TV could learn a lot from radioFor a brief period before the turn of the millennium, I was an advertising sales rep. I worked for a small newspaper and being a rep meant you were also the agency; the budget, the campaign, the copy and everything in between came from the me, the client and the graphic designers (who cranked out dozens of "original" ads a day).
I learned a lot. The learning curve is still a steep incline disappearing into the clouds, but this I know for sure: If you want to understand advertising better than anyone, try selling it. I don't mean this (intentionally) as a slight to my friends with their cushy agency jobs that make obscene amounts of money to write lame ads (It's not always their fault... is it, copyranter?) with their fancy ivy-league degrees and their Madison avenue addresses on their business cards. And I don't mean to brag either. Humbly, I admit I still have plenty to learn.
But when your livelyhood depends on keeping all of your clients happy (read: RICH) then you quickly learn what works and what doesn't. Not what wins awards and accolades, but what drives SALES.
One of my friends, who in his blog calls himself "Radioboy," knows the business of radio advertising (one area where I have NO experience at all) , because he lives it. In this post, he defends "terrestrial" radio against the inevitable growth of sattelite radio. He invites your feedback too, so check him out and feel free to comment.
Radio, be it free on the airwaves or by subscription, is a medium that won't die. In the past I've said that TV is dying, and that's not entirely accurate. My apologies. I used to produce TV commercials, so I should be more understanding, I suppose. Rather than dying, TV is slowly evolving into a situation not unlike the one radio has enjoyed for ages. People who listen to radio stations have brand loyalty toward their favorite station. The demographics for radio stations are clearly defined, a fact that makes an advertiser's buying decision much easier.
In the past, (and for at least a while longer) TV stations have been able to get away with charging BIG MONEY for spots that are geared at a very broad audience. This system can't last forever, no matter how badly the big agencies want it to. Smart money is investing in niche-specific markets; sell to guys on ESPN (or better yet, even more specific stations, like the Golf Channel or Outdoor Life Network) and sell to women on Oxygen or Home and Garden. The 500 channel universe is forcing (helping?) marketers to get directly in front of their desired audience, a feat that radio has boasted as long as I've been alive.
So, expensive though it may be, there is a way to make a TV ad budget work for you, if you approach it right. I was going to wait to admit all of this until after I had a client that wanted to invest in TV, but alas, now will have to do.
Want to know the real way of the future though, at least as I see it? Viral marketing. Word-of-mouth may sound like a strategy based on waiting for someone to say something nice about you, but it doesn't have to be. Start telling your "story" the way you want it told, and give (the right) people every reason in the world to help you tell it. Then, use your ad budgets (gleaned from your ballooning profits, of course) to support the story that started right where the message should start: with your happy customers.