Radio Blog

This page contains blog articles on a range of topics of interest to professionals in radio sales, including everything from selling technique to the state of the industry. If you have an opinion on any issue regarding radio or would like to share some of your sales techniques with others, you can submit an article for the blog here (max 400 words, please).

It's All About The Money

I have been going through my files this week and found an article I wrote last year. The idea that radio is a second-rate medium still gets me fired-up.

I have similar laments about radio from salespeople, owners of stations, and even RAB executives.

Last year’s article was written after I read the remarks of an advertising agency rep., the so-called Director of Radio at Mediaedge:cia.

I was angered and disappointed by the comments by Kim Vasey a senior partner and Director of Radio for the advertising agency Mediaedge:cia at the Interep Radio Symposium.

"Radio is alive and well, but it's still a secondary or tertiary medium for advertisers. I don't see that changing, because many clients still want that visible element." She added “Radio should wait for new initiatives such as the Radio Advertising Effectiveness Lab”. "The pressure on radio sales people is tremendous; we've had sellers in our office literally crying for business. This is bad long term for our industry. Broadcasters have to stand the test of change the way clients think."

How can we change what clients think about radio when leaders in our industry think, say, and promote the idea we’re second-rate?

Will we continually keep sticking our collective feet into our mouths? Vasey is the Director of Radio at an ad agency! If she feels this way about radio there must be crickets chirping in her office with the amount of work that is being done. Seriously!

I found this article entirely offensive and reeking of justification for agency-land’s pitiful efforts at promoting radio as a valid media.

Advertisers don't want "that visible element"; they want results - period. If "that visible element" is a part of bringing them results fine, but this isn't the prime reason national advertisers use television, press, or print. It's simply not true. It’s all about money. We all know it but nobody screams it out publicly.


Advertising agencies can’t build glass towers with marble foyers with the commission they make from radio it’s just not possible. In fact I don’t even understand why we continue to try and prove to agencies radio works. They know it works and we know it works. Agency money (for radio) isn’t worth the time, the hassle, or the degradation. Work your market, your direct market, and work it properly.

During my career I had the great privilege of working 'client-side', and as the National Media Manager for Toyota. I can emphatically state, it is results and bigger ROI's advertisers want, not "that visible element". My role with Toyota was to do just that; to make sure my agencies were doing the right thing with Toyota's money when it came to ad placement - getting bigger and better results for less money. The truth is I was never voluntarily presented a radio schedule by my agency, ever.

The problem is and always has been that agencies are in the business business - they are not in the business of helping television stations, radio broadcasters, newspapers, or magazines. Quite a few aren't even in the business of making sure their clients achieve absolute best effect. Even the famed David Ogilvy wrote in his book (Confessions of an Advertising Man), "Experience has taught me that advertisers get the best results when they pay their agency a flat fee. It is unrealistic to expect your agency to be impartial when its vested interest lies wholly in the direction of increasing your commissionable advertising."

For years we have all angrily whispered that advertising agencies buy television space and make television commercials because they make more money for the agencies. This is no great secret yet isn't it time to put this issue plainly on the table? Isn't it time to face the facts?


I don't particularly care that buying more expensive media generates more profits for agencies, or whether or not it is the right thing or the wrong thing to do. In fact it makes good business sense for agencies to do just that. My anguish is simply over why we bother with this justification at all? Why do we bother pretending that this 'spend inequity' doesn't exist; can be scientifically justified; or can even be (or should be) corrected?

Radio isn't a second-rate medium, it has stood the test of time, and it does deliver results - big results. To say we have to wait, that we have to justify advertising results (when the evidence already exists) and that we need to change the way advertisers think is just ludicrous. We need to change the way we think about ourselves.

National advertisers will think what they want and what they are told, because they put their budgets into the hands of their advertising agencies. Most will think radio is a secondary medium because they are told it is. How many times have I been to an RAB Conference and listened to radio industry leaders and advocates pointing out we are a secondary medium and we can never really expect to grow beyond 7% to 8% of the available advertising revenue?

I have never ever witnessed another industry apologize for itself, justify its non-performance, and at the same time beg 'buy me' as radio does. Even our industry marketing documents include a 'poor cousin' ideology.

Can you imagine our smirks if AOL ran commercials that said they weren't the best Internet service in the world and then pleaded with us to buy them anyway? What if Johnson & Johnson began to proclaim their products didn't really work "but they do smell good", in their TVC's? Would we be filled with purchasing confidence? And if United Airlines cried in the press that they weren't attracting any corporate money, would they deem it unfair? And would we agree?

We don't have to change the way advertisers think, we need to change the way we think.

What are we going to do once we've built the Radio Advertising Effectiveness Lab; once we've integrated all of radio's reporting, billing, and measurement systems? What are we going to do once we've complied with all of the so-called media buyer's suggestions as to how to make radio much more appealing to agencies and their advertisers, and they still don't buy us? What are we going to do then?

Radio doesn't deserve national ad revenue - nobody deserves anything. To expect that anyone is simply going to knock on your door and give you money because Arbitron says you have a certain level of audience share is a business model that is doomed for pain and stress. If you place the control of your life (business or otherwise) in the hands of someone who doesn't have your best interests at heart, why should you expect anything less than disappointment and anguish?

A company called USA Data tells me that there are 11,684,671 businesses in the USA of which only 422,018 have fifty or more employees. That means over 11,200,000 businesses in the US basically operate on a local level. Work your market, your direct market, and work it properly.

Small business is the backbone of this country, perhaps it should be yours.

Sell without regret.

Michael Tate

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