Media: Behind the hype - Aerials Foundation pushes limits of radio creative

Is the RAB on the right track with its recent educational initiative, Jeremy Lee asks.

Fifteen months ago, the Radio Advertising Bureau launched its Aerials Foundation with the remit to "encourage radio advertising to be proud of".

It was formed on the back of the Aerial Awards, which aim to give credit - and a modicum of fame - to those creatives who make good radio ads.

Since its creation, the Aerials Foundation has held seminars and training sessions aimed at pushing radio up the creative agency agenda and last week it organised a conference in London for advertisers under the banner: "Getting serious with radio creativity."

According to Andrew Ingram, the director of the Aerials Foundation, it's part of a long-term strategy to improve the standing of radio creative, which he hopes will have the knock-on effect of improving its share of ad revenue.

So what's the problem with the perception of radio with creative agencies?

After all, it continues to take a growing share of ad budgets from the media agencies and now has a 7 per cent share of display advertising revenue.

Jon Elsom, a creative director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, explains: "Radio has historically been seen as a poor relation to the other above-the-line media; it gets a smaller spend, there's a smaller target audience and it's unlikely that people in pubs talk about a radio ad in the same way as they do about TV ads."

So what does Elsom make of the RAB's plans? Well, other than the fact that he was too busy to attend last week's conference, he supports the initiative.

"I think it's a good idea. Radio is actually one of the most creative media there is - your imagination is the limit. But it's also one of the hardest to write for - it's copywriting in its purest form," he says.

So far the issue of copywriting has only been addressed as part of a one-day seminar for creatives called: "Fast track to radio fame." The Aerials Foundation has also run courses for producers and account handlers, although Elsom thinks more resources could be directed at the issue of writing for radio.

In terms of measuring the success of the initiative, Ingram says there'll be a benchmarking exercise in 18 months. "If it doesn't contribute to the growth of the medium then the board of the RAB would ask: 'Why bother?' I'd love to be able to turn around and say the average radio ad is 10 per cent better. But we're realistic. We have research in the field and I'm confident that in 18 months to two years' time, the scores and confidence will be higher," he says.

Elsom agrees this is the right course of action, and thinks things are already going in the right direction. "There is more interest in radio than, say, three years ago - the Aerial Awards are respected and people want to win them. The success of the Aerials Foundation will be determined by the share of spend that radio takes and the quality of the creative ads. While things are certainly better than in the past, there's still a long way to go - there are still a fair few stinkers out there," he says.