Quality of radio ads poor because ‘advertisers are greedy’

Radio may be a powerful medium with the ability to infiltrate consumers’ lives and change behaviour, but it’s being let down by poor-quality ads, according to a panel of experts and presenters.

Russel Howcroft – who will soon join Melbourne’s top-rating 3AW breakfast show – said there was a real opportunity for radio ads to be written better. Eardrum’s Ralph van Dijk agreed, but noted that those with the skills to craft powerful radio ads are too often let go by creative agencies.

In addition, he said, advertisers are greedy, and try to have too many messages in one piece of creative.

Radio has infiltrated consumers’ lives, the panel said 

Speaking at Nine’s Big Ideas Store, Howcroft said “I don’t think the writing is necessarily that good” in reference to the current state of radio advertising.

“There’s such an opportunity to just write beautifully. 30 seconds of beautifully written commercial copy can be a wondrous thing for the ears, but also for the eyes, because you imagine what’s being articulated. So you can get speed, you can be tactical – but that doesn’t mean you should be crap. There’s an opportunity every time to say something beautifully,” he said.

Eardrum’s van Dijk noted that the blame for this lay at the feet of both agencies and advertisers.

“Unfortunately it’s a craft that seems to have disappeared in the advertising community. Within agencies, it’s hard to find the writer. You have the teams that are conceptual, and a lot of the advertising colleges are very visually focused. But the ability to be able to distill a brief, and to do it in a way that’s intriguing and engaging is a lost art form. And it takes some acquired skills to be able to write for the spoken word. And that’s not what we’re hearing on a lot of radio advertising,” he said.

van Dijk: Advertisers are greedy 

With adland shrinking, this problem may only get worse.

“A lot of these skills are in some of the older creatives, and that’s difficult for an agency from a business perspective to retain some of those older, more experienced creatives, unless they’re ECDs. So, some of those skills are going when there’s a bit of a cull, unfortunately.”

Noting that the industry needs upskilling, education and new talent to tackle this problem, van Dijk said advertisers also needed to be more concise in their messaging, and not overload consumers.

“Advertisers are greedy. They will include many more things than they need in the brief, and listeners are doing something else – in most cases, that’s one of the specialties of radio, it gives you something to do while you’re doing something else. So make it easy for your listener to understand what that message is. Give them one single-minded take-out, and then if you’ve got more than one message, make more than one ad. It’s pretty straight forward,” he said.

Despite the challenges facing the sector – including the COVID-induced pausing of the radio ratings and declining ad revenue – van Dijk said CMOs are finally realising the power of audio and all it has to offer.

“CMOs now more than ever have come to the realisation of the importance of audio branding assets – so having a consistent brand voice, an audio logo, a brand anthem – and those are the things that ensure you get a brand effect, which is a longer-term effect. So your ad will have a short-term message. You may not be in market, but if it leaves a brand stamp, then in two or three months’ time when you are in the market for a new car, or a new television, you will recall all those ads that have been part of your daily routine, just as radio is.

“And so that’s a vital part of what radio can do. It can be a part of your daily routine the way the presenters are, and when you are in market you get that long-term effect, and that brand will be top of mind.”

3AW’s Mornings presenter, Neil Mitchell, also noted the power of radio, particularly when examined against other mediums.

Mitchell: Nothing compares to radio 

“Radio is exciting. It is genuinely exciting compared to other media. I find TV is a bit sanitised, and newspapers, it takes too long to get any impact,” he said, adding that radio’s energy, unpredictability and enthusiasm meant it had a unique relationship with its audience.

“In radio, you’ve got all these people out there who can actually ring and have a conversation with you. Ours act as reporters, they act as analysts, they act as critics. They act as everything, everything they can possibly be. It is energising.”

During the last radio ratings release, before the surveys were paused, 3AW had an overall share of 13.9% in Melbourne. In Breakfast it had 17.3%, and Mornings 15.5%.

3AW is now owned by Nine.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.