The Radio Advertising Bureau has lined up plenty of advertiser and agency heavy-hitters for the RAB 2009 conference a couple of weeks from now in Orlando. Trouble is, the RAB is facing a shortage of actual radio broadcasters for them to talk to. RBR/TVBR has obtained an email that RAB President and CEO Jeff Haley sent out on Friday to the organization’s board members and trustees complaining that less than half of the radio companies with representatives on the RAB Board of Directors have registered even a single person to attend the event.
“To the RAB Board of Directors and Trustees:
Yesterday I completed the last of our initial prep calls with national advertisers who are attending our annual conference a little over two weeks from now. Under Sheila Kirby’s leadership we have shifted the programming significantly so that this conference is as much about learning from advertisers as it is about learning from sales leaders. Instead of just talking to ourselves, we now hear direct from our customers about how they would like to be sold to. The following companies are attending and presenting their media strategies in Orlando on March 16-18.
AT&T Coca-Cola Outback
AutoZone Home Depot Statewide
Chevrolet Miller Coors Wal-Mart
This note is not meant to berate you into charitable support for our conference. Frankly, attendance is down, we will not make our budget expectations, but George Hyde and Leah Kamon along with their teams have managed this very tightly. We have gained pricing concessions and planned judiciously so that our conference will break even if not contribute some profit for our year end. Our numbers will be fine with over 600 attendees.
But, I’m wondering about you and your companies. Those nine advertisers listed above are bringing an average of five senior marketing professionals each. They will participate in fully integrated panels that outline marketing strategy from brand manager through local execution. For example the Coke delegation led by North American Media Director Annis Lyles will be comprised of two brand managers, a customer marketing VP who leads their Six Flags relationship, and a local bottler. That team of five will outline for us their entire market strategy from concept to execution in a panel moderated by me. A radio company national sales director could spend three weeks in Atlanta and not get in to see this many people. Imagine the time and expense trying to do that for all nine of the companies above. Imagine the knowledge an attendee will be able to bring to a beverage client or any advertiser after learning how Coke does it.
To date only 18 of 44 board companies are registered for our conference with an average of 3.7 attendees per registered company. It’s simply a shame that our advertisers will send more people to our conference than you are. Almost a case where there are more buyers than sellers, and it’s our industry event!
I urge you to reconsider. At least send your top sellers. If the budget dollars just don’t work, call me and we’ll work out a plan.
When advertiser money is in the room, we ought to be there in force. Thanks for giving this your attention and have a good weekend.
RBR/TVBR observation: Budgets are tight this year and several broadcasting-related events have already been canceled. But the RAB convention is a biggie and Sheila Kirby has been twisting lots of arms to get big names from the spending side of the advertising equation to show up.
If the radio CEOs don’t bother to show up and talk to them, won’t that reinforce the idea that they don’t need radio advertising?
Carnegie observation: This has been a consistent trend over the years that many CEO’s that sit on the RAB board just fly in, put on their blue ribbon that says ‘Board Member’, have their rubber chicken lunch and depart like the wind blowing through Naples.
Once again it demonstrates the lack of leadership and leadership starts with the RAB’s Executive Committee members and all board members.
I can not remember the last time I saw a board member sit on a panel to discuss issues with attendees or just hang out to press the flesh and talk business over a drink.
Many older radio executives remember the days when we all would gather, participate and exchange ideas at the bar. A lot of good ideas came of that line of communications.
By the way, RAB is not by itself, many of us in the business of radio are not getting the support from the industry we serve with passion.
My suggestion to those that read my brief observation is now go look in the mirror ask this question:
“Do I want the Radio Business to grow and succeed?”
If Yes – then do something about it, get involved and support the key associations and Yes – key media voices like RBR that consistently do the job on your behalf every day.
If we Do Not work as a team and succeed together then the radio medium does not succeed.
Without industry support at all levels none of us will have a business called Radio. Share in the voice at RAB, Share in the voice of RBR.