04/05

Advertisers Can Be Their Own Worst Enemies

We had to produce some direct response ads for my podcast project (you’ve heard it, right?), but one of the would-be sponsors was a hard sell.

You can find them advertising on many podcasts here and there (and maybe even on a certain televised annual sports event). But this kind of podcast doesn’t work for them, they argued. So they’ll steer clear.

Our work-around solution: Create a spec spot that really illustrates the power of audio and moves the product and even has what almost zero podcast (or radio) spots have: The inherent potential to go viral.

And that’s exactly what my production partner, Jeff Schmidt, and I did. And what we created was remarkable. Far more noteworthy than 99% of the spots I hear on the radio – and 100% of the endorsements I hear on podcasts. Far more fun to hear. Far more likely to be shared because it’s actually entertaining and worth hearing and sharing.

But you know what happened, right?

Crickets.

The advertiser – in case they ever heard the spot – never acknowledged it and certainly didn’t change their minds.

In other words, they might as well have said: The spot doesn’t matter, it’s only the context that counts. There are no such things as “better” or “worse” spots – there are only spots. And we don’t want them in that category of show, no matter what they sound like.

Let me ask you something: When was the last time you told a friend about the great radio spot you heard?

When was the last time you heard these words: “Did you catch that Adam Carolla endorsement for Stamps.com? It was hilarious!”

Too often, advertisers are so in love with the sound of the words in their features, they ignore the features in their words. All other things equal, a remarkable spot is better than a non-remarkable one. A spot that is bigger than its avail beats one that’s only filling an avail. Quality matters, as long as that quality translates to the possibility that listeners will like and share the advertiser’s message (either by word-of-mouth or more elaborate digital means). This amplifies the message and magnifies its impact. And that is one of the functions of great advertising, it seems to me.

The reason why my research has shown that listeners want ever-shorter ads is the same reason they want a flu shot to be administered faster rather than slower: It’s a painful experience. You – the broadcaster and your agency clients – can pretend it doesn’t hurt, but listeners know better.

Yes, folks want shorter – unless it’s good enough to last.

So I’m not going to tell who the would-be advertiser is. Perhaps you can guess. Perhaps they can guess.

Nor will I share with you the amazing spec spot we produced for them, because creating a viral sensation without being paid to do so is for amateurs, not professionals.

But keep this cardinal rule in mind: When it comes to audio advertising, shorter is better than longer because pleasure is better than pain.

Maybe if we made spots more pleasurable, they would actually work better and more efficiently.

And maybe, every so often, they would even go viral.

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  • Robin S

    Um, what “category” of show didn’t they want?

  • I’d rather not say as it will only sustain the myth rather than correct it 🙂

  • The sponsor was not responding to my show or any moment therein in particular, Robin. Their decisions were not nearly so sensible.

  • Robin S

    Oh, lol. I think I get it now anyway.

  • Robin S

    Take it from me – when riding on the bleeding edge, expect some blood to flow.

  • thegreatonymariani

    “Yes, folks want shorter – unless it’s good enough to last”.

    Mark I am glad you added the good enough. If radio wasn’t so buy homogenizing stations and centralizing writing and voice tracking you could develop and keep good talent. You have poor sacks churning out poor scripts for many different markets who have no idea or feel for the business. The length of ads isn’t the factor. Write a great ad and the length has no bearing. Opposite is true. Write a lousy ad and it doesn’t matter if its 10, 30 or 60 second! When was the last time you went to a feature film and said, “that movie should have been 30 minutes shorter!” A crappy movie is a crappy movie and it doesn’t matter how long it is. Just one man’s opinion.

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