Advertisers get help: Clear Channel bows ad creative offering

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First Clear Channel Radio told its advertisers to cut down on the length and frequency of their spots. Now it's telling them to improve the creative content-and it's offering to help.

"We recognized not just that there were too many commercials, but too many bad commercials," said John Hogan, CEO, Clear Channel Radio.

Media companies generally avoid offering creative counseling out of fear of insulting their clients or putting themselves in competition with ad agencies they do business with. But the Clear Channel Communications unit today launches a Radio Creative Resource Group that will consist of writers, producers and Web site designers. The goal: to help advertisers improve the quality of creative.

It isn't intended to replace the value of agencies, said Mr. Hogan, but to augment what they do. He emphasized that many users are local advertisers who don't necessarily have agency resources. Advertisers don't have to use the group, he said.

The move comes on the heels of Clear Channel's plan to limit the number of commercial minutes and reduce promotional messages at its 1,200 stations nationwide.

Senior VP-Creative Services Jim Cook will lead the operation. The purpose, said Mr. Hogan, is to supplement creative departments working at Clear Channel's stations, which operate in 300 markets in the U.S. In addition, it will develop tools and resources, such as survey data or speculative creative in particular categories, that will be accessible online for all Clear Channel creative teams.

advisers

Roy Williams, head of consultancy Wizard of Ads, and Dick Orkin, founder of radio production facility Dick Orkin's Radio Ranch, as well as marketing consultant Jack Trout, have signed up to advise the group, which will offer its services free to advertisers.

The formation of a creative operation comes as Clear Channel encourages advertisers to move from 60-second to 30-second spots, a key component in the "Less is More" initiative that aims to eliminate long blocks of ads.

Radio has long been a neglected stepchild for many agencies and advertisers. "Most creative people in this country hate doing radio commercials," David Verklin, CEO, Aegis Group's Carat Americas, said in a recent speech. Writing radio is "the loneliest creative job-just the writer and a typewriter," he said.

"If the right creative people commit time and energy to this, and the agencies get behind it, it could be good," said Ellis Verdi, president, DeVito/Verdi, an independent Manhattan agency that is known for its radio creative.

Local advertisers could stand to benefit most. Eighty percent of Clear Channel Radio's business derives from local advertisers, said Mr. Hogan, and those small companies often don't have the resources to pay for outside creative talent. "Not everyone understands how to make creative radio effective," said Mr. Hogan.

Reprogramming Radio

* intended reach: 1200 radio stations across the U.S., some 300 markets

* "Less is More" program: Aims to cut commercial and promotional time per hour, limit the number of ads aired during each break and encourage advertisers to use 30-second spots vs. 60-second spots

* 'radio creative resources' push: Give creative help to local advertisers to help improve their spots

* Long term goal: Improve the radio environment; decrease ad supply and increase cost per spot

* Implementation of program varies by station, format and market

* initiative: Entire initiative effective Jan. 1

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