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Most radio "branding" campaigns are a waste of advertising dollars...In response to my recent critique of a Mercedes radio commercial, a Loyal Reader asked:

“Dan, why do you think major manufacturers actually sign off on stuff as bad as this?”

That kind of advertising has no accountability.

There’s no way for the company to know what effect, if any, the campaign is having on consumers.

That, of course, is how most large ad agencies want it.

“Did the client like it?” is a much easier question to answer than “Did that campaign make them money, or did it cost them money?”

How does an advertising agency avoid accountability?


By telling the client it’s a “branding” campaign.

Almost all large companies create an annual budget that allocates a specific percentage of their advertising dollars to radio.

They don’t determine that percentage based on the profitability of radio advertising in the previous year, because they don’t know whether or not it was profitable.

Often the determination of what percentage of the ad budget will be spent on radio is, “What per cent did we give radio last year?”

Radio advertising is a lot cheaper than television or online video advertising.

Advertising agencies are paid a percentage of a campaign’s production costs.

Even the most elaborate radio commercial costs infinitely less than a network TV commercial.

15% of a pittance doesn’t do much for the agency’s bottom line.

At a large, full service agency, radio copywriting isn’t a priority.

“The guy who writes the radio stuff” is at the bottom of the creative ladder.

That guy probably has no real-world education in writing radio copy.

After all, it’s so easy, isn’t it?

That guy probably has no track record in creating profitable, results-producing radio spots.

That person was hired based upon his/her ability to write “clever” copy, not copy that sells.

Most large, full service advertising agencies have little interest in and give little thought to their radio campaigns.

Often the advertiser’s “radio campaign” is nothing more than the audio track to their new TV commercial.

At the last minute, someone says, “What about radio?”

The answer used to be for the agency to FedEx the audio track to radio stations across the country, arriving on the Friday before the Monday when the spot was scheduled to begin airing.

The Internet, of course, has made it much easier for an ad agency to distribute audio files to radio stations around the world…

…on the Friday before the Monday when the spot is scheduled to begin airing.

Years ago, in my Radio Advertising Letter, I talked about the practice of “sending them the audio track from the TV spot at the last minute.”

One subscriber, who worked at an ad agency, lambasted me for my ignorance.

“That’s ridiculous,” he said in an email to me.

“If you’re so ignorant that you believe that ever happens, take me off your damn list.”

It’s possible that at least one radio production director who is reading this can verify that, indeed, sometimes that’s exactly what happens.

In many markets, a company’s automobile dealers band together to run their own advertising.

They kick in some money and the auto manufacturer contributes, too.

The Local (Manufacturer) Dealers association turns to the advertising agency they’ve used for years.

Their only criterion: The commercials should be entertaining to the ears of the local car dealers, who of course are experts at recognizing what their customers will find to be entertaining on the radio.

The client knows nothing about radio advertising, so they rely on the agency’s presumed expertise.

“After all, that’s what we’re paying them for.”

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  • Don Collett July 23, 2018, 9:24 am

    Two of our auto dealer clients now just send us the audio from their TV :15 and tell us to piggyback them to make a :30. What they send is not written for radio, and the sound quality is flat, dull mono with a lot of ambient noise and hiss. But hey, as long as they pay… (eyeroll)