What's It Going To Take...?

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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:22 am

Creative: A Radio Fantasy

When fans of radio occasionally find themselves passing through Bison Groin, Montana, just south of Sweet Grass, on Highway 15, they make it a point to pull in to the National Radio Museum for a trot down the no-exit Memory Side Road. Besides the old RCA ribbon microphones, the 150-lb mic stands and the 16-inch turntables, one simple display generates the most excitement.

Their guide takes them into a room with four desks and four matching IBM Selectric III typewriters. “This area”, she respectfully intones, “was known as ‘The Creative Department’!” Radio fans stand quietly – totally in awe and sporting the slack-jawed countenances of the (sometimes) incredulous.

“Those were the days, my friend”, sang Mary Hopkins on The Beatles’ Apple record label. “We thought they’d never end.” But, they did end. I submit – and this is one beast of an irony – they never really got cranked up! Not in local radio, anyway. Even though it wasn’t uncommon for local, large market stations to have 5 copywriters “typin’ the hype” for a couple of producers and a dozen or more jocks, the level of “creativity” was not only suspect, but was so lacking in quality and quantity as to be resented by the writers who were kept shackled to their Selectrics.

Writing copy was more of a M.A.S.H. regimen than it was specialized surgery. The occasions when one of our writers had an advertiser that was, first of all, even willing to “try the ‘creative’ route”, were extremely limited. Completion of the writing, voicing, production and green lighting from the client were occasions for a major celebration. Everybody involved in the process got lit up pretty good, considering the rarity of such events.

Another raging irony is that some of the most creative folks I have known in the business were, in fact, copywriters. The irony lies in that their creativity didn’t show up in the copy. They were charged with cranking out endless reams of pure slog – with all the attendant and well-known clichés that continue to wreck radio commercials today.

Creative was just beyond the grasp of the “Creative Department”, as it is now. Occasionally, an extremely creative and emotionally appealing set of spots were provided to an advertiser as spec productions. And there they would, almost always, die on the vine – filed away as fine examples of the art for a future opportunity that never arose.

Meanwhile, some serious radio pundits insist the state of modern radio requires that it is the Account Executives that must be the copywriters – bypassing any optics of a station having an actual creative department. The rationale is about AE’s having more direct relationships with clients - inefficient justifications for the status quo. “Effective copy? Don’ need no stinking effective copy,” say the AE’s. This, given most sales folks wouldn’t know from effective, creative copy, even when provided by experts.

And now, a disturbingly accurate Reality Check:

The chances of radio transforming to a medium of outstanding, creative, commercial productions I put at zilch. It just ain’t gonna happen. To use another stretched-to-the-limit cliché, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades that radio will make an about face and start insisting on creative Creative for the advertisers. The conversation is also unlikely to include the results generated by more positive audience reactions – as listeners and buyers - to more appealing and influential spots.

Besides, there is a step before that. This step, I believe, is necessary for radio to make any significant gains in both audiences and the more eager and aggressive participation of advertisers. There are, available right now, many strategies and methods for powerfully influencing and pleasing audiences through the written-for-radio commercial content.

It would be a fool’s fantasy to decry the amount of price/product, total content advertising that has been, not only the bane of, but the bread & butter fare delivered by radio. Product/price, another product/price, preceded by milquetoast claims of credibility and wrapped up with demands for audiences to buy, buy, buy! Polite term: “Call to action”.

Transforming basic copy is the priority. Emotional creativity would be a bonus. More powerful methods of radio have been available for decades. On-air presentations are included. They all are being ignored.

Ronald T. Robinson
Advanced Member
Posts: 1458
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:22 am

Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Sun Dec 09, 2018 11:35 am

Asking The Audience: Big Mistake
The argument about corporate owner/operators running so many stations in one market has been going on since consolidation started dropping poopie-bombs on the local or regional radio audiences and advertisers. When consolidation was first being championed by professional lobbyists, it was TV that was the designated, Satan-inspired culprit. The more modern vile, foul-smelling, brimstone-laden denizens are: all things digital. Same author: The Dude of Darkness.

Today, Big Radio wants even more consolidation – more market glutting. Although they don’t say so, what they really want is less competition from the players that would remain. Since lying has become a viable and, so far, sustainable strategy in the culture, they can state anything they want if it serves the agenda. Or they can say nothing at all.

Meanwhile, a few pundits argue for more “live & local” programming as the elixir that would solve many problems. “Live & local” has been touted as the poultice of which even Grandma would approve. I invite anybody to consider what the advantages could possibly be if what is already being foisted off as entertainment, information and advertising content were to be replicated on all day parts. I shudder at the wreckage that would ensue.

I am also satisfied that all levels of radio management, both corporate and local, recoil in horror in the privacy of their offices when they, ever-so-slightly, consider the ramifications of cranking up the overhead by providing even more of the drivel that is already being pumped out.

Corporate radio is operating on the promise – more like fantasy - of greater profits by disemboweling (alive) the staffs that provide the services necessary for radio to continue – “personality” programming for audiences and more effective, local commercial production for the advertisers.

So much of the meat and taters-menu has been eliminated or cut away that radio becomes weaker and more anemic. Leased crutches are required for radio just to stay ambulatory. “Have pity and provide easy-access parking”, they whine. “We are so terribly disabled and worthy of those special privileges we like to call ‘rights’!”

So distorted has the general management group become, they are grasping at any possible ledge, root or embedded rock that will stop them from plunging into the abyss. They are the first to use non-existing mind-reading techniques to gauge the needs and desires of whole chunks of their audiences and advertisers. “Audiences want this and audiences want that,” they will burble. As if.

Such extraordinary assertions are based on a couple of wild assumptions:
• Management has the exceptional capacity to know what it is that audiences want.
• Anytime any polling or research is undertaken, management is willing to accept that audience members actually know what they want and are able to articulate those wants and desires.

It was just such questionably flawed “research” that gave ownership the best excuse and justification to proceed with massive cost cutting. Audiences responded to the research with, essentially, “We want More Rock and Less Jocks!” “Wow!” said radio, ever alert, “We can do that!” Given that the Music Of The Day continues to be extremely limited and ubiquitous, the only real means of being distinct in any meaningful way – the Personalities - were taken for a ride down “Murderers Row”. The bodies are buried under adjacent parking lots.

Many in the ownership groups have been panicked to the degree where some continue in asking audiences for what they want! This only supplies an opportunity for defaulting to a position of plausible deniability of responsibility.

Radio is utterly, at any level that might come up, unwilling or unable to face, accept or execute its responsibilities, those being: The responsibility to massively expand and improve its “live” on-air presentations, and its responsibility to significantly improve its ability to generate much more effective commercial content.

Audiences are unlikely to make those requests and advertisers are also unlikely to do the same for their locally produced commercial content. Neither group is unlikely to even consider that such requests or demands might be useful or possible.

Listeners and potential advertisers do not experience night-sweats by thinking about how radio might better impact on their own circumstances. Why, then, should radio, except for its own prosperity?

Ronald T. Robinson
Advanced Member
Posts: 1458
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:22 am


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