By Ryan Ghidoni
Thursday March the 24th, 2016
Audio Active Advertising – Episode 10: WHAT CAN RADIO LEARN FROM GOOGLE?
I love Bob Hoffman and I’ve quoted his blog, The Ad Contrarian, many times to convince clients that online advertising is overrated and that they should stick with traditional media. The radio industry has fully embraced his ideas because he provides us with ammunition to defend against the imminent threat of new media. BUT instead of trying to imitate Bob in this column, I’m going to suggest something that is contrary to how the radio industry uses the Ad Contrarian.
Let’s take a time-out from our defensive position against new media and take a closer at what radio can learn from their leader…Google.
First, lets look at what makes Google unique:
Google is constantly refining its product. They don’t follow Microsoft’s “version release” model where ideas and new features are stored up until they have enough of them to release the next version.
Great radio requires the same approach. Don’t wait until a format change to suddenly be better at engaging the audience. Come up with ways to improve listener engagement everyday and implement ideas immediately. Why would you wait?
Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and to make it universally accessible and useful”. Notice there is nothing about maximizing profit, growth and shareholder value. They don’t even mention their advertisers. Their mission is completely focused on their user because their number one guideline at Google is “focus on the user and all else will follow”.
The radio industry could really benefit from a singular focus. We’re locked in a tug of war between programming goals and sales goals where the majority of the decisions favor the needs of the station’s clients. If we were to adapt Google’s user focused guideline we could align the staff to one common goal of serving the listener and create the kind of station that our advertising clients would WANT to be on.
What can we learn from Google’s philosophy about advertising?
Google believes that advertising should be clearly identified and not disguised as content. Do a quick google search for “plumbing” or “chicken” and notice how the paid ads are identified as such.
Radio, for the most part, does a good job of this too BUT we have been to known to sell unnatural product placement conversations in our morning shows. I still laugh about how the listeners at a station I worked for thought paid conversations for the launch of Johnsonville Sausages was a parody bit crafted by the morning show. The listeners just couldn’t believe that someone would actually use “Johnson” in a name for a sausage product.
Google believes that advertising should be relevant to the user’s need and useful to the user. This is not just something they say. They invested time to develop AdWords and AdSense. AdWords makes it so paid search messages only appear when people are searching for words associated with the product. AdSense matches display ads with the content on the website that the ad appears on and the audience the site attracts.
Radio has a format system that targets specific demographics but I don’t think we do enough to make sure that the ads match the audience. When we ask our clients “Who do you want to target?”, we need to clarify that they should choose from the demos the station is strong in. We should also provide more guidance on how to speak to our demos so that the ads are more listener focused and relevant.
Google developed “Display Ad Builder” that not only shows advertisers how to build an effective display ad, it makes it possible for anyone to make one.
Radio needs to show our clients how to use radio more effectively. Is a “Radio Ad Builder” possible? It could help clients focus on the right info, provide them with example ad templates, and educate them on how to take advantage of radio’s strengths. The writers could focus on refining the ad instead of having to start from zero with every new client. The first company to develop a “Radio Ad Builder” would have a significant edge over their competition. Once everyone offers one, it will benefit the industry as a whole.
Google believes that less is better than more. This goes hand in hand with their “ads must be relevant” philosophy. When they say “less” they mean the user is exposed to less ads AND the ads are actually relevant. The user benefits from a more clutter free experience. The advertiser benefits because the user is more likely to notice, understand, remember, and act on the relevant advertisements if they are not delivered with a boat load of irrelevant advertising.
Great radio stations need to respect a proper balance of ads to content.
Google believes advertising should be accessible to all businesses regardless of size. AdWords made it easy for small businesses to access and purchase search advertising. All they need is a credit card and their ads will appear within minutes alongside the big players in the industry.
Radio does a good job of serving businesses that are large enough to invest $30,000 to $100,000 annually in advertising but has yet to come up with a way to be accessible to smaller and start-up businesses. We can sell them a small amount of ads but we know that without sustained frequency, they are unlikely to see a return on their investment. If we were to offer a highly reduced evening and overnight price point only to businesses under a certain size, we could help businesses grow to become the $30,000 to $100,000 investors we are looking for. Imagine how much they would use our services if we were the ones who helped them get big enough to afford us.
Google’s advertising growth plans: luckily they don’t involve radio…for now.
As television programming migrates from traditional distribution to online, Google seeks to provide television advertising options for clients. No doubt they’ll evolve the ad form by incorporating benefits that only YouTube, twitter, blogger and website development can offer. They’re also into mobile telephone advertising where the Google “relevant” approach has the potential of considering your current location. With this info you could receive lunch specials for a restaurant you are about to drive by at 11:30am.
Right now the Radio Industry is lucky that both Apple and Google prefer a “monthly subscription” revenue model for their Apple Music and Google Play music services. BUT…it is possible that these companies, that refine and improve their product everyday, may one day offer a free version of these services that generate revenue by playing a couple of relevant ads every twenty minutes. After all, offering a variety of distinctive formats is a great way to deliver a relevant message to a specific market segment. Radio fits in well with what Google wants to provide its users and advertisers.
It’s easy to take a defensive position against new media and make it yet another “us vs them” endeavor. If radio is going to adapt and survive we need to take the time to analyze popular substitute forms of advertising and learn from their success. It plays a significant role in becoming better.
If we aren’t able to offer better radio and be a more effective advertising platform…one day soon…Google will.
Next week we’ll continue to talk about “The Power of One” by focusing on the importance of One Core Emotion. I was supposed to do that this week but the Google thing got in my head and I had to get it out.
Ryan Ghidoni is an 18-year veteran of radio advertising and has worked with some of the most creative sales reps, writers, producers and voice talent in the business.
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