Radio: Special Report

People love radio. It's the homely companion to everyday life and it forces us to use a bit of imagination for a change. But, it seems, people do not love radio advertising. The survey on the page opposite shows that more than half of Brits find radio ads irritating, and two-thirds of us say we'll zap the commercials once we get our hands on a digital set with a TiVo-like gizmo.

It is true that radio advertising has improved in recent years - for which the Radio Advertising Bureau's Aerial Awards should take much of the credit - but, as BT's Steven Huddleston laments (page 29), it is still the medium's Achilles' heel. Clients are putting more pressure on their agencies to get better, but there's still a sense that radio briefs are sniffed at by creative departments.

This was plain enough at last month's Aerial Awards, where the same ads kept winning. One of the better campaigns was for the RAB itself, by the radio specialist Eardrum - evidence that those doing it well are those who know the medium inside out.

It's a pity because, as an industry, radio is in pretty good shape. The Advertising Association expects radio adspend to grow by 4.1 per cent in 2005 - more than TV, print or direct. The dawn of the digital radio era and a potential wave of consolidation also promise much. Commercial stations hope both will give them a competitive edge in their tussle with the BBC for listeners.

In the meantime, let's hope that, for all their talk, agencies invest more of their time, money and creative juices in making better radio ads.

That it's the latest category to launch at Cannes is another step forward, but you'll be forgiven for grumbling: why has radio's creative voice had to wait 50 years to be heard at the Oscars of advertising?

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