Welcome to another addition of #ThrowbackThursday here on JacoBLOG. Today, I'm doing something I don't usually do on this designated retro day – go back a long time into the archives.
Like the embarrassment of listening to old airchecks, today's selection dusts off a post that exactly one decade old – to November of 2013. To give you context, we had just successfully put the wraps on our first DASH Conference here in Detroit in collaboration with Radio Ink and Valerie Shuman. The conference – a mashup of automotive and radio execs – was a huge success. We followed it up with two more of these get-togethers in 2014 and 2015.
But this debut effort was designed to set a tone in radio – to make the industry aware of the threat of losing ground as automakers ramped up their “connected cars,” modernizing their dashboards in previously unimaginable ways. We were concerned radio broadcasters would take its long-term relationship with car manufacturers for granted, opening the door to losses in advertising revenue and more audio choices in car dashboards.
So think of this post as a not-so-distant early warning. And as it turned out, Apple CarPlay launched just four months later in March of 2014. Radio's dominance in cars has slipped in recent years – like a slow leak. And while still #1 in cars, our Techsurveys are reminders there are now more new car buyers who want Bluetooth in their next vehicle than they do FM radio.
This year's challenge – still going on in the nation's capitol – over AM radio's disappearance in cars is precisely the kind of automotive development we were concerned about 10 years ago. What will radio's position be in new vehicles be a decade from now? – FJ
P.S. In the photo below from DASH, the only person still working for the same company as in 2013 is Jeff Gilbert, still doing “The Car Chronicles” on WWJ, Detroit.
Every day, it’s another story about a media/tech partnership of one kind or another. Or it’s another innovation that digital, social, tech, or automotive companies are dreaming up.
Lori Lewis shared a headline with me the other day from Venturebeat, and we both had the same thought when we read it:
“Facebook scoops Google ad manager to help Detroit sell more cars”
“Radio scoops Google ad manager to help Detroit sell more cars”
The actual story is about how ex-Google ad manager Michelle Morris switched over to Facebook, and is now focusing her efforts on improving auto sales.
As the article points out, General Motors has some history with Facebook – and it’s not good. Just before the Facebook IPO, GM came out with a statement to the effect that social media advertising doesn't work. While there were all sorts of reasons for Facebook’s stock to go on that downhill spiral, many analysts attributed some of it to GM’s statement.
Morris is perfectly cast to turn the relationship between Google and the automotive community around. She worked for the ad agency that repped Chrysler, lives in Detroit, and graduated from Michigan State.
And she’s already trotting out Facebook metrics that support her efforts – specifically, that Facebook ads drive 10 times the shares, 20 times the traffic, and 30 times the consumer over Twitter. And Facebook clickthroughs are on a tear, up 375% in Q3 of this year.
If you’re in radio, she’s your worst nightmare. That’s because she’s a stone cold pro who knows her stuff, understands the space, lives and breathes the environment, and has the goods. She’s exactly the kind of person the radio industry ought to be looking for. When Facebook needed a rock star, they went to Google. Shouldn’t radio be thinking along the same lines?
So what about my dream headline?
Well, radio has a story, too. And that was part of the objective of the DASH conference that took place last month – here in Detroit. By bringing together the radio and automotive communities, we have hopefully started a precedent for our industry. Ford, GM, Toyota, Pioneer, and Panasonic were all on hand, along with those local car dealers, to bridge the gap between the two industries.
(Pictured above: WWJ’s Jeff Gilbert, GM’s Greg Ross, Pioneer’s Ted Cardenas, Panasonic’s Hakan Kostepen, Toyota’s Wayne Powell)
So where do we go from here?
When we wrapped up DASH, we put together recommendations for radio that were for attendees-only. We believe they’re important, and I’m sharing a few of them here in an abbreviated form.
- Create a consortium. Radio is a splintered business with no central leadership, making it difficult to align interests across a broad spectrum of stakeholders. This is something we recommended at our “Radio & The Connected Car” session at The Radio Show, and it was floated again by Peter Smyth at the DASH conference.
- Open an office in Detroit. There’s nothing else to say here, and the Michelle Morris story speaks volumes about the value of being where the automakers are. It’s why DASH was located in Detroit, and why radio needs to get serious about recognizing this market as Ground Zero for its automotive future.
- Get to work. Radio is not going to swoop in, quote impressive national usage figures and win big in the automotive infotainment sweepstakes of today or the future. Michelle Morris is already melding her agency experience with her time at Google and her knowledge of how things are done in Detroit. If radio is going to remain as a major player in the automotive community, it’s going to require research, connections, effort, and innovation. Not to mention, recognizing that automotive is an opportunity, but it is also a major challenge facing the industry.
- Live & Local matter. The car companies value radio’s ability to provide real-time information, and as Initiative + agency guru Fred Sattler stated, “Radio is local, local, local, newspapers are dying. TV’s not picking up the mantle, and Pandora can’t do it.” But if radio is to realize its automotive potential, it is going to have to get serious about its local commitment. Syndicated programming, voicetracking, and mindless sounding radio stations with no local context aren’t going to win over the automotive companies. That’s why we trotted our Detroit celebrity DJs for a session that was a reminder about the power of local personality.
- Understand changing advertiser value propositions. In both the agency and dealer sessions it was clear that success is being redefined. Metrics-based solutions that are in-line with changing needs and demands are where Google, Facebook, and Pandora are headed. While remotes and live reads have their place, a better comprehension of what matters to the auto community is central to continued viability.
- Start now. Radio needs to get to the starting line. It is going to require research, investment, dedication, relationship-building, an open mind, and a long view. We anted up with DASH, and hopefully, important initiatives will be headed up by the RAB, NAB, and radio’s biggest broadcasters.
Otherwise, Michelle Morris will be the one laughing all the way to the bank, making new headlines along the way.
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