Clear Channel Takes on a Challenge in Radio: Lame Ads

Partners With Berlin School for Contest That Will Award Scholarship

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The radio giant Clear Channel is taking on a glaring problem in the industry: second-rate advertising.

Bob Pittman
Bob Pittman

"Talking to creative agencies, we all agreed that radio has been put to one side and not given the level of creativity it warrants, given the importance it has," said Bob Pittman, chairman-CEO at Clear Channel, parent company of Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, which houses more than 850 radio stations, and Clear Channel Outdoor.

To try to fight the trend, the company has formed a Creative Advisory Council with senior ad agency executives including Jeff Benjamin, CEO of JWT North America; Andrew Essex, vice chairman and CEO at Droga5; Andrew Keller, partner and CEO at CP&B; and Benjamin Palmer, CEO and chief creative officer at The Barbarian Group. The council's first project is a scholarship for a creative industry executive to attend the Berlin School starting next month and work toward an executive MBA.

Radio spending increased overall in 2012, and according to Zenith Optimedia, will increase again in 2013. But up-and-coming creative talent at agencies often gravitates toward TV or social and digital media according to Tim Castelli, president of national sales, marketing and partnerships for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. "We found the best people weren't working on it, or it was an afterthought."

Some advertisers have been more innovative with radio than others, Mr. Pittman said. Geico, for example, runs campaigns that closely reflect its TV advertising, he said. Others have have successfully mixed radio with social media, he said, citing Macy's "iHeart Radio Rising Star" campaign with Clear Channel, now in its third year, in which listeners and Macy's shoppers vote for new musicians on Facebook and Twitter.

The Berlin School scholarship is meant to develop creative leadership in audio and in turn drive excitement among the creative community. Entries will be judged by Berlin School instructors and the Creativity Advisory Council.

The council plans to meet regularly throughout the year and to develop research and case studies around audio communications.

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