≡ Menu


This is a copy of a print ad for Ireland’s iRadio 102-104FM.

radio advertising graphic

"When you play great music back to back someone's going to get hurt."

Some people have found it offensive. Others thought it was confusing. And still others liked it.

For an ad targeting new or existing listeners to a radio station, there are only two questions that matter:

1. Will the campaign attract more listeners?

2. Will the campaign strengthen the bond between the radio station and its existing listener base?

Lack of clarity is the death of any advertising campaign.

When I first saw this ad, the juxtaposition of “Culture Club” and “The Village People” with those bloody images instantly communicated to me that iRadio hates that kind of music and that the bodies represent members of those two musical groups.

Then, upon reflection, I concluded the ad was trying to communicate the opposite — that that’s the kind of music iRadio plays.

Then I looked at the ad a third time, noticed the headdress alongside an apparently headless body, and realized my original reaction probably was correct:

The message of this ad is, “This radio station doesn’t play that kind of music.”

If the goal of the campaign is to strengthen the bond between the radio station and its existing listener base, it might well succeed. If the station has valid research informing them that their core audience — their “P1s” — abhor Culture Club and The Village People, the image that shocks — and no doubt offends — others might indeed appeal to the targeted radio listener.

But if it’s to attract new listeners, here’s a clue to the strategists behind this campaign: You don’t attract listeners to a radio station by telling the world what you don’t play.

iRadio doesn’t play Culture Club or The Village People? Neither does any country music station, classical music station, New Rock station, Christian music station, jazz station, Schlager music station, polka station — Well, the list of stations that do play those two musical groups is far shorter than the list of the ones that don’t.

An ad that tells people what kind of music a radio station doesn’t play is like a restaurant with a huge sign on its roof that declares, “We don’t serve any of these foods. Come on in!” People don’t patronize a restaurant based upon what it doesn’t serve. What attracts diners is the food the restaurant does serve.

This particular ad lacks both clarity and a viable strategy.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Gord Bailey January 28, 2010, 12:18 am

    Very cryptic message in that ad… to a younger demographic, it might inspire curiousity to sample the station. I agree with your conclusions, Dan… it certainly does lack clarity and needs a better focus.

  • scott snailham January 28, 2010, 2:59 am

    but you can’t tell me this didn’t go through focus groups along the way. It may not be clear to us, but it maybe very clear to that demo.

    If I had the research, perhaps I could properly comment if it’s clear or not, but being in a 40+ demo, and if they’re targetting younger, my opinion of it being clear or not is irrelevant.

  • Mike Bell January 28, 2010, 7:09 am

    What does this ad say to me? Apparently you don’t mess with Culture Club. Those dudes (dudes?) are brutal.

  • Derek Knight January 28, 2010, 7:15 am

    the bodies DO represent the Village People in a literal sense and, in a broader sense, Disco as a whole which, in this scenario, has been clubbed to death with culture. Not a bad lookin’ ad, I like the simplicity of the design and there was some time and effort put into the photo shoot which I always appreciate. If I had to guess (and the ad leaves you guessing) This station WOULD play Culture Club, but would not play disco (ergo would NEVER play the Village People). I’m intrigued enough to find out what they play and I think that was the point…Raise questions so people check out the station.

  • Brian McArdle January 28, 2010, 7:17 am

    Is there a pun with the word “Club”
    Also I agree that it lacks clarity

  • Rob Holding January 28, 2010, 7:01 pm

    Maybe the people uner the sheets are the announcers that played Culture CLub and Village People back to back and that’s why they got shot (fired?)

  • Pete Brandtman January 28, 2010, 7:50 pm

    Seems like a waste of commercial to me

  • Irish Andy January 29, 2010, 1:50 pm

    I don’t think you get the Irish market Dan, there’s no jazz station, no country music station, probably no rock station, certainly no polka, ok there might be a classical music station, there’s a couple of national public service stations, one full service, one CHR/AC and probably one local station, probably AC in format. That’s probably it. No HD Radio, No DAB Radio…. It’ll get noticed, might not attract new listeners but it’ll get noticed!

  • Jarrad February 1, 2010, 11:40 pm

    I really like it.. compared to most boring, generic commercials that advertise radio stations.. I like that they have thought out of the square. I also think the ‘Culture Club the Village People’ is a great play on words. Maybe not the greatest piece of advertising in the world, but there are far worst out there. And I’m in the demographic of the station.. and was curious enough to see what IRadio do by listening online.

  • John April 15, 2010, 12:21 pm

    As a 27 year ad veteran, I would say that this one missed every possible mark for recruiting new listeners. If it was some sort of an ‘inside joke’ between one of the station’s hosts and their audience, then maybe it elicited a grin…

    As a stand alone ad, I doubt that it’s ROI proved effective.