I’ve been a news and talk radio junkie since about 1999. I’ve enjoyed listening to many shows, going all the way back to TalkNet days. Today, I alternate between two stations in Texas, one of which has been my favorite since I moved to Dallas in 2004: WBAP, along with a few stations I stream from elsewhere across the fruited plain. Unfortunately, my favorite station WBAP is losing me as a listener and they can blame their own short-sighted advertising staff.
Perhaps I’m a little more sensitive to this than other talk radio listeners because I listen almost all day, from about 9:30 am until 6:30 pm, Monday through Friday. I catch some shows on live radio and others via internet audio streams. You are wise to note that whatever broadcast to which I am listening occurs in the background of my workday. Therefore, I catch only bits and pieces here and there as most of my attention is focused on my work. Nevertheless, I do hear the most important bits.
The problem? Certain commercial formats drive me up the wall and in most cases, make me tune you out not just for that 30-second spot, but for the next 2-10 minutes.
Yes, commercials always suck but most people recognize that they pay the bills for the broadcasters. However, some commercials suck way more than others and that’s when I tune out. I have a little speaker mute button on my keyboard that gets used a LOT.
Overplay: For as long as I can remember, one of WBAP’s biggest advertisers is a car dealership called Classic Chevrolet. These guys are an advertising salesman’s dream (I should know, I used to sell newspaper ads). They’ve been using the same voice talent for years, some monotone guy who never takes a breath. About once a month, he records one or two spots that WBAP dutifully plays over and over and over and over again throughout the day. Almost every commercial break – there’s Mr. Annoying. Yes, I know you’re the biggest Chevy dealer in America, you’ve told me 10,000+ times. Yes, I know it’s TRUCK MONTH! It’s always TRUCK MONTH! Nowadays, I just mute the radio every time they start talking about traffic conditions because I know what’s coming next. I haven’t listened beyond his first two words in years.
“But look!” Their ad reps will say, “We reached you!” Yes, you did, and I promise you this: if I were ever inclined to buy a Chevy, I wouldn’t buy it from Classic if it were the last Chevy store on Earth. [ Truth be told, I swore off Government Motors forever when they took a taxpayer-funded bailout but that’s beside the point. ]
Fast Fine Print: Here’s another type of ad that I can’t silence fast enough. You’ve heard them. For some reason, certain companies think they need to have someone read a paragraph of fine print as fast as possible. Audio compression techniques make these ads REALLY annoying. It seems to be mostly sweepstakes and home mortgage commercials. I really don’t care what your address is and no one is even trying to understand what you’re saying but you ARE irritating listeners. Some commercials are fine with saying “terms and conditions apply” or “see blah-blah.com for official rules”. I’m cool with that. But the minute you get annoying, I’m tuning out.
Crank It UP! Nothing says you love your audience like cranking up the volume when they don’t expect it. Years ago when televisions were more primitive, people bought devices that plugged into the TV to stop this nonsense. Thirty years later and believe it or not, advertisers still do this shit. Maybe it helps them get the attention of drunk people at 3 am. I can see no other practical rationale.
Are there any radio commercials I DO like? Not really, but I don’t turn off the radio or mute the stream when they come on. The golden rule that’s lost on advertising MBAs with no experience in the real world is this: Respect me as a listener and I’ll respect you enough to at least not completely tune out your ad. But the minute you get on my nerves by trying to get my attention, I’ll blacklist your ads like I blacklist certain other businesses who treat their customers badly (Target, Walgreens, CVS).
At its root, this is a lesson in psychology. Think about it this way. A pretty lady is sitting alone in a bar. Two guys try to strike up a conversation with her. One is kind, respectful, and takes a real interest in her. The other is more aggressive and dying for her attention. He seems mostly interested in a purely physical encounter. Which guy do you think has a better chance at getting her phone number? The only difference in advertising is the size of the audience.