Radio Advertising: When clients turn into catalysts

Clients have the power to stop radio ads making listeners cringe by giving agencies more time and taking a bolder approach towards creative risk, Brian Jenkins writes.

Despite the best efforts of the Radio Advertising Bureau, listen to almost any commercial radio station for any amount of time, and chances are you'll hear advertising which makes you want to hurl the radio out of the window.

I can't imagine any advertiser setting out with the intention of having bad radio advertising, so why do so many end up with it? I think it's because they're not good radio clients.

But what should a good client, who wants great radio advertising, do - give the agency a good, challenging, focused brief, clear objectives, a blank cheque, then stand back and let them get on with it?

Not quite. The first thing a good client needs to do is to care about its radio advertising.

If a client cares about radio, it will want to work with creative people who also care about radio. Because if it doesn't care, it certainly won't understand that, creatively, the medium is far more difficult than it looks, or rather sounds.

Second, a client should give its agency time. One thing everyone knows about radio is that it's really quick. From brief to broadcast, a radio ad can be turned around in a few hours. But just because it can be, it doesn't mean it should be. If more clients gave their agencies more time for the creation of their radio advertising, there would be much more good radio advertising.

As well as time, effective bold radio advertising requires the client to take risks. Tight budgets, however, make them understandably cautious.

But a client can manage the creative risks.

Mock-ups, demos and creative development research are common in other media, but still too rare in radio. A good client will make judicious use of them to assess the likely effectiveness of their radio creative.

It's by caring about its radio advertising that a good client gets involved in its creation. From brief to recording, both parties should challenge and stimulate the creative process. This may not make life easy for the creatives but so what, if it results in fewer radios being defenestrated?

- Brian Jenkins is the head of COI Radio


- Don't leave radio to the last minute.

- Always have new scripts presented by being read aloud or demo'd.

- When in doubt, research.

- Make sure the production team has good radio credentials.

- If anyone tells you the pictures are better on radio, roll up this copy of Campaign and beat them soundly with it - radio creatives need more than cliches.

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