Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Radio Daze

Ever notice how radio stations have this astounding property of cloning themselves? Of course you have. All of us experience their sameness every morning and evening on our daily drive. A 10% variation in the song selection and about 15% in the annoyance levels generated by the RJs. Half the time it’s impossible to say which station is playing without checking the display.

When all the stations run similar programming, how will they ever generate stickiness? (Stickiness being industry jargon for a station’s ability to attract and hang on to the listener’s ears) I can’t answer that question here because it would be beyond the scope of this forum (and indeed beyond the scope of my intellectual ability), but I can certainly tell the stations a thing or two about how they can instantly undo whatever stickiness they may have.

In two words, bad advertising.

Meticulous research conducted by me upon myself has shown that I am most likely to change the station when it airs an ad I find irritating. Here’s the thing: very few songs that a station plays are actually annoying. Boring, maybe; not to your taste, certainly; but actually unpleasant would be rare. That’s because most songs are based on music, and even if you don’t like one too much it’ll still be tolerable playing in the background while you abuse someone trying to cut in from the left.

Unfortunately, you can’t say that about many of the ads that radio stations assault our sensibilities with. Inadvertently, of course. The poor Ad Sales Manager is doing his best, trying to drum up as much revenue as he can. Money is money, and no one’s ever told him to turn away an ad just because it makes him feel like bringing up his breakfast!

But the on-road reality is that I will change stations when a rotten ad comes on, and I will not switch back till the next station plays a stinker too. So while a bad ad may leave its target audience unmoved, it can certainly shift the listenership of the station that airs it. And that’s what our colleagues in radio haven’t woken up to yet.

If I were running an FM station, I’d put the Programming Head in charge of screening the ads the commercial guys bring in. Because ads are content, too. And once radio stations started sending ads back, that would certainly shake up the captains of industry and heads of marketing who force their ad agencies to produce vomit inducing radio spots. We’d soon have Brand Managers saying stuff like “This script has all the product features and both my single-minded propositions, but I don’t think it’s exciting enough. Let’s just go with a hotly executed single idea.”

Imagine that.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This post was written almost two years ago; but things haven't changed much. The RJs are more differentiated and less annoying, but radio spots continue to suck.

  3. I agree. Though nothing gets my goat as much as ads that get repeated on TV or radio. As in those instant repeats second time over. That makes me put the best of ads and best of products in the "i swear i wont buy your products if you think i am so dumb i need to be told twice in the same breath" list. But yes, bad ads, always always make me want to change the channel.

  4. Seems your blog was read and understood by one of the radios (although I've forgotten which one). They play songs for 30 mins without any ad break. May be their stickiness has improved now.