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Why do some agencies fear radio?
By John Emmerling
Advertising Age
November 12, 1984

Earlier this year, the Radio Advertising Bureau ranked the country’s ad agencies according to the percent of total billings they placed in radio. The results showed that the Goliath-size shops were pip-squeaks when it came to using the medium—not one of the 10 largest agencies placed on the list of the top-10 spending agencies in radio.

Maybe it’s a big agency "attitude" about radio. After all, when David Ogilvy wrote his recent book on advertising (called, naturally, "Ogilvy on Advertising") he devoted tens of thousands of words to the art of creating print ads and television commercials. But the lowly radio spot? David gave it the back of his typing hand—a mere 500 words.

What’s going on here? Have the big agencies discovered that radio is a lousy way to advertise? Or have they—in their wisdom—decided that radio cannot be truly "creative?" (Although the list of the top 10 radio users did include Della Femina and Scali, McCabe.) Nope. The answer is, just possibly, that the large shops are scared stiff of radio. Consider the account executive who has the temerity to suggest a radio campaign and must face the wrath of the creative director (probably reached at poolside in Beverly Hills where he is attending yet another TV shoot). "Radio?" the creative directive sputters, "My top people are all too busy creating world-famous TV spots." After this initial outburst he might deign to assign a junior producer to adapt the national TV jingle to a 60-second length. "If you need some announcer copy," he allows, "one of the copy typists can whip something out."

Unfortunately, as with ads for any other medium, creating the best radio spots requires putting the best people on the job. And when you do, radio (as many small and medium-size agencies have learned) can be powerfully effective.

The rewards of radio? In a TV-era of 10, 15, and 30-second spotlets, radio still gives you an affordable 60 seconds. And in that long, luxurious time span you can involve a listener. For when consumers perk up and actively imagine the radio spot’s situation, an enduring "mind picture" is created—and your product’s name and position can be indelibly stamped on a receptive mind. Then there’s the audience segmentation, the low production costs and the speed of production offered by radio. They add up to a flexibility that lets you take quick advantage of momentary changes in a marketing situation.

If you are a broadcast advertiser, don’t let your agency bamboozle you out of looking at radio. And why not ask them to trot out and play the 10 best radio spots they’ve produced this year. Come to think of it, if it’s a smaller agency that is actively involved in radio, ask to hear 20 spots. And if it’s one of the big juggernauts—be kind. Just ask to hear their top five. Or any five.


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