Live reads getting the ear of advertisers, again


Good news for radio—advertisers are going through a resurgence of interest in the live read: AdAge recently did a report on live reads making a comeback, noting that in the early days of radio, ads were often introduced by DJs who were paid to talk up the benefits of Colgate toothpaste or Marlboro cigarettes. However today when a Ryan Seacrest or Steve Harvey talks up a product or service on his daily radio program, there’s a lot more than just a paycheck involved.

Seacrest, the host of Fox’s “American Idol” and E!’s “E! News Daily,” made industry headlines last year when he signed a five-year contract with Premiere and Clear Channel to help sell ads for his show “On-Air With Ryan Seacrest.” As part of the deal, Seacrest leveraged his existing relationships with sponsors such as Procter & Gamble’s Scope and Crest brands to bring them to radio, banking a commission for each deal along the way. In turn, Seacrest appears in several of those sponsors’ TV commercials.

Steve Harvey, host of Premiere’s “Steve Harvey Morning Show,” applies a more grassroots approach to his live reads. When he talks about advertisers like Ford and State Farm, it’s because the brands have been a part of his life for years, he told Ad Age.

“I will not do any live reads unless I absolutely believe in the product,” he said. “I always try and protect my integrity to the listening audience. I’m too straight of a shooter, and also a stand-up [comedian] — so eventually if I’m doing something I don’t believe in, I’ll make fun of it.”

That must bring a sigh of relief to Clear Channel’s legal team, too, since new FTC guidelines will make it even harder for personalities like Harvey to speak out of character for the sake of a brand endorsement.

Greg Kahn, SVP/strategic insights at Optimedia, told AdAge live reads are often worth 1.5 times the average 60-second spot but often work best as part of an integrated marketing campaign or the personality’s ongoing relationship with a brand.

Ford, for example, had sponsored several contests and giveaways on Harvey’s program for a year and a half before the host made the connection that he had a history with the company. Harvey worked at a Ford plant in Cleveland from 1977 to 1980.

Harvey used similar criteria for his ongoing partnership with State Farm. When the marketer initially tapped him to participate in the company’s ongoing 50 Million Pound Challenge, Harvey agreed because he happens to be a long-time State Farm customer, insuring his Ford F-150s and his ranch with the company for years.

Since the initial partnership, Pamela El, State Farm’s VP/marketing, said Harvey has helped the company attract participation in its weight-loss initiative, which has enrolled 1.5 million people. But he’s also become the No. 1 radio personality among African-Americans, a key reason State Farm is spending more on radio ads than ever before.

CBS Radio announced months ago it would tap its local DJs to do live reads for its local streaming audio stations through its partnership with Yahoo Music. CC Radio has also taken a company-wide investment in connecting local talent with advertisers, luring Las Vegas Tourism, Orlando’s David Maus Toyota and Purina onto the air for integrated sponsorships.