrated media Michael Hibbinson, and agency hands Diane Fannon from The Richards Group and Ed Gorman of Carat USA. all of whom are bullish on radio.

  • Home Depot is known for writing weekend copy late in the week, with what’s-being-advertised often varying regionally, often influenced by local weather. They spoke of “urgency” and they like how “nimble” radio is.
  • They like that “radio is everywhere! I would dare you to go to a job site and not find a radio on,” Hibbinson quipped.  “Radio has stood the test of time.”
  • Another reason they appreciate our medium: “We’re not constrained by budget” to the extent TV is. Radio spots are copy and a voice.
  • And when you hear the voice, you’re not hearing an announcer. “We use actors,” Fannon explained. “They’re more likely to understand the interpretation of the copy,” which is story-telling that puts the listener in the middle of the project.  “We want them to smell the sawdust.”
  • Copy tip, based on Home Depot radio writing style: Begin with engagement, THEN pitch. Too much radio commercial (and promo) copy begins-where-it-should-end, with a call-to-action.
  • As stations should with spots created in-house for local retailers, they fuss over copy A LOT. “It’s easy to do ‘terrible radio,’” Fannon figures, and “really hard to do good radio.”  And you’ll hear that when you hear a Home Depot commercial.  They test all creative for all their advertising media.
  • One “aha moment” regarding this research: Gorman disclosed that “radio has the highest correlation with Internet search.” Consumers who hear about products on-air investigate further online.  ..
  • Another take-away: They like remotes, something smart stations do smartly, and less-diligent stations devalue via poor execution.

“Advertisers Speak”

This session offered radio sellers more take-home pay:

  • I’d like a dollar for every time an agency person being interviewed said “local.”
  • Properly done — “it has to sound authentic, can’t sound gratuitous” — endorsement spots have advertiser appeal: “the importance of that personal connection.” One panelist sounded like a downright cheerleader: “When I get [an aircheck of] a live read, that’s something I can send-around internally.  I cannot tell you how huge that is.  It is credible!”
  • As those Home Depot people preached, good copy is critical: “Do you have a well-known brand?” That’s easy enough to accomplish via repetition.  But “Is your brand known-well?”  Can someone who’s heard the commercial describe the value proposition?
  • “Be bold, be aggressive with me. I’ll buy the #4 station if you’re going to do something special for me.  If the #1 station in the market isn’t a great partner in terms of going-the-extra-mile to deliver value, we’ll go with someone else.  The campaign shouldn’t simply be ‘transactional.’”
  • How to be a good marketing partner? “Be a good listener.”
  • “Get the best and brightest on your team.” Brainstorm how to deliver value.  Bring “innovation…I’m tired of getting boring copy.”

Dashboard Disruption and the Connected Car

In a well-attended session we heard focus group-type comments in video interviews with a diverse sample of new car owners, describing how they consume new-tech dashboard choices.  Consensus:

  • “Connect me with what’s happening.” Too much of what they hear on AM/FM “doesn’t matter to me.”
  • Talk radio needs to be more informative; with less repetitive “trying to persuade me to a point of view.”
  • They’re using FM for music less because of downloads and streaming. “I go back to FM when I’m out of ‘Skips’ on Pandora and Spotify.”
  • Commercial turn-offs: poor creative, repetition.

The Big Number radio needs to understand is 11.5, the average age of cars on the road in the USA today.  Accordingly, pent-up, new car demand will inevitably expose listeners to more non-radio competitors.  So this ongoing industry dialogue is important, but may be over-thinking the issue.  As with most programming complaints we hear, it’s easy to infer from comments such as those above that solid local content would make station programming sound different/special/useful, compared to new competitors.

“There are two types of listeners: humans and meters.”

A SRO crowd came to hear 25-Seven Systems’ Geoff Steadman talk about his company’s controversial Voltair box; and Nielsen Audio briefed attendees on enhancements to the PPM encoders that Voltair handshakes.  

FCC Experts Talk Radio Regulation

Commissioner Michael O’Reilly (R) read carefully-worded prepared remarks from his iPad.  He explained that commissioners are legally prohibited from disclosing matters circulating internally within the FCC; and attributed his comments to what’s been in the trade press.

Different commissioners embrace different causes, and O’Reilly has emerged as a pirate radio buster.  In his view, unlicensed broadcasting “represents an attack on the integrity of our airwaves;” and he’s frustrated that a more aggressive enforcement plan isn’t on the FCC’s front burner.  “It’s time to put together a game plan and start executing.”  Pirates are “enabled by landlords, advertisers, concert promoters, and in most instances these stations are not hiding.”  So this commish’ advocates working closely with law enforcement agencies, even zoning boards.

O’Reilly also applauds the AM Revitalization crusade Commissioners Ajit Pai (R) and Mignon Clyburn (D) have championed.  And O’Reilly is irked that “certain people at the commission” — read: Chairman Tom Wheeler (D) — haven’t prioritized policy giving AM licensees first dibs on FM translators.  “The AM translator solution is the #1 solution.  How could it be left out of any package of reforms?”  Some conspiracy theorists fret that, as a consequence, conservative radio talkers are denied FM’s additional reach.

When NAB released the Radio Show attendance number (2170) I was unsurprised to hear that this year’s crowd slightly topped last year’s (2079) in Indianapolis; and most attendees I chatted-up agreed with my surmise that the vibe was upbeat.


Next stops:

  • CES Unveiled, November 10 in New York, a preview of the massive, mind-boggling CES International in Las Vegas in January; and release of the Consumer Electronics Association’s annual trends research and holiday shopping forecast (which, year-after-year, NAILS what’ll be under the Christmas tree). I’ll cover both for TALKERS and RadioInfo; and will give Jim Bohannon Show listeners a peek into Santa’s sleigh on his show November 12.
  • December 3 and 4 in Washington, Nielsen Audio revives what had always been a real productive conference. Originally Arbitron’s “Consultant Fly-In,” it morphed into the “Client Conference,” before Nielsen discontinued it after taking-over Arbitron.  Look for my notes here.
  • Then, right after the holidays, CES.



Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of Talk Radio and the Internet, and he covers conventions for Talkers and RadioInfo.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Analysis