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All ears on HD Radio’s new campaign

The new HD Radio spots you’re supposed to run for free are in. And Fred Jacobs has a great critique of them.

I haven’t heard them yet, and I don’t need to. For a couple reasons.

First, isn’t this topic getting terribly tired?

Second, whether the spots are good or not, right or wrong, is beside the point. No spots on the radio will move a significant number of new HD radios, nor would spots on TV or anywhere else. The problem is not with the campaign it’s with the logic underlying the product and its place in the marketplace. Sometimes a marketing problem is bigger than an ad campaign, folks.

We could analyze and critique these spots all day, but we must not forget their fundamental purpose: To express to Detroit that “Radio is committed” whether or not Detroit cares and to elevate “awareness” even when such awareness has no link to persuasion or to consumer behavior. These spots are random action, busy-work, symbols of progress where progress itself is beyond our control. And by this metric, they are a success.

Surprisingly, HD Alliance head Peter Ferrara jumped into the debate with a reply on Fred’s blog (I applaud him for that). In part, he said:

We’re sorry you didn’t enjoy the spots. We are working with an one of the top brand building ad agencies in the country that’s done great things for clients like Southwest Airlines, BMW, MasterCard, AT&T and the PGA Tour. We explained our challenge, the current status of HD Radio and asked them for their honest evaluation and recommendation. …all of us in radio’s inner circle have an opportunity to trust in the experience and the track record of an ad agency that’s been here before.

Now anyone who has ever worked with an ad agency knows that they don’t know what the Hell they’re doing any better than you or I do. And it’s clear that their prestigious roster of clients is full of brands that did the heavy lifting on their own branding before they signed the dotted line with this agency. “Branding,” after all, is not about advertising. It begins with the product and the consumer before the “brand” even exists, although I doubt that was part of the “honest evaluation.”

Let’s be honest, trusting in the expertise of this particular expensive outsider is more a function of the effectiveness of the agency’s own branding than its likely effectiveness for HD radio.

Besides, suggesting that a new campaign will be a success because its agency has a roster of star clients is like saying the movie Lions for Lambs will be a hit because it stars Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, and Meryl Streep.

And if you’re saying “Lions for what?” I have proved my point.

The right thing for Peter and the Alliance to do isn’t simply to reply to a blog post (although that’s a good start), but to invite Fred and others who care about radio’s future to serve on an industry board of advisors, just the way Arbitron does.

Meanwhile you can trust in this: The nitty-gritty of the spots does not matter. Not in the least.


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