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STATION PROMO PLACEMENT

QUESTION FOR DAN O’DAY:
What do you think of running station promos first every time in each commercial break before any commercials?

DAN REPLIES:

Current conventional wisdom holds that it's a good idea, because it accords your station promo the coveted First Position in the stopset.

The two spots most likely to be remembered are the first and the last in the break. In Learning Theory, these are known as the Primacy and Recency effects. The first one has the advantage of being heard before the listener potentially is turned off by a bunch of commercials. The last (the most recent) has the advantage of not being followed by any other commercial message to compete with it for the listener's attention.

Personally, I think running the station promo first does a disservice both to the station and to the station's advertisers.

First, reserving the single best commercial position for the radio station sends a sad message to the advertisers: We're more concerned with OUR results than YOURS. How many magazines reserve the back cover or inside front cover for their own in-house ads? No, those prime spaces go to paid advertisers.

The smart radio station charges a premium (15% to 30%) to guarantee first or last placement in a commercial break. Just as magazines charge premiums for their most valuable ad pages.

Second, you condition your listeners to expect a bunch of commercials whenever they hear a station promo. Your promo becomes their cue to mentally or physically tune out. To make matters worse, most station promos properly end with the station's call letters. So the Conditioned Response is for listeners to associate your call letters with commercials.

Traditional Top 40 radio programming (my own training ground) stressed the importance of immediately following your call letters with music. This long has proved to be a very smart, effective strategy. Regardless of your format, it makes the most sense to juxtapose your call letters with the primary entertainment or information product for which listeners tune in.

Third, a good station promo is entertaining and involving. But if you follow today's "conventional wisdom," you force your listeners instead to think of your promos as "just" commercials. How would you rate the average commercial on your station? Worth listening to? Or just clutter?

Rather than compete with your advertisers AND reduce the image of your own promos, I recommend not including your promo anywhere in your stopset. Instead, run it solo elsewhere in the hour. You will shorten your commercial breaks, allow your sales department to charge a premium for First Position, and greatly increase the probable impact of your promos.

(I'm reminded of some programming genius who was quoted in a trade publication a couple of years ago as saying that to make his station's long commercial clusters seem shorter, he "breaks them up by including a couple of station promos." Uh-huh.)

Finally, an anecdotal report: Here in Los Angeles, I often listen to a very good, syndicated morning show. The local station that broadcasts this show:

  • Is the worst-produced major market station I've ever heard.
  • Begins each (very long) stopset with a station-produced promo.
As soon as a stopset begins, I automatically turn off the radio NOT because I want to avoid the commercials (commercial creation is one of my specialties, and I would listen to all-commercial radio if I could) but because I can't stand to sit through 30 or 60 seconds of mindless, artless, inane, station-produced drivel.

In this case, the fact that every commercial break begins with an embarrassingly bad station promo has conditioned me to tune out the entire stopset. So I never hear any of the paid commercials on that station.

Do you suppose the advertisers would be pleased to learn that the station inadvertently yet actively encourages people NOT to listen to their commercials?

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