04/21

“Radio Rocks My Phone” Strains Credibility

This is not a post about the wisdom of FM chips in mobile phones.  I wrote that post already last year and absolutely nothing significant has changed my view since then, nor the facts supporting it.

Nor has the resistance to this wrong-headed industry initiative changed. Indeed, it has deepened over time.  And that resistance has been met with an increasingly shrill effort by NAB to lobby Congress and broadcasters and create the impression that they’re lobbying consumers.

I say “create the impression” because the tangible effort illustrated in NAB’s new “Radio Rocks My Phone” campaign is the most ham-handed, tone-deaf thing I’ve seen since that late, great gem “Radio Heard Here.”

One might argue that there’s more to marketing than creating a website with talking points and a creaky slogan worthy of McMann and Tate’s finest, but don’t bother arguing that to NAB.

“Radio Rocks My Phone!”  Imagine that, the domain was available (as of this writing “hdradiorocksmyphone.com” is still available, which doesn’t say much for NAB’s ability to integrate priorities)!

One can only hope that NAB is better at changing minds on Capitol Hill than it is at marketing to regular folks.

Inside Radio writes:

A new push in the House to block a proposed mandate that cell phones integrate FM chips has the fight back on the air. National Association of Broadcasters members this week will begin running a new “Radio Rocks My Phone” commercial. The spot’s aim is to “educate” listeners and direct them to a website that lists FM-equipped handset models and how to sound-off to their representatives in Congress. The NAB says the spots are to create enthusiasm for voluntary carriage by cell phone companies.

Yes, let’s add more free inventory to the air, that’s the answer!  Because it worked so well when we wasted that precious time on HD radio and “Radio Heard Here.”

Yes, new spots are about to chew up your precious air time on a wild goose chase for consumers who give a damn.

Happy hunting.

It’s not like there’s anything else we’d do with that airtime anyway, right?  Like actually sell it or hand it back to audiences in the form of the content they come to us for in the first place.  Nah!

Got a problem?  Run an ad!

Because consumers need to be educated about what they want!  Nobody really knows what they want, after all.  Do you know whether you want radio in your mobile devices?  Obviously not, according to NAB.  Does NAB know that the magic of streaming already makes radio available to you in those same devices, and does so with added features enabled by technology that no FM chip can match?

Obviously not.

Evidently mobile phone manufacturers are stupid, thinking that consumers buy phones because of what fresh features they have, rather than choosing one because it can make their clock radio redundant.

Nobody wants what’s fresh, right?  I want my iPad magazine app to be an identical digital version of the paper mag, don’t you?  I want my CNN.com to mirror the cable network exactly, don’t you?

The nerve of these manufacturers, thinking that mobile devices are not radios you can talk into but personalized, portable connection devices designed to do what can’t be done other ways, not what’s done other ways by 800 million radios in every home, work, and car.

Thankfully, the NAB is on the case.  And that case contains a laughably tepid slogan borrowed from a boozy martini lunch with the kind of ad men one can only find on AMC and in 1963.

Fortunately for fans of Geocities, NAB has created a site that stretches the technical capabilities of Microsoft Frontpage to the absolute limit!  It makes me want to buy some Netscape stock right now, in fact.

One statistic NAB forgot to provide:  How are those FM-enabled phones selling? And no matter whether or not a consumer tells you she wants FM in her next phone, the real question is whether FM is a reason to buy one phone over another – and it generally is not. The phone-makers, you see, understand what drives the consumption of their devices while the NAB does not.

If only Microsoft’s Zune had included radio – then it would easily have toppled the iPod.  Er…oh…well….maybe if it had been HD radio, then….er…oh…well…never mind.

This is not about “what’s good for the radio industry.”  It’s about what’s good for consumers, and how broadcasters can meet those needs on consumers’ terms, not their own.  Because in so doing, broadcasters grow and prosper.

This is a time of great opportunity for broadcasters who see beyond their hundred-year history.  There is a grand and glorious future for radio brands and their offshoots and compliments on mobile devices.

Just don’t expect tomorrow to resemble yesterday.

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