What If Advertisers Do Their Own "Radio"

I was at dinner recently with an ad agency executive who got me thinking about whether advertisers really need the media business in the coming digital age.

I know what you’re going to say – why would they want the expense, the grief? And do they really have the expertise?

And, that in some small ways, advertisers have tried to do directly to the consumer with mixed results -- targeted magazines, niche programming, infomercials.

I thought the same thing.

But then again, this great digital beyond we always talk about in this space makes many impossible things seem possible.

Is it likely?

Let’s take a look.

Today you don’t need the expense of printing a magazine, if that’s the business you want to be in.

If it’s television you want to dominate, there is the new cellphone TV coming out soon that will be the next thing beyond mobile YouTube.

As Spots and Dots reported last week:

“Back in January during the annual Consumer Electronics Show, we reported on the plans of the Open Mobile Video Coalition to start testing live broadcasts to phones later this year. 63 stations in 22 markets, covering about 35% of all U.S. TV households, have been announced as starting digital broadcasts to phones and other devices before the end of the year.

Having been available in some other countries for several years, many observers

expect this to become a major factor, one that if rated accurately by Nielsen, could add a lot of viewing to stations’ numbers. “This is one of about six or seven or eight things people are going to use their phones for,” Rob Hyatt, executive director of content for AT&T said” .

You want to be in radio?

You can build a great sounding Internet radio station done the right way in about a week (one commercial per stop set, the right music, talent, excitement) and even get some good talent from radio to do it.

Want to be a podcaster?

I can see Miller Brewing Company starting its own version of “Men’s Health” instead of doing moronic beer commercials for sports television and radio. Once a consumer is hooked on this podcast, they’ll access it through an Apple app that will provide even more depth – stories, coupons, links, social networking.

Who needs only traditional television, radio and print?

And getting back to the original stated objection of why Proctor & Gamble would want to staff up to actually become the medium in which they promote their own products, I’ll take you back to before our time.

The Golden Age of Television where the Lux Radio Theater sold soap.

The Hallmark Hall of Fame sold greeting cards.

The Texaco Star Theater sponsored Uncle Miltie -- Mr. Television.

And don't forget TV soap operas were called “soap” operas because soap companies sponsored them.

Today, the advertisers can easily do more than sponsor or influence content, they can provide it because they don't have to own the expensive infrastructure to play in that arena.

There are two compelling reasons.

One, digital technology allows everyone to access the public. You don’t have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for TV or radio stations to do so.

Two, there is so much talent on the street right now – discarded by financially failing media companies -- that the learning curve would not be steep.

The biggest hurdle would be to make sure what content was created did not sound like a big blatant commercial. No small thing in a day and age when we shout from the mountain tops to make people buy -- buy -- buy.

But assuming some shrewd consumer companies exist out there – and we all know they do – what has changed is that advertisers increasingly don’t need the content created by the media.

They don’t need to worry about whether TiVo viewers are skipping their commercials or recording the shows they sponsor without even watching them. (I wouldn’t do that. Would you?).

Advertisers don’t have to get squeezed into the same six or eight minute commercial stop sets because radio station CEOs think two long music sweeps gets them better ratings.

It doesn’t make any sense.

What good are the better ratings when an advertiser's commercial is buried knee deep into six minutes of competition?

Radio, TV and print executives won’t buy this theory for one minute which is another reason I’d take it to the bank – now. They don’t have a very good record of seeing trends.

In radio, putting aside all the other problems they have, the secret, silent and shameful issue is that radio stations on the whole do not even know what their advertisers do let alone what their goals are or how radio stations can help them.

Radio is “in-ear advertising” kind of like billboards are outdoor advertising. If you hear them, you hear them. Run a million commercials maybe it will get through eventually -- maybe.

The radio industry could solve a lot of its problems if they decided to be more solutions oriented.

Instead, they send their overworked salespeople to the street on “Pets and Vets” week. These salespeople have no clue what veterinarians do – but armed with some info from the RAB they are expected to forge excellent relationships and ring the cash register.

Try this.

Train salespeople to have many tools available to solve advertisers’ problems.

If they find out that broadcasting at their spending level is not efficient, then why not start a Fido podcast. Charge $50,000 a year for it (based on market size) – the pet store or vet group brands it. Your station owns it and provides the content and helps with the messages.

It’s a renewal from heaven every year.

Help make Fagreed rich again in spite of himself!

Maybe advertisers don’t need any commercials in their $50,000 a year podcast – and that’s what I would advise, by the way – then just the fact that year after year they will be building a growing audience for their hints, help, emergencies, breeds, warnings, fun stories, events, etc will be enough.

Again, you own it and they brand it.

Back to my salesperson – many of whom I’ll bet would love to work like this.

So they leave a prospect meeting without ever selling a radio ad -- but they sell a podcasting franchise or an Internet radio station customized for just them that the station runs and licenses.

What do you think is going to happen when advertisers roll their own – programs, that is? You won’t sell them one radio ad.

But you could sell them other solutions -- digital solutions that you can develop for them at next to no cost.

Radio may work for the masses when a GM dealer is blowing out every car on the lot for up to 40% off – then this salesperson is qualified enough to build a solutions campaign around this need for terrestrial radio (and smart enough to get payment in advance).

Radio has but one tool and it is in need of sharpening.

Owners have let their assets lose their edge.

Going into a client’s office with only terrestrial radio as a solution will be leaving a lot of money on the table.

Competing digital media hasn’t been that impressive in their attempts to lure advertisers – thank goodness for radio.

But salespeople selling only radio is like a men's store selling only belts.

Today’s marketplace wants solutions and if radio consolidators weren’t busy playing Hangman for the past 13 years, radio talent and sales marketing would be on the cutting edge of selling solutions.





Online print.

And while the train has left the station on this one, radio execs had better run down the track after it to get aboard.

I’m sensing that over the next few years, advertisers will become shrewd content producers independent of radio, television and publishers -- maybe even some Internet media entrepreneurs.

They have the ability and they’ve even practiced in one-minute small steps.

That’s called Super Bowl Sunday.

The big marketing story of the next five to ten years will be the redefinition of Marshall McLuhan’s term “the medium is the message” referring to hot and cool media.

Instead, the medium will become the content supplier with solutions for advertisers or else advertisers will simply do it themselves.

Digital media makes it possible and doable.

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