RAB to Radio Industry: You Suck!

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[note: see the RAB’s response, below]


The Radio Advertising Bureau is meekly trying to send a message to the entire radio industry that our ad writing, well, sucks.

That is correct, this year the RAB has decided because of the poor quality of submissions from radio stations, that they will not be giving a Radio Mercury Award in the radio station category. Of course, they did not announce this. They simply published a list of Radio Mercury winners with no radio stations on it. However, phone calls to the RAB have confirmed that the judges did not find any submissions worthy of an award.

On its own website, the RAB says it is the sales and marketing arm of the Radio industry. It is no wonder why the radio industry is in such bad shape when even the RAB does not think we are good enough. This is how they promote the industry they serve? They tell us that our work is so poor it does not even deserve to win a little contest? THIS is how they want to help the radio industry?

I never heard of the Olympics cancelling a medal event because none of the entrants were as good as previous champions.

Oh, by the way, none of these judges work for radio stations. They all work for ad agencies, and of course all the ad agency categories had winners. The radio station category, the student category, the public service announcement category and the political category did not measure up to the quality of work the ad agencies do, the judges said.

Now I will admit that I hear plenty of poor radio commercials. For the last two years, our company has been a finalist for the Radio Mercury award, which given that we are in Eureka California (at market number 273 according to Eastlan), is a pretty indicting evidence of how weak the creative can be in radio. But surely there must have been five commercials that were at least worth listening to.

While some of the Radio Mercury finalists were great ads, some frankly are simply not effective. They may be entertaining, they may be well produced, but they do not help the client. We produce 2,500 spots a year, and maybe they are not all brilliant. But since we do that with total revenues of $1 million a year (compared to Pepsi who can spend $ 98 million on just its Diet Pepsi campaign), we should be held to the same standards?

For these advertising agency judges to thumb their nose at our industry (after years of beating up radio for years for more value-added and lower CPMs), and for the RAB to allow this, well, lets put it this way: I don’t need help like this. I am certainly not paying for an industry group to put me down like that.

It is particularly irritating when one looks at the completely lame ad copy and promotion ideas the RAB has on its member section of its website. When is the last time the RAB came up with a decent idea? I have had several conversations with Jeff Haley at the RAB, who says they will be announcing a new initiative to improve radio station copy. He graciously previewed a portion of it, and I am completely underwhelmed by it.

So I have cancelled my RAB membership. I urge my colleagues to do the same. This industry has enough challenges without paying its leadership to tell us we suck. What we need is someone to lead the way, and this is not leadership.

Patrick Cleary, President

Lost Coast Communications, Inc.
KHUM / KWPT/ KSLG-FM
Ferndale CA 95536

(707) 786-5104 [email protected]

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Editor’s Note: And the RAB responded with this:

The RAB explains its decision to raise the bar this way:

The Radio Mercury Awards is a celebration of the best in Radio Advertising, and the goal this year has been to help Radio up its game. The 2009 panel of judges made a commitment to raise the bar on creativity and execution this year as they evaluated the hundreds of Mercury Award entries across all categories.

Entries went through two rounds of judging; the first round included more than 50 judges from agency, production companies and Radio stations. During the second, final round of judging, 14 judges reviewed those that had made it through the initial round. All spots that made it through to the final round were judged in-person, fairly and impartially, by our panel, and were scored on a numerical scale.

As for the judges’ decision not to present awards in certain categories, like in most awards competitions, the official guideline give the judges the discretion to make selections, or not, to reduce the number of prizes or not to award a prize if they feel the quality of the entries does not meet their standards. (View judging guidelines here: http://www.rabmarketing.com/mercury2009/cfe.cfm).

Our final round judges felt strongly that only those commercials that met a certain standard should be recognized – whether created by stations, ad agencies, or students. As a result, we have fewer finalists and winners, and prizes will not be awarded in the following categories this year: Political, Public Service Announcement, Radio Station Produced, and Student Produced.

At the Radio Mercury Awards event this week, on June 17, we will announce several new initiatives that we hope will strengthen our educational and outreach efforts and will focus new energy on creative excellence in Radio, both in the advertising community and within the Radio industry.

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