By Paul & Fred Jacobs
What a field day it must be for the advertising industry. Never before have there been more platforms, more options, and more pathways to market their clients' products and services.
When you think back to the Don Drapers who roamed Madison Avenue more than a half century ago, their choices were much more finite: TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, and billboards were the prime media of those days. That's all there was. The term “media mix” was invented to describe using creative ways to combine more than one advertising platform for campaigns, like using TV and billboards, or newspapers and radio.
In those days, demographic targeting in radio was a crude process. The conventional dayparts had descriptive names, often referring to who was listening. “Morning drive” and “afternoon drive” were originally the times when commuters (mostly men) were driving to and from work. If you wanted to reach women, it was the “housewife daypart,” now better known as middays. And the kids – by and large, teens – listened to “nights,” after they got home from school, ate dinner, and finished up their homework.
That scenario was the foundation of how most media planners and buyers approached radio campaigns. And time and after time, radio generally came through, producing results for its sponsors and clients, whether on the national or local level.
They weren't especially measurable, however. Car dealerships, concert venues, store openings, and bars and clubs made gut calls about radio campaign effectiveness. By studying crowd size, the new car showroom, and unsold, empty seats in concert halls and auditoriums, they made judgement calls about whether their radio buy actually “worked.” All in all, it was a primitive process, by today's metrics.
And upon request, radio stations would run “post buy analyses” – data-driven “proof” a spot buy actually delivered reach and frequency levels the account exec originally promised, based on the latest Arbitron book (or an average of the last four, if recent numbers weren't so good).
We look back on those days of client lunches and advertiser parties with a feeling of nostalgia. Because these days, agencies and even local retailers have more sophisticated tools in which to evaluate campaigns and media effectiveness.
And for good reason. Rather than a half dozen advertising choices, today's marketers have literally scores of platforms and brands from which to choose, mix and match, and target discreet consumers.
In some ways, today's marketing ecosystem is far more sophisticated than those halcyon days of the Sterling Cooper Pryce agency (later “Draper” was added to the list of principals). In today's world, Don's head would have exploded.
Yet, in other ways, it's as shoot-from-the-hip as ever. If you ask an advertiser – whether it's the CMO for an automobile brand or the owner of a nail salon – they'll both rattle off the media (maybe just medium) and platform they feel are most efficacious – the ones that actually provide true return on their marketing investment. In other words, the ones that work.
And while the metrics are abundant, the media decisions are just as gut level as they've always been. They have feelings about media and marketing brands, often that have developed over years of experience – OK, trial and error – supporting their media selections.
And putting it bluntly, radio looks bad.
How we we know this? Nielsen put out a study back in April (yes, we missed it), and again last week. Their fifth “Global Annual Marketing Report” covers a lot of ground. This is the first year the study was truly international; in past years, Nielsen only interviewed marketing execs from the U.S. In the new study, only about one-fourth of respondents are American marketers.
These global marketing professionals are influential. Their marketing budgets are at least $1 million. Their opinions matter.
You can download the Nielsen report here.
Among other areas, Nielsen notes the study covers the importance of driving brand awareness, insights on cross-platform measurement, strategic info about personalization, and “making your brand promise your truth.” When first released, the report garnered considerable “ink,” including the radio trades. Inside Radio's headline talked about how marketers use the numbers:
But it was Marketing Charts that opened our eyes to findings you will no doubt be interested in. They combined two different charts from the Nielsen report that are both insightful and worrisome from a broadcast radio point of view.
Marketing Charts broke their analysis into “Budget” plans for 2022 – whether marketers would increase their ad spend by medium – and “Perceived Effectiveness” of each marketing platform or category.
Here's the chart that was the basis for their analysis of the Nielsen study. It blew us away to see how poorly broadcast radio fared. We kept looking down, finally getting to the bottom of both charts.
To boggle Don Draper's 1960's mind, there are 15 different marketing media to rate. In the “Budget” list, AM/FM radio tied “Cinema,” and came in dead last in “Perceived Effectiveness.”
Think about the movie industry: dwindling in recent years, and then devastated by the pandemic. And they tied broadcast radio in 2022 ad spend projection, and actually beat radio in overall confidence among marketers? C'mon, how is that even possible?
Here's how Marketing Charts dispatched broadcast radio:
Talk about a gut punch. And let's stop with the “Oh yeah, but radio still…” argument about reach. Marketing Charts' distillation of the Nielsen study on two key analytical areas – budget and confidence – tells you all you need to know about the overall outlook. And while many advertisers may have missed the April round of coverage for this Nielsen report, they sure didn't miss Marketing Charts' email blast last week.
For more than three decades, Paul Jacobs‘ role with our companies has been diligently working with radio sales teams to help them better market the medium and their stations. It has not been an easy assignment, especially in recent years. When he kicks off a sales meeting, one of his first questions is “What business are you in?” And the knowledge flows from there.
After reviewing the Nielsen report, he started going through the seven stages of grief, especially when he thought about how the Marketing Charts' story would be certain to be read by advertising pros and heavyweights around America, and the world.
We've all gone through it – getting some really terrible news, and then figuring now to process it. Here was Paul's path after reading the Marketing Charts story:
First, shock and denial. Could radio have actually been bested by the lowly movie industry? No one's even going to movies these days.
Then, pain and guilt. How has radio missed the boat? Was cluster selling a mistake, taking the emphasis off individual brands in a market? Or bonusing stations to get on buys? Or showing little to no rate integrity?
Next, anger and bargaining. Paul started wondering whether radio was catfished by consolidation. Or maybe all those cutbacks of marketing and promotion, and on-air talent, both of which were noticeable to marketers, especially local ones.
And then there's depression, reflection, and loneliness. It hard not to feel rejected and even betrayed by client relationships radio has nurtured over the years (OK, wined and dined). How could they prefer overlords like Zuckerberg to outgoing, well-meaning radio account reps.
Up next is the upward turn. That's where Paul started to rationalize things. After all, you can't fall off the floor. Many radio companies are doing smart, strategic things, but sadly, marketers aren't taking notice. Maybe radio's been so busy touting its reach and quarter-hour maintenance, while ad execs are focused on data and results.
And the penultimate stage: reconstruction and working through. As Paul suggests, What if we were to start looking at our radio stations differently? Instead of selling “radio” and “ratings,” we started focusing on audience regardless of how they're delivered. Radio doesn't even need ratings when it markets digital, and heck, we can finally answer their “ROI” demands that way.
“And since most broadcasters have one low-rated, constantly underperforming FM station in most market clusters, what if they turned it into a sandbox, and maybe even targeted audience groups everyone consistently ignores, like . . . . . .GEN Z???”
Then there's the final stage: acceptance and hope. According to Paul, “Maybe broadcasters need to accept their efforts have been ineffective, and that it's time to try new things. Maybe radio needs to launch an all-industry effort designed to redefine what radio is and what it can be.
“Perhaps radio broadcasters should be encouraged to start taking calculated risks, and stop programming to the meter and to Wall Street. You can see where that's gotten us. So, why not turn the focus on the most important constituency of all – the audience.”
I'm happy to report to you that after enduring these seven stages of radio grief, Paul is feeling much better. I think he's back to being himself. And in that spirit of recovery, he makes this request and offers up this idea:
“Maybe you’ve got additional ideas, because this study reinforces that it's overtime for the radio industry to strap on its big boy pants and get to work.
“I’m willing to be a part of that effort. How about the rest of you, because while I feel better having worked through my grief, I’m not happy about being last?”
We are all competitive people. No one's happy being in the media cellar, especially Don Draper.
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