“Oh My God! We’re All Gonna Die!”

By Ed Thompson

In my last article I referred to the generation behind the Baby Boomers as the Hip Hop Generation and how the number one item on their list of values is, “Don’t bullshit me.” They’re the most informed and most media savvy individuals to ever exist in human history and they’re skeptical as hell. Old news and information sources like newspapers and network news shows are being abandoned in favor of the Internet, blogs, emails, and text messages. Why? Simple. They don’t trust traditional sources of information. Every day they’re bombarded with sensational stories of how the world sucks and we’re all going to die because of terrorists, global warming, tsunamis, hurricanes, bird flu, cancer, or whatever. Yet, we’re still here. No wonder their B-S meters are so sensitive. Want proof? On May 3, 2006, Reuters® reported in a 10-country survey, that nearly two-thirds of respondents don’t trust the media. In the US, the number is even higher at nearly 70%!

You can bet those same sentiments also translate to people’s attitudes toward advertising. When John Q. Advertiser runs an ad that tells the listener/potential customer to, “just call 555-1212 for the biggest and best selection at the lowest prices with the fastest, friendliest, most knowledgeable staff offering service after the sale at our convenient location at 2535 Middle Of Nowhere Road,” and wonders why his business is down, I just shake my head. Hip-Hoppers don’t just have sensitive B-S meters. They also have effective B-S filters.

Clichés bore them, exaggerated claims turn them off, and unmet expectations cause them to do the one thing you simply cannot afford to have anyone do; ignore you. They turn up their I-pods®, chat with their friends on their My Space® accounts, or immerse themselves in a digital world on their Playstations® or Xboxes®.

Does that make advertising, especially radio advertising ineffective? No. No. A thousand times, no. Even though people are bombarded with thousands of advertising messages every single day of their lives and have become very adept at filtering out the ads that don’t relate to them, the ads that have some relevance to their lives are let through their filters and the information is processed and actually remembered.

I’ve found a new hero to stand next to Jeff and Roy. His name is Tom Asacker. He’s the author of “A Clear Eye For Branding” and his web site is www.acleareye.com. I became aware of him when my Production Director sent me an email attachment of an article he had written about the possible future death of advertising. His thesis is that it’s not because of outside forces, but ad sellers who are selling advertising rather than putting themselves in a position of helping our clients improve their business. Short term profits versus long-term growth. In other words, order takers versus marketers. Asaker says the key to remain relevant is right in front us. Radio, he says, “…should be more like the artists they showcase. Be real! Be creative… Stop copying others. Be authentic.”

Bam! I bow to the man who vindicates what I have always believed. Trouble is, when I’m the one passing along the info, some clients and even more AE’s are less likely to believe me because I’m just a radio station copywriter. C’est la vie. Hey! Guys! Here’s your rope. I’ll be over here until just before you start to loose consciousness.

If there are any AE’s who are smart enough to read this magazine, I’m going to tell you something that will make you a boatload of money by the time you retire. There is a difference between the client and a customer. The real customer of radio is not the client; it is the listener. They are the ones who spend money in the client’s stores. For God’s sake and yours, stop doing things just because that’s what the client wants. Focus on the listener...the listener…the listener. Are you listening? If the client’s idea is irrelevant to the listener, the client will be unheard, unseen, and unprofitable.

Now, I’ve had my share of hits and misses. Some ideas which I’ve sent up the flagpole to see if anyone would salute actually turned out to be nothing but dirty underwear on the clothesline. But, I’ve had success with some ideas that just might be first injection of the serum which keeps radio from killing itself from within, one client at a time.

The owner of a computer repair company wanted to run some ads on our “we play anything” station. He had a couple of ideas, which he thought were brilliant. The AE took good notes and brought them to me nearly word-for-word. I looked at the notes and became instantly confused. I couldn’t see the point or the theme. I tried a couple of scripts and he was, to say the least, under-whelmed. So I got him on the phone to see what was running on the mp3 player in his head. He said, “I want an ad that’ll get people’s attention.” I asked, “Wouldn’t you rather have their money instead?”

Turns out, the guy’s a PC gamer and as a result, thinks others think like a PC gamer too. Which is why I didn’t understand his ideas. The only game I play on the PC is Euchre. His vision was something like a G4 Network imaging piece and was flat out too hip for the station on which he wanted his ads to run. In time, I was able to find out exactly what he wanted to accomplish; which was more hits to his website! So a quick visit online revealed an honest, sincere, straightforward site which was focused beautifully at his customers and how they use the service he was selling. I sang, “Hosanna!” and screamed, “Dude, that’s exactly what your radio ad should say!” He became convinced. I wrote one more script. He approved it with no changes. The ad starts Monday.

That’s one patient who rolled up his sleeve and took his medicine. Next!

On Ed’s reading list this month: Exploring The Earth & The Cosmos by Isaac Asimov; American Poetry edited by Gay Wilson Allen, Walter B. Rideout, & James K. Robinson.

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