I never dreamed before coming to the wonderful world of radio that I would spend so much of my life devoted to terms and conditions.
Or, more accurately, saying to regulators, governments and civil servants in the UK and Europe: "Really? Have you actually listened to this stuff which is intended to protect consumers?"
Because Ts&Cs achieve all sorts of things – irritating listeners, deterring advertisers from using radio, for example – but the one thing they really don’t do is to protect consumers.
You know the sort of thing – lengthy scripts at the end of even the most fabulous ad, droning on with various qualifiers.
The most egregious offenders are motor ads. For example, "subject to status" and "over-18s only".
The former is pretty meaningless and the latter – well, duh, as my niece might say. And my personal favourite at the end of a lease car ad: "You will not own the car."
Surely even those very new to the concept of financial arrangements might be capable of getting their heads round that basic fact.
So we at Radiocentre are delighted that, after many long years campaigning here in the UK and in Europe, the Financial Conduct Authority is to update its confirmed industry guidance that ensures financial promotions for motors brands on radio are clear, fair and not misleading.
The FCA regulates financial advertising and will clarify for motor brands which of the long stream of Ts&Cs they don’t need to include in their ads.
The relationship of trust between radio brands and their listeners is paramount and increasingly important in a fake news world. No-one wants consumers – or listeners, as we call them – to be misled.
Our plea to regulators is that they allow us to help them do the thing we understand best – devise effective, impactful communication that delivers the message forcefully.
Research demonstrates that the inclusion of unnecessary information reduces the effectiveness of Ts&Cs.
Dramatically, only 4% of listeners say they can recall any salient facts, as attention plummets as soon as they kick in. In other words, this form of communication has a 96% failure rate.
Ironically, listeners tend to believe that Ts&Cs exist to protect either the advertiser or the media brand. Certainly, they don’t see them as their friend.
This truly is a perverse outcome of a policy that clearly has noble intentions at its heart.
Lengthy Ts&Cs in financial promotions on the radio cost the industry an estimated £120m a year in lost revenue, airtime costs and reduced return on investment for advertisers.
Evidence shows that some motor advertisers are put off using radio altogether because they believe more terms and conditions are needed then is actually the case under the FCA regulation.
This new guidance provides advertisers with important reassurance in this respect, so they can feel confident with this clarity now in place.
The motors product sector is one of the biggest UK radio spenders (£106m in 2019), yet it is often most challenged with complicated Ts&Cs drowning out the original creative, no matter how powerful that might be.
An analysis of the new guidance in action shows that up to 16 seconds of airtime can safely be removed from the average 30- to 40-second ad, resulting in clearer, more readily understandable Ts&Cs.
A win for the listener, the advertiser, the regulator and the radio industry. What’s not to love?
We are delighted that the FCA has agreed to help relieve the nation’s ears by improving the radio listening experience and will be out to agencies and advertisers to run workshops on the new guidelines.
Siobhan Kenny is chief executive of Radiocentre