Monday, June 15, 2009
Radio: Mercury Awards in retrograde
Let’s cut right to the chase. Did you hear the latest one from the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB)?
They finally did something that made sense. No, really.
I know I’ve been rather critical of the RAB and its leadership. They’ve backed all the wrong horses from David Rehr’s laissez-faire version of the National Association of Broadcasters to their ineffective Radio Heard Here campaign and supporting Lyin’ Diane Warren and the HD Digital Radio Alliance.
Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe we’re in the majority when we scream bloody murder that the RAB has done absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing to help radio advertising since deregulation – until now.
This past week the RAB circuitously announced that it would not present a Mercury Award in the radio station category this year.
A sales manager called me this morning to grouse that this decision was undeniably the worst message the RAB could send to the ad community.
I said it’s the other way around. The decision came from the ad community. The RAB’s fifty – yes, fifty – judges came from agencies, production companies, and – how about that – radio stations. They did the first round of adjudicating. From there, fourteen judges reviewed the second – and final round of spots, which were tallied on a numerical scale.
The judges had discretion to reduce the number of categories and prizes if the quality on entries didn’t meet specified standards. Believe me, if you’ve heard some of the spots that made the cut in prior years – and you can find them on line - you’d realize we’re not talking brilliance here. It’s not a tough room. This year the radio spots were that bad.
Please take note of that. Now, move along. There’s nothing worth hearing here.
In addition to radio produced spots, political, public service announcements, and student-produced spots failed to make the cut.
If anything, I respect the decision makers at the RAB for being candid and blunt in backing their judges’ decision.
And, believe me, your clients and the ad agencies already know most stations can’t produce a saleable radio spot. That’s why so many of them aren’t buying radio time.
Don’t hit me up with economy as an excuse. You and I know that many radio clients left the medium long before Wall Street caught up with reality.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be.
Have you heard how dreadful and futile most radio spots sound these days? The industry that was once called “the last great illusion” no longer has a clue on how to play on one’s imagination with creative, illustrative writing and production.
There is no gold standard for radio spots. Just tin. No, cardboard.
Consider the RAB’s decision as radio’s intervention.
Your own ad bureau’s judges said you’re producing crap. Is that frank enough for you?
Understand that this is only a minor symptom of a profound disease that is crippling the radio industry. Its ethos of conceit and entitlement influences all aspects of several struggling, almost bankrupt radio chains.
Those in the business can easily to rattle off the names of at least three or four former production directors in your market who were let go because they couldn’t produce the tonnage. It’s not about creativity. How do you measure creativity on a P&L? It’s all about output. Content doesn’t count.
I’m surprised they didn’t set up a makeshift morgue at some stations to accommodate all the production and creative talent that was gutted.
And guess what? Most are making more money now as independent contractors by being creative. They’re voicing and producing spots and promos for TV, cable, and on-line now – and lovin’ every minute of it.
Back at radio, who cares if the same voice is heard on three spots in a row? Who cares if the spot-writing is right out of some Radio Spot Writing for Dummies book. You should be thankful to have three spots in a row. Hopefully, they were cash up front.
Let me tell you something. You could have a ten-share, when that actually meant you had a lot of listeners, and if your local production was crap – you didn’t sell your clients’ products.
The production director and the copywriter are as every bit as important as your air talent. Oh, that’s right, Mr. Hogan, Mr. Dickey, and Mr. Suleman. You don’t have air talent anymore.
I’m not ready to say Jeff Haley finally earned some respect with this decision. I’m sure RAB members will put the screws to him. If he hangs tight and doesn’t vacillate from his decision, I’ll be on his side – and supporting his brutal honest assessment of radio advertising content in 2009.
Haley’s not out of the woodshed yet.
The RAB also sent the next-worse message to the ad community last week. Except this one’s a blunder. Those attending last week’s National American Advertising Federation convention in Washington received an expensive and utterly wasteful 48-page mini-book promoting radio with pictures of mostly old fashioned transistor radios on the left page and one liners on the right, proclaiming the attributes of “that wondrous little box.” To make matters worse, almost all the radios shown were sporting non-commercial frequencies.
You’d think by now the RAB would know what side of the dial one sells. Or at least tries to.