Radio Heard Fear


By John Gorman

I’m a little late weighing in on the ludicrous Radio Heard Here campaign.

Please answer this question. Does NAB ringmaster David “Fumbles” Rehr have ears or is his ego really that large?

Did you read the press release? How full of it can one organization be?

Did you read the fact sheet? Find any facts in it?

Fumbles took a tumble with this one.

Here’s its problem. If it takes more than a minute to explain what Radio Heard Here means – the spot’s not going to work in sixty seconds.

The NAB calls Radio Heard Here “a comprehensive, multidimensional, multiyear initiative made possible by a partnership among the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) and HD Digital Radio Alliance.”


There is no softer job in this industry than the one Fumbles has running the NAB.

Running it where? That’s another story for another time.

I like Jeff Haley, the CEO of the RAB but I wonder about his judgment when he’s quoted as saying, “We are seeing a renaissance in radio with respect to programming – programming that has become more versatile, more experimental and of a higher quality than ever before. This is an industry that is being bold, taking risks and engaging audiences in a variety of creative ways. And listeners are taking note. More than 90 percent of Americans say that radio continues to play an important role in their lives. Radio is not standing still, nor resting on our laurels. "

How’s Jeff going to reply when someone says to him,"prove it?”

Since Radio Heard Here was announced amid chuckles and groans at the NAB convention, it’s been critiqued as one of the worst marketing slogans since, well, the HD Radio Alliance’s “it’s time to upgrade” un-catchphrase a couple of weeks earlier.

That’s the deregulatory radio way of thinking. There’s nothing wrong with radio that a slogan’s run can’t solve. Riiight!

And this is no ordinary slogan. It has to be the lamest slogan the radio industry’s ever come up with.
To think that the RAB, which is partially responsible for this lame Radio Heard Here shibboleth once made creative content like this one from the fifties with Sarah Vaughn singing “Who Listens to Radio.” But I digress. Creativity meant something back then.

In fact, I think the only great campaign ever created for radio was Stan Freberg’s – but, alas, we can’t use that one anymore since it was selling creative production techniques to play upon one’s imagination.

Radio doesn’t hire creative production directors anymore. They’ve been replaced by output specialists. How fast can you cut how many spots?

I pretty much agree with others who expressed concern and disgust over the Radio Heard Here campaign.
One item I will add is the slogan’s use of the word radio.

Before the NAB chose this slogan did they research anyone under forty?

I doubt it.

Had they, it would’ve been obvious that radio has become a negative word that grows more negative as the demographics get younger.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask your kids.

Go into any store that sells radios – Best Buy, for example, and ask the clerk what stations he or she listens to.
Go to a beach or a park or any other place you find young people gathered in groups. Where’s the radio?
The perception of radio is bad. That’s what has to be turned around first – and you do that by improving the product. Repackaged you-know-what is still you-know-what.

This is the end result of delivering poor product to young people for over a decade.

Radio used to be a soundtrack to popular culture. Today, radio, especially formats appealing to the young, aren’t even close.

There are those researchers and consultants that claim radio’s problems stem from formats not being niche enough. Yet, look at any young person’s iPod playlist. See any niche?

True, there’s the occasional Goth that’ll only listen to a specific genre of music. Is that an exception – or the rule?

Research can be manipulated to say anything you want it to.

I got a chuckle out of brand strategist Kelly O’Keefe telling the Clear Channel-owned Inside Radio that his group “…tested more than 30 logos and had a very strong positive response to (the one they are using).” He claimed that 74 percent of respondents in his focus group found the logo “energetic.”


When was the last time you hear someone under fifty use that word?

O’Keefe continues, “The next highest reaction words were “alive,” “bold” and “fresh.”

Who was he interviewing? Music of Your Life listeners?

I’m over fifty. Well over fifty – and those words don’t speak to me.

You got some 17 year old to say radio is “bold?”

I’m supposed believe you, right?

It wasn’t a total loss. O’Keefe did have one direct hit in his research.

“When we pushed it too edgy, we lost the young audiences. They said that’s not what radio is.”
But before you think he was starting to get it, he added, “We need to take it one rung of the ladder at a time. You can’t just jump to the top or you lose consumers.”

Lose consumers? Kelly, my boy, you’re supposed to be trying to find them.

Think about it. If you’ve been in this business long enough, you’ve probably worked with a research company that asked you, “What are you hoping the research will tell you?”

And wouldn’t you know it? That company’s told you exactly what you wanted to hear.

I’ve dealt with the best and worst in research companies. There are those that tell you what you want to hear and those that tell you what you really need to know. I respect the latter, I abhor the former.

You should, too.

One of my favorites was “Detroit-Philadelphia? Same lunch-bucket market.” That’s to say that the music and lifestyle influences in Detroit were identical to Philadelphia’s. An over-his-head manager hoping to earn brownie points with his new superior by claiming he could save research costs by pilfering information from another market was the reasoning behind that statement.

Since then that station has gone through four format changes.

Keep in mind that research and its mathematical formulae determine results by looking backward while life is lived forward. You’d better know where you want to go, have the right people in place to take you there, and use research as a map to guide you in the right direction. 100 percent ground zero research rarely achieves results.
I’ve suggested to Internet stations I’ve worked with to drop the word radio, if possible, and increase the use of the word streaming, especially when programming content appeals to young demos.

If radio wants to sell itself – and it should since you can’t prove you can sell anything unless you can sell yourself – yank those hideous HD Radio promos off the air right this minute.

If I sold against radio, I’d show that the HD Radio Alliance was radio’s heaviest advertiser – and in spite of its tonnage – couldn’t sell HD radios. That’s according to real research, as opposed to Critical Mess, er Mass. Only 24 percent know about HD Radio – and that’s down two percentage points from last year.

I was reading the Boston Herald this morning and came upon this quote from actor Ricky Gervais. He’s shooting a movie, This Side of the Truth, in Lowell, and was joking about his acting. The Herald quoted from his blog, “I am turning in some very shoddy work. This won’t even go straight to DVD. This is going straight to radio.”

That’s a joke, son.
John Gorman

Gorman Media Blog

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