HD Square Pants – nanny nanny boo boo. Have we sunk that far?


When is promoting something in a negative way, a positive?  Especially when it is our industry at stake? Growing up it was instilled, no wait… more like beat into me at an early age, if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.  Thanks mom, that and those lyrics “don’t spit into the wind” from Jim Croce are SOOO true.  It just seems that we in the radio industry aren’t listening to mom, Mr. Croce or our signals for that matter. Case in point, have you actually heard what we have accepted and are running for the HD Alliance?  No, really. 

Have you actually listened to what has been sent and most of us are running to promote HD radio?  I’m not suggesting we don’t promote HD, but I am asking the question.   Are we shooting ourselves in the foot?
For months now, I have found myself defending our industry on many occasions because of the current ad campaign produced for the HD Alliance by GSD&M in Austin TX.   I have had many non industry people come to me and ask why radio is eating its own young!?!  Why are we attacking the one signal, a very viable and still profitable signal, for the benefit of another (HD)?  I’m all for promos to promote the benefits HD; however do we have to do it by beating down what we have, a money maker and our main bread and butter? 

If you haven’t heard the campaign, it features the voice that does Sponge Bob, leaving a message on an answering machine (when is the last time you actually used a physical machine with a tape anyway) with a plea like a jilted lover (analog signal) asking the listener “are we still good?”   It continues with “… hey.. you’re not out like at Wal-Mart or Radio Shack buying a new HD radio are you?  I can so pick up those HD channels if I hit the gym pretty hard.”  That’s just one of them.  As many of you know it’s an entire series of the same shtick.

Now I know what a lot of you are saying, and yes we should and we have been promoting the benefits of HD radio, I get it, sure.  But do we HAVE to do like this? Let’s look at it from another industry’s perspective.  Let’s say fast food.  Example?  McDonalds.  Have you ever heard something like this campaign promoting a new entree at McD’s? “We here at McDonalds apologize to you, the eater.  For years we knew that the Big Mac consisted  two tasteless pieces of cardboard dripping with special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun.  It sucked, we know.  And, we’re sorry.  But HEY, THERE’S THE NEW BIG AND TASTY!!  IT’S BIG AND IT’S TASTY!  That’s why it’s called the BIG AND TASTY.  So on behalf of the entire fast food restaurant industry, we’re sorry….. go get a Big and Tasty.  Please.  (ba da dat dah dah, I’m lovin it) Thank you.”  Sure it’s “creative” and a bit funny and you got a chuckle out of it, but if you heard that, over and over and over again like the HD spots that are running, how many of you would actually WANT to buy a Big Mac?  Can you see the cardboard smothered with special sauce dripping off of it? 

We are what we paint ourselves to be in the portrait of our daily work.  Remember theater of the mind? Trust me, I’m a techno weenie I love my gadgets but I still use and love our medium, be it analog or digital, and yes it does sound good when it actually comes in.  When it doesn’t, it’s that jilted lover good old’ analog that is there to make sure we still stay on the air and make budget for yet one more day.  Look at TV?  They are in crunch time because they HAVE to get off their signals by next year.  The campaign I am seeing locally is informative, they educate and make it simple.  How many of you have had the same questions, even after 2 years of promoting HDRadio… “So what is this HD thing anyway?” We should be way beyond that. I literally got that question this morning stopping at my morning convenience store to get a cup of coffee and newspaper.  The impetus for me sitting down and putting fingers to keyboard and voice to hard drive.

Is that the best GSD&M’s got?  (Beep) hey…. it’s me… your advertising agency, just calling to see if we’re still good… (nervous chuckle)  I know we’ve been losing advertisers left and right (chuckle) like Wal-Mart and AT&T and stuff but uh… you wouldn’t be thinking of doing anything rash, like going with another agency, or worse… uh… “going DIRECT” right?!?!   (nervous chuckle)  We’re still young, we’re happnin’ … we can shuck and jive with the best of ‘em.  You know we can do ZIP POW slug lines like …. “IT’S TIME TO UPGRADE”  (pause)  Huh?  That’s pretty hip!?!  (pause) call me…… I miss yo…(beeeeeep)        You can hear that full produced at www.JimKipping.com/radiosponge.mp3

Be creative people.  But lets do it nice, and not to our own detriment. It’s bad enough we have to defend against outside forces and industries.  It’s even worse when we invite them in and help them out.  We might as well all give away ad space for satell….(beeeeeep).  


Jim Kipping is Creative Services Director for the 6 station cluster for Emmis Broadcasting in Austin Texas, and is also heard on current national campaigns for Netflix and Sunny D and hundreds of other regional and local spots across the country and around the world from his studio in the Texas Hill Country.  He can be reached at [email protected]  or at www. jimkipping.com