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Where has the standard of radio advertising gone?
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Lately I have been listening to the radio with a creeping (and sometimes sprinting) sense of dread. The standard of South African on-air commercials is slipping. Correction; it has slipped, while we weren't paying attention. Very seldom do I come across a radio ad that is:
a.) a comfortable thirty second read,
b.) has a good and competent voice artist performing it and
c.) a creative concept worth listening to and not flipping my stereo to AUX and plugging in my iPod.

Sadly, I've been choosing the iPod more and more.

Is the world dumbing-down around us? Some of the big-hitters will tell you it is. It certainly seems so if we look at the generally dismal state of radio adverts. Are the multitudes of avid radio listeners totally oblivious to the schlock that is being pawned off as acceptable standards of advertising? I'd like to think not. If there's one thing being a radio presenter taught me, it is this; underestimate the listener at your peril.

But let's look at the cardinal issue - why are so many advertisers dropping the ball? There are two major issues here:

Clients may think that they are saving their bottom line by cutting on the creative side of their marketing budgets, but in fact they are setting themselves up for disaster - as not keeping an eye on the bigger picture so often does. I hope they ask themselves, between all that rabid cost-cutting if it's worth it. It might seem to be a short-term solution, but in the long term it will cost more in terms of brand damage than maintaining a solid stream of quality, if less frequent, advertising.

Another problem is that every Joe-soap reckons he's a voice artist or a Mark Twain-esque wordsmith. Guess what guys? Radio is one place that you can't ‘fake it ‘til you make it.' Obviously everyone wants to be on TV and radio, but wanting something and being good enough to really deserve it are separate issues completely. Let the pro's do what they do best.

I propose 3 simple rules that should govern cost-cutting in radio and TV advertising:

Rule #1 - Don't hire a substandard Voice Artist - sub-standard talent leads to a sub-standard product, no matter how you look at it.

Rule # 2 - Don't cut the costs for getting in a pro Copywriter. Say what you will, but even an award-winning artist can't save poor copy. Beautifully crafted words can be the difference between a run-of the mill ad and an advert that really stands out.

Rule #3 - Go for Quality, not quantity. One brilliant ad is worth ten in the bush. (to plunder the well-known saying) Why make 5 forgettable adverts if you can make one that becomes a talking point? Word of mouth is still all-powerful.

Hopefully we all know that feeling of absolute satisfaction at hearing a brilliant piece of radio advertising that we helped create. It's electrifying. I reckon it's time to dust off that box labeled ‘old school ethics and standards' and remember why we're in this business
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