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Why Advertisers Should Get Involved With Radio ASAP

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Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
Some of you may be tired of hearing me proselytize about radio. Tough. The fact is, I love radio and, in all likelihood, you like radio, too. Go on. Admit it. You have a favorite DJ from back in the day. When that Kajagoogoo song plays, you feel like dancing, putting on eye makeup or both. You don't have to feel guilty about it. It's OK.

Despite my obvious and blatant enthusiasm, I can also be realistic. Radio has deficiencies that have been propagated through neglect and the assumption that product development isn't that important. Take a look at most radio station websites, and you'll see what I mean. (Before everyone starts piling on, there are some notable exceptions and very good sites out there that I would be happy to share with you.) There is also evidence and research that shows radio listeners are disenchanted with the advertising and will tune out when they hear the nails on the chalkboard. I'm not saying anything new or earth-shattering. We've all known about this for a long time and it's one of the prime reasons most people think radio is dead.

Radio isn't dead. It never died. How it evolves and is delivered will change, but the basic "idea" of radio is far from stale and the industry, I would argue, is in the best position in its history. Why? Because this thing is ripe for profound change. Not incremental, "we'll tweak here and there and see what happens" change. But, rather, the big, bold changes that push radio back to a place of prominence. This is where advertisers and brands can benefit in a big way.

I alluded to "Radio 2020" back on Oct. 23. Some people may look at it as "just another initiative" and smoke and mirrors to deflect the industry's challenges. Radio 2020, a collaborative effort of the NAB and RAB in conjunction with O'Keefe Brands, is exactly what this industry needs to wake itself up. In a nutshell, Radio 2020 addresses growth opportunities in: content diversity, technology access, education and audience interest/engagement. Without going into great detail, all you need to know at this point is that the vision and ideas are exciting. Jeff Haley, CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau, takes it even further by putting a premium on improving and embracing creativity as a part of the process and evolution. "We're obviously very excited about Radio 2020, but, to make this successful, it's important to establish a strong foundation and put the appropriate business, industry and creative resources behind it."

This is where Radio 2020 gets exciting for advertisers and brands. This uncharted territory can be shaped through not just the traditional channels, but evolving programming, technological access (HD radio, for example) and entertainment opportunity. Radio should be willing to let go a little, be more flexible and be easier to work with. Advertisers and brands should be willing to help determine what suits them while helping maintain the integrity of a radio station's goals. Instead of letting the numbers dictate the path, the character of the content, driven by a truly collaborative effort between radio and advertiser, could be the next logical step. As it stands now, it's about advertisers "taking over" the medium. The biggest area for growth, in my opinion, is based in classic product and brand development. The most acute opportunity for an advertiser or brand lies in being part of the overall growth of the industry. It obviously goes much deeper, but this is part of the spirit of Radio 2020.

Lately, I've heard a few people call radio the new "Wild West." I would agree and I'm ready to go at it "guns-a-blazin." There are plenty of other people like me who are willing to saddle up and move this wagon train to prosperity and there's plenty of room for everyone. (Please note the cheeseball metaphors)

Note: The "Can the Corporatespeak" contest is still on. Go to last week's entry to enter. Big prizes at stake.

Editor's Note: Remember when Doug predicted how the Oregon Ducks would win the NCAA Championship? Remember that? Because I do. Someone's buying me coffee after that clown-school matchup against Arizona.
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