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Listeners are Blocking Radio Ads


Yes, I know – you can’t block the ads on your local radio station. That’s the beauty of a linear, non-digital programming stream. Hooray!

But actually, people block radio ads all the time. Every time a consumer switches stations or switches from radio to a platform that is not radio it’s to hear something that is not on right now, because often what’s on right now is a commercial.

And for digital audio the problem is just as bad, maybe worse. The yogurt shop downstairs from my office plays Pandora all day long with never a commercial to be heard. Are they paying for Pandora One? Nope. They’re just using an ad blocker.

And, as Seth says, people have been blocking ads forever – by ignoring them.

To be sure, there has never been a radio research project which didn’t point to the inherent irritation of advertising, something our advertisers know full well (indeed – irritation is sometimes the whole point), which is why some of them take umbrage at the use of the term “commercial-free,” as if painting commercials as a negative and their absence as a positive was something that hasn’t occurred to listeners until we proclaim it.

So what is radio to do in the face of ever-increasing sensitivity and resistance to ads in the presence of ever-more ads in ever-more places?

Seth says the antidote for brands is to focus on what he calls the “fundamental building blocks of growth today”:

  1. The best marketing isn’t advertising, it’s a well-designed and remarkable product.

  2. The best way to contact your users is by earning the privilege to contact them, over time.

  3. Making products for your customers is far more efficient than finding customers for your products.

  4. Horizontally spread ideas (person to person) are far more effective than top-down vertical advertising.

  5. More data isn’t the point. Data to serve explicit promises is the point.

  6. Commodity products can’t expect to easily build a profitable ‘brand’ with nothing but repetitive jingles and noise.

  7. Media properties that celebrate their ads (like Vogue) will continue to thrive, because the best advertising is the advertising we would miss if it was gone.

So what does this mean for broadcasters?

It means you must begin with a captivating product worthy of attention and affection – a brand in whose presence ads are more valuable and messages make more impact.

It means you must have direct relationships with your consumers – their names, email addresses, etc. And those must be earned.

It means new experiences for your fans, where each new experience is monetizable because it solves problems and feeds desires both for advertisers and fans.

It means you must transform your social media platform into a word-of-mouth machine for your clients, not just your own brands.

It means that reach will become less important than impact and engagement, all other things equal.

It means we should all strive to create and provide the best advertising possible – as Seth says, “the advertising we would miss if it was gone.”

Ask yourself, what advertising would your fans miss if it was gone? And why don’t you have more of it?

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