Copywriters, here is a challenge. Could you come up with a brilliant radio ad that would alert consumers to the fact that borrowing money costs money and ensures they know what they are getting into without resorting to a confusing list of terms, conditions and numbers that fail to connect with listeners?
If you can, then get in touch with Radiocentre because we need your help.
In the coming months, we’ll be on a mission to persuade European and UK regulators to work with us to achieve our mutual goal of helping listeners better understand the whole package they are buying when they sign on the dotted line of a credit agreement.
Advertisers know that these garbled warnings about Ts&Cs do little to help consumers and are therefore frustrated and often put off using radio by the current regulation.
According to our own conservative estimates, taking into account lost radio revenue, cost of airtime and lost additional ROI to advertisers, the cost to our industry works out at about £130 million a year.
So who wouldn’t get behind a goal to make Ts&Cs more user-friendly?
When I became the chief executive of Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio, last March, a consistent, unprompted request from the industry was: "For heaven’s sake, do something about those wretched warnings that do nothing to protect consumers but plenty to deter advertisers from using radio."
So armed with a degree of innocence, without which no impossible task would ever be undertaken, I set off to take our case to Europe.
The requirement to broadcast lengthy examples of financial terms obviously impinges particularly on car manufacturers and retailers, as well as other types of financial advertising.
It emanates from the European Consumer Credit Directive of 2008, which dictates that the moment a specific monthly repayment is mentioned in an ad – "from £199 a month", for instance – in kicks a requirement to give a representative example with lots of figures and financial jargon.
Research for Radiocentre by Dipsticks Research shows that a statistically negligible 4 per cent of people claim to retain and recall the numbers in those Ts&Cs.
According to a separate study conducted by GFK for a radio station in Holland (where they are also trying to tackle this problem), if advertisers shorten the warning to something more memorable, spontaneous recall reaches 65 per cent of the total population within just six months.
There’s a strong argument that the existing warnings about Ts&Cs occur at the wrong time in a buyer’s journey towards making a large purchase. More than 70 per cent of people want to read and reflect on how much credit will cost online.
This isn’t just a problem for radio but caveats are particularly intrusive in an audio environment as they have to be read out in real time. As a result, Ts&Cs can often end up as long, or longer, than the original ad.
Regulators know we have a good case but, in Europe, tackling the problem can be difficult.
The European Commission has just launched a deregulatory programme and we are hoping for success here. Our plea to regulators, in the European Union and the UK, is to allow us to use our expertise in tailoring messages to suit audiences.
Our plea to agencies, particularly copywriters, is to help us. Please get in touch with your ideas and we will take the best examples to our new friends in Europe – and hopefully persuade them to let us create the solution.
Siobhan Kenny is the chief executive of Radiocentre