Hey, it’s never easy, especially when you represent an old industry that’s under fire. That’s the way it is for Ford Motor, a company that has been in denial about its problems for a long time. Now, they’re coming clean, admitting their faults, and introducing recovery plans.
And for that, they’re getting hammered.
You may have seen Bill Ford’s speech last month, the one where he laid out his solutions to Ford’s many problems. It was followed by a television campaign in which he’s the CEO/spokesperson.
Many have criticized these spots because they’re risky, because they telegraph that Ford has made mistakes, because they emphasize the company rather than the cars, because Bill Ford may not be as persuasive as say, Lee Iacocca. And because it was on Bill Ford’s watch that things really started going downhill.
So why should we admire this strategy, or at least give it a chance to succeed? Because the success or failure of Ford is going to say a lot about the ultimate success of American business. And because here’s a CEO who’s willing to stand up, admit mistakes, take the hit, and live to fight another day. There aren’t too many honest moments in advertising, but at least Ford is facing his company’s mess head on – no spokesmodels, no excuses, no bullshit.
So often in radio, we let talent go who have formed relationships with listeners without a word of explanation, much less a thank-you or a good-bye. We change formats without acknowledging the loyal listeners who supported the old station, whether there were enough of them to succeed or not. And we often run roughshod over the audience with the comfort of knowing that they’d have no choice but to continue to listen to our products.
It was nice to be the only game in town. That’s probably what kept Ford (and GM) in denial all those years, too. They looked at their hefty market shares, drove around Detroit where they saw no shortage of LeSabres, Cutlasses, Tauruses, and Omnis, ignored their problems, and kept going nowhere. Now there are alternatives called Toyota, Honda, Kia, and yes, China’s new entry, Geely. That Big 3 arrogance is long gone.
In radio land, we call them iPods, satellite radio, the Internet, Game Cubes, and cell phones. We’re not the only game in town either. But we do have relationships with our audience that can be nurtured, cultivated, and grown. Just like at Ford, there are a lot of people pulling for commercial radio, in spite of its problems. Bottom line? Most people don’t want to pay for radio. Don’t believe me? Do some focus groups, listen to them, and find out for yourself.