Hope for radio as advertisers share the blame for sub-standard ads

A RAB survey reveals the factors behind poor radio ads and blames advertisers and agencies alike for the lack of creativity. Good news, says Mark Barber

Some people feel that the quality of creative work on radio isn’t as good as it is in other media. If this is true, who do you feel is most responsible? This was one of the questions the Radio Advertising Bureau asked delegates in a survey, the results of which were revealed at last week’s RAB conference, “Getting serious with radio creativity”.

But before pointing the finger, perhaps it is worth reviewing some of the root causes as to why a lot of advertisers feel dissatisfied with their radio ads.

Paradoxically, some of the reasons why advertisers use radio in their media mix – cheap media costs; cheap production costs; quicker to produce; short booking deadlines – can often militate against achieving better radio ads.

Another of the survey questions revealed the factors that respondents felt were hindering radio creativity. The facts that radio is often left to the last minute; not fully thought through; receives a minimal production budget; and gets left to the more inexperienced creative teams were frequently cited.

This raises the question that if there are so many factors that get in the way of producing more creative radio ads, why bother at all?

First, let’s consider the effectiveness of radio advertising. Research conducted by Millward Brown (the Radio Multiplier Study) demonstrates that a high-performing radio ad can be 500 per cent more effective than a low-performing radio ad for the same money.

Furthermore, the same study reveals that radio accounts for one-seventh the cost of television advertising, effectively giving radio more punch for the same money as TV. And even when TV is given a much higher proportion of the media budget, radio is still likely to be the most received brand stimulus in advertising terms. In this context, it is important to recognise that all radio advertising will influence listeners’ impressions of a brand, regardless of whether or not brand building is the main purpose of the ad campaign.

Achieving better radio creativity is of enormous importance to advertisers if they are to get the results they want, and maintain or build upon positive perceptions of their brand.

Returning to the question of who is responsible for this lack of creativity, the responses were split into three main camps. A third of respondents felt that advertisers were responsible; another third claimed it was the responsibility of creative agencies. But, reassuringly, a majority of the remaining third did not agree with the hypothesis that there is a lack of creativity to speak of in radio advertising.

Further investigation reveals that our initial suspicions of advertiser blaming agency and vice versa were unfounded – both take equal responsibility for the perceived lower creative standards of radio advertising.

And this is a huge step in the right direction, because ultimately radio creativity will only improve if advertisers take on some of the responsibility for improving the quality of radio advertising.

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