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Radio Heard Here is a misguided campaign

Posted on: 04/16/2008

Dear Top Radio Executives,

As you guys may know, I’ve been a “radio guy” since I was answering request lines and wearing the station gorilla suit in high schooL. I continued to be a “radio guy” through 20 years of doing market research for many top radio groups, and I continue to be one today. (It was a thrill yesterday, by the way, seeing Larry Lujack inducted into your Hall of Fame.) In other words, I am a first-class example of the “radio enthusiast” that your PR strategy talks about.

So I don’t want to be perceived by you guys as a nattering nabob of negativity in RAIN all of the time… And I know that unsolicited advice is generally not appreciated… But, for what it’s worth, here’s my opinion:

Given radio’s needs, this is not a good campaign!

Here’s my thinking:

(1) The messaging is weak. “Radio Heard Here” says nothing more than would little stickers on coffeehouse doors that say “Newspapers Read Here” or little stickers on tavern doors that say “Beer Consumed Here.” It’s a “duh.” It won’t change anyone’s opinions or perceptions. It might vaguely increase awareness — “Ah, that’s not CDs they’re playing, that’s radio” — but awareness is not radio’s problem.

(2) The logo for “Radio Heard Here“ is a huge step backwards. In its use of typefaces, and particularly its use of the lightning-bolt motif, it’s a throwback to 1940s-era “radio” imaging. Do you want to position radio as a 1940s-era product? No! That’s precisely the wrong message to send!

(3) The accompanying intedned-to-be-viral video (101X/Austin’s RayDog) hurts you rather than helps you. It’s a guy who tells us that he can’t find a full-time job in radio any more… and a guy whose actually essentially says “It’s not imminent that radio will shut down its towers soon.” (That’s a weak argument! Is that really your intended message?) Plus which, he seems horribly dispirited. Who in the world do you imagine would forward it to their friends? Do you understand what it takes to get a video to spread virally? This doesn’t have it. (The only way this might become a “viral video” is if it gets spread around by people making fun of it. )

What I don’t understand is this: Many top radio programmers, strategists, consultants, and researchers would be happy to help you guys and your PR firm craft a message that speaks effectively to radio’s real issues. (Although, frankly, fresh, relevant, cutting-edge actions would speak a lot more loudly than PR by itself.)

Why not get them involved? You’ve clearly got some money to spend… (Is it perhaps because, a la Groucho Marx, you don’t respect people from your own industry?) Between this and the HD Radio campaign, you’re in the process of blowing through $800+ million in airtime. With the right help, you should be able to get more value from that.

There’s an industry full of “radio guys” who want you to succeed. Let them help!


P.S. Let me reiterate one point: You’ve constructed a campaign to enhance awareness of radio… but awareness isn’t radio’s problem! You’re addressing the wrong issue!

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  1. “(2) The logo for “Radio Heard Here“ is a huge step backwards. In its use of typefaces, and particularly its use of the lightning-bolt motif, it’s a throwback to 1940s-era “radio” imaging. Do you want to position radio as a 1940s-era product? No! That’s precisely the wrong message to send!”

    But Kurt, it has the pseudo-highlight glassy button look that all the web 2.0 guys are in love with…doesn’t that count for something?

    Sorry…I couldn’t resist. Could not agree with you more on your analysis of the logo.


    David · Apr 16, 08:24 AM · #

  2. I like the logo, but agree that this campaign is useless.

    Fred · Apr 16, 08:29 AM · #

  3. Kurt, you hit the proverbial nail on the head! People know all about radio, it’s just not as relevant as it was before. Relevance is what it’s all about and until we figure out ways to maintain our relevance we’re headed down a dark and lonely path. It’s the relevance stupid!

    Tom · Apr 16, 09:40 AM · #

  4. Kurt,

    I went to a seminar in the 90’s and one of the MIT guys who invented the web made an interesting point, “if the telephone could have come along AFTER the internet, email usage would drop by 80%” the reaction would be, “I can dial 10 numbers and speak to my girlfriend in person, wow!” So what if radio had come along after all the pay services, satelite radio, internet, etc…and we could stand up and say we are building 13 thousand facilities all over the country and we’ll give you all kinds of music, local news, traffic, sports, etc free…what would the reaction to radio be? And by the way the you can buy a receiver to get this free service for as little as 5 bucks!

    Bob Christy · Apr 16, 09:46 AM · #

  5. Kurt, I’ve spent most of my adult life in public radio. This campaign seems so out of date and out of touch. What ALWAYS amazes me is that people who want to promote radio usage seems so out of touch with what it really supplies? I love Bob Christy’s post….he’s so right on.

    Betty Luse · Apr 16, 10:23 AM · #

  6. This is reminds me of those low-budget used car ads on TV that I grew up that scattered small markets. Unfortunately, this misses the amateurish charm of those low budget ads. With the Radio Heard Hear Here campaign, they really don’t seem to understand advertising to the 18-24 demographic that they are trying to lure in. Ads, print, billboard… yet, where is the internet spending? Try a Google search for “Radio Heard Here”…. nada. What about radio ads? 85% of that group still listens to FM.

    Brian McGlynn · Apr 16, 11:46 AM · #

  7. I agree with Kurt – they’re addressing the wrong issue and targeting the wrong people. Radio is a media business whose delivery is shrinking and as a result, losing revenue. Further, there is no demand pressure because radio is running too many units in most markets.

    Concurrently, radio’s Internet and off air revenue is growing nicely yet it does not seem focused on investing in and expanding those areas in any significant way. When some talk of that is “heard here”, radio’s fortunes could improve.

    This campaign is reminiscent of those “as seen on TV” displays that used to be common in drug stores. It’s dated look and general misdirection appears to be an illustration of how out of touch some people in radio are.

    Bob Bellin · Apr 17, 08:50 AM · #

  8. Here’s from another radio guy. The campaign means nothing to anyone outside the industry, the entire approach is coming from a point of weakness not power(radio still has over 200 million listeners daily), HD is a very expensive scam that no one outside of a few big companies that are vested in it gives a damn about, AM radio has been screwed once again, and the NAB should stand for NUMB ABOUT BROADCASTING or National Association of BS.
    Bless the few broadcasters that ignore the crap and keep producing good radio. The group that is supposed to support us supports the top half dozen big boys, the big boys support their stockholders, and no one supports content. As Pogo said many years ago…“We have ment the enemy and he is us”.

    Tim Johnston · Apr 22, 07:20 AM · #

  9. Would the HD cabal kindly take a couple Di-Gels or Clanz-0-Flats and spare us their flatulent misleadings? Why won’t they accept the fact that citizens saw BigRadio’s ‘carny shill’ for that which it is and rejected it?

    Paul Vincent Zecchino Manasota Key, Florida 23 May, 2008

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