Image by luc legay via FlickrRadio is probably the most undervalued advertising/communication medium of the lot: something of a shame, it's one of my favourite 'legacy' media...
I had always thought of this as a Middle East problem, but apparently it’s the case worldwide. People just won't invest appropriately in creating compelling executions for radio.
I’ve also always believed that crappy radio advertising stemmed from the relative affordability of the airtime on a slot by slot basis, that it was the consequent underinvestment that lies behind the awful executions that we all know and loathe so well. Because, let's face it, Middle East radio advertising is mired in awfulness that is beyond simply bad - it's heroically bad.
However, the almost total lack of data on the reach and influence of radio is, I believe, a uniquely Middle East problem. It’s hard to actually define who’s listening to what, when. And that, of course, makes it difficult to justify investing in radio from a cost per listener point of view.
Taking the issue from the other end of the pipeline might help – what’s the value of radio if you look at results. For instance, if you promote an event in a public place, say a shopping mall, over radio do people actually pitch up? If you ask for a response, for instance a phone-in or an SMS, by radio, do people respond?
The answer is not only yes, but it can also be a resounding yes - depending on how well your message is put together and how it resonates with its audience. Radio can be a very targeted medium indeed – and one interesting piece of evidence for this is to be found in the growing relationship between radio and social media. Thousands of people are starting to follow Dubai DJ Catboy, for instance, on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – and as that relationship matures and strengthens, new followers are being added hourly. And those followers are active participants – they respond to competitions, give opinions, take part in what has become, in a very real sense, the ‘conversation’ that every Web 2.0 proponent will gladly talk to you about until your ears bleed. (Incidentally, over 4,000 people are currently following Simon 'Catboy' Smedley on Twitter).
So I’d like to suggest perhaps a slightly different approach to radio – one that’s not based so much on ‘How many people are getting our message when we scream slogans and benefits at them’ but more on ‘What stuff can radio help us to encourage people to do and participate with them in doing’ – the action in itself being a symptom of a deeper understanding of, and relationship with, your audience.
This piece originally appeared as one of the chucklesomely named 'A Moment with McNabb' columns in Campaign Middle East magazine.