where have all the good ideas gone in radio

Is the remote really the only creative idea in radio today?
WLS broadcasting from the kitchen of the Sherman Hotel in Chicago, 1929. Underwood & Underwood, photographer. Library of Congress.

I recently read an article in an industry trade newsletter that said the remote is still living, breathing, and doing well at radio stations across the country. I find that fact to be a bit disheartening, as if the remote is our industry’s best creative solution.

Now, I know we have all called on an automotive or retail client who believes that it would be a fantastic idea for your radio station to put up the tent, cook some hot dogs, and do a live broadcast or a series of “remote” live commercial breaks from the dealership or retail store on a Saturday morning.  The client says, “This way we’ll generate some traffic and we’ll be able to see how much ‘pull’ your station really has.” Right? Sounds great!

I was motivated to comment on that article by something I experienced this morning on my way to work. I was in my car and heard a fairly successful radio station in my top-35 market broadcasting live commercial breaks from a newly remodeled gas station. In morning drive no less. When I heard this, I just shook my head in amazement and wondered why a media seller thought that the best solution for this client was a remote highlighting the 25 new pumps at the highway gas megastore with grocery fuel points.

I know that fuel points has been a proven tactic of the overall loyalty program strategy for many of the country’s largest grocers, but I just can’t imagine that a remote was the best use of that radio station’s capabilities to deliver listeners or to solve a marketing challenge identified by that client.

The troubling question that really comes to mind when you reflect on this situation for a moment is, where have all the new ideas and the creativity gone in radio? I am not saying a remote is not, at times, a valid idea, but it’s only one idea out of many that could potentially solve the client’s problem.

When a client or station sales rep says, let’s do a remote, or a promotion I have heard before, or a live read, the question that should be asked is, what PROBLEM is the remote, promotion, or live read trying to solve?  What’s the business challenge the client is experiencing that makes them think one of the three ideas mentioned above is the optimum solution for that business problem?

Once we identify the real source of pain or the marketing challenge at the client level, we can make a list of possible solutions. Many people call this brainstorming. Of course a remote could be on the list, but it shouldn’t be the ONLY idea on the list.

For media sales reps, the world has changed significantly in the last 10 years, sometimes frighteningly so.  It is no longer just knowing “spots and dots” and your competitors’ strengths and weakness in the latest diary. Now you have traditional spots in addition to a myriad of lengths, digital/web based capabilities, non-traditional event revenue streams, social media, SEO, SEM, and so much more in your toolbox that you can engage in solving a client’s marketing challenges. With all of these tools, it is easy to think that using them is the idea itself.

Creating a Facebook page or signing up Twitter followers is part of establishing viable tools in the tool box, but in and of itself, it is not the “idea.” You have to be knowledgeable about each one of these new tools and know how they work before you can brainstorm unique ideas that engage a tool as part of the client’s individualized solution.

Don’t be lulled into believing a remote is the ultimate idea; it is just one of them. And your job as a successful seller is to know that difference.

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And speaking of creative ideas, do you need a great copy idea for a spec spot or a great promotional idea to get your client re-energized? This calendar can provide you with answers; you just need a dash of creativity!