I’ve had several inquiries during the past week, of which this one is typical:
“I’d been telling the reps over and over (because it still comes up) about not using a phone number and a website. One of our managers sent me this. What do you think?”
What do I think? It’s an excellent attempt at conning a gullible industry and an irresponsibly bad job of reporting.
Who Funded This Study?
Although — astonishingly — that online trade journal report didn’t think this was worth mentioning, the study was funded by 800response, which bills itself as “the leading provider of vanity 800 numbers.” Hmm. And the study they funded concluded that advertisers should use vanity 800 numbers in their advertising? What a shock.
This Isn’t Research. It’s Marketing.
800response is engaging in marketing, not in research. What’s the difference?
Research is an exploration. Marketing is the establishing or shaping of a brand’s perception by consumers (individuals, businesses, industries, voters, etc.). A research study seeks to discover. A marketing study looks for proof, for validation of a preconceived notion.
800response didn’t fund this study to determine whether 800 vanity numbers are valuable to advertisers. The study was conducted to find evidence to support the contention that is valuable to advertisers.
I’m not suggesting that either Infosurv or 800response is dishonest. They’re simply depending upon gullible media to report the “study” without critically examining it. (800response does, however, approach an ethical boundary by using a couple of obvious fallacies to fool advertising outlets. More on that in a moment.)
If I Wanted To Design A Study To Prove That Vanity Numbers Are More Memorable Than Web Addresses, Here’s What I’d Do.
I’d create a commercial for a fictitious company — let’s call it “Bayside Auto Sales.” In that commercial, I would include *both a vanity 800 number and the company’s Web address.
For the vanity number, I’d pick something that’s very simple and that sells the results the advertiser offers. Something like “1-800-NEW-AUTO.”
For the company’s URL, I’d select something that doesn’t even mention the results and is both long and uninteresting. Something like “www.baysideautosales.com.”
Do you have any doubt about which would be remembered by more listeners?
“Oh, but Dan, you’re deliberately picking a ridiculous example. Of course more people would recall 1-800-NEW-AUTO than www.baysideautosales.com.”
Of course. But I’m not being ridiculous. That happens to be one pairing of vanity number & URL they tested against each other in that study.
See what I mean?
I wonder how 1-800-NEW-AUTO would test against NewAuto.com?
(*If I really wanted to test, rather than “prove,” I would conduct a multivariate test: one commercial with just the URL; one with just the phone number; one with both. 800response’s press releases don’t indicate whether the test was done with a commercial featuring a URL and a phone number or with two commercials, each featuring only the phone number or the URL. I suspect they tested a single spot that included both. Regardless, it’s a biased test.)
Now Let’s Add A False Assumption To The Biased “Study.”
The study purports to measure “recall.” But the goal of a radio commercial should not be to motivate consumers to recall something. It should motivate consumers to act. Anyone who equates “recall” with “action” either is seriously confused or is attempting to confuse someone else.
Bring In The Red Herring.
Then, bizarrely, they throw in gibberish about how many consumers move on to competitors’ websites. What does that have to do with the purported purpose of this “study” — comparing recall effectiveness? Nothing. But it helps confuse the target of this propaganda campaign, so why not include it?
Question: If “using the Internet to research the competition” truly is a dangerous result of sending prospects to your website, then why do they say you should put both a vanity phone number and a Web address in a commercial? It would make more sense to say, “FOR GOD’S SAKE, DON’T INCLUDE YOUR WEB ADDRESS!”
Answer: Their goal isn’t to help advertisers get better results. It’s to sell more vanity phone numbers.
Let’s Add Another Fallacy To The Mix.
It seems logical that including both a phone number and a URL would maximize listener response, doesn’t it? Sure it does. Only problem: It doesn’t maximize response; it lessens it.
On the face of it, it seems logical. But it’s not true. That’s called “Face Logic.”
In reality, every successful direct marketer knows not to include more than one method of responding to the offer because it will decrease the total response rate. This has been proven consistently in test after test (real world marketing “split tests,” not PR-driven pretend tests) for more than 40 years.
Why? Because each time you force prospects to make a choice before they can respond to your offer, you lose some of those prospects. That’s because Choice Paralyzes Response.
“I’ve got to fly from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, and there are two flights per day. Hmm, which should I pick? I’ll think about that later.”
“I’ve got to fly from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, and there’s only one flight per day. I’d better book my seat now.”
The smart (i.e., successful) radio advertiser gives a single Call To Action. How does the advertiser know which it should be?
What is the action that most people take in order to purchase from you or to become an active prospect (e.g., request information)? That should be your Call To Action.
A friend of mine loves advertising on the radio, because it produces a huge ROI for his company. He has an expensive website. But all of his commercials give only one Call To Action: to call a telephone number. Why? Because he’s trained a killer telesales force that knows how to convert telephone inquiries into sales. Meanwhile, his website is terrible at converting prospects.
(He doesn’t realize that. He tells other business owners, “Don’t bother including your Web address in your commercial. It never works.” Well, not for him.)
Here’s How It Works, Folks.
Vendor of vanity 800 numbers publishes misleading study and draws unsupportable conclusions.
Media — including, alas, media that are supposed to inform our industry — dutifully report the “study.”
Radio people read it, assume it must be true, and tell clients to include phone numbers and Web addresses in all their commercials.
Those clients get weaker results than if a proper Call To Action had been given.
Those clients become converted to the “Radio Doesn’t Work” gang.
When those clients doesn’t renew, the account executive becomes even more desperate to find new clients to replace them.
The added desperation — both of the A.E. and the radio station – leads to an even greater “We’ll do anything you say if you pay us” attitude.
The station finds it even more difficult to sell advertising.
Programming gets compromised in order to “do whatever the client wants so we can get their money.”
Weaker programming leads to weaker sales.
The staff is “downsized.”
And, as always, someone gets up at a convention at declares, “Radio is in better shape than ever!”