Making Marketing with Meaning – Agency Strategist Bob Gilbreath speaks out on Radio – Pa

Here's Part 2 of my Q&A with Bob Gilbreath, the author of a new book called The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning

Proctor & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, Gilbreath is also chief marketing strategist at Bridge Worldwide, one of the nation’s largest digital ad agencies and part of WPP.

Click below for my full Q&A with Gilbreath.  What follows is a highly edited transcript of our conversation. If you missed Part 1 or want to download or listen to the podcast, go here.

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Okay. I deal with a lot of broadcasters, radio folks who have clients and advertising agencies. What process should a broadcaster go through to develop more meaningful marketing for its clients? 

If I was working at a radio station right now, I would focus on trying to really understand the listeners who are coming in, and I don’t mean the basic demographics, but going deeper in understanding some of the psychographics. You know, whether it’s a particular station or a program within a station, what are people looking for, what are their higher-level needs? 

And so for example, if I have a show that’s about finance and business tips, I don’t look at that and tell a marketer “hey, we’re focusing on financial services products so you may want to advertise.” Instead, I want to help them understand what the listeners are really looking for, what the program is about, what are their psychographics, what they are trying to understand. And then proactively going to those customers – those spenders – and saying, “Hey, here are some different things we could do for you that will really help you connect in a meaningful way with what makes our audience unique.” 

And from there, you can actually get creative many times with the client and help them think of things that are related to their business while at the same time adding value to the lives of listeners who are tuning in. 

Just to be clear, those are things that are not thrown in simply because someone’s placing an over the air buy, they are specific things that are paid for in addition to the baseline buy, right? 

Yes. So instead of throwing in a quick “brought to you by,” you actually do something interesting for the consumer and the client through the program itself. 

What’s the best way for a broadcaster who wants to partner with these clients to get down and dirty with metrics that are meaningful for clients, that are measurable for the broadcasters, and that go beyond ratings? 

The biggest thing I have seen a lot and seems to be growing over time is the use of specific URLs or specific discount codes. 

You know not every consumer uses it, but marketers look at those numbers to see how many people are coming from specific programs, and that’s going to become, I think, even more important as marketers work to show more return on every investment they make. 

More and more marketers are looking for ways they can actually see that consumers are listening, having a direct response, and then leading to some kind of sales result at the same time. This remains a big opportunity for radio, where you know people are more engaged. In many cases, they’re listening to the radio while they’re working, while they have access to their mobile phone or computer, and that can show some real results that a lot of other media don’t. 

What do you say to broadcasters who say all of this sounds great, but this isn’t “radio.” “Radio” is the business of selling spots, and we need to get back to basics and do that more effectively and then our revenue numbers will come back. 

Well I guess I would argue that that’s not what radio is really about. 

The work of any media channel out there has been bastardized by the focus on the advertising dollar and through the basic input of an impression. 

What radio programmers, what television networks, what the newspapers are really about is offering valuable content to the readers and the listeners and the viewers that they have.


We’re starting to see this in some of the food magazines, for example, where they’re working with advertisers to make sure that they’ve got unique recipes and coupons and other things through every ad, transforming it into advertising that the users and readers are actually looking for. 

It would be interesting to start from scratch and grab both the editorial side as well as the business side, both Church and State, and get together and ask “How can we negotiate this new world by blending the two, by only offering advertising that you believe is going to be valuable to the listeners as well?” 

You’re saying that Radio is actually in the content and connection business, not the selling-ears-for-dollars business. 

Exactly, and that’s how it started from the beginning and in many cases, what we’re talking about is going back to that more pure form. 

In your book you note that the number of people participating in these digital strategies is often very much smaller than the number of people clients buy when they’re buying, say, impressions. How are broadcasters supposed to appreciate that differential value and how are they supposed to explain the value of those smaller numbers to their client partners? 

Well, when you’re looking at “impressions,” it’s a number far away from sales, so marketers apply a big discount factor anyway. 

And the reason that they are wanting to spend less and less on impressions is that they know that only a fraction of those impressions actually lead to sales, so that’s where I think there’s an opportunity to turn that around, for example, by using an access code or a coupon code. 

Yes, the number of people engaged in most digital efforts is much smaller, but they’re also much closer to an actual sale. 

There may even be different business models where you’re charging per sale or per use of a code to the marketer instead of per impression. 

You are a former brand manager at P&G, you’re with a digital agency now, part of a larger advertising agency. From that perspective, from your vantage point, where do you see radio’s future as options proliferate, alternatives proliferate, ways to get music and content proliferate? Where do you see radio headed? 

I think there’s really a huge opportunity. I mean there’s a much stronger connection for people with personalities and with live content that is unscripted – content that has ability to change according to the times. This is a strength of radio. 

In a way, the radio medium was co-opted by the digital one with podcasting and now with online radio. People like the chunks of content from real people and getting media that doesn’t require continual reading. There are a lot of opportunities there. 

I also believe that there are growing opportunities for getting to niches as people have much more focused interests and are looking for places that gather around them. Radio for years has gone against that with a limited set of formats and a national focus, but I think there’s an opportunity again to go back to geographic niches or interest areas. 

These will become more important for marketers to get those smaller, focused audiences than going mass across the board.

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