Dave Richards' Weekly Column in The Woonsocket Call

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬Dave Richards for January 24th…………

--There are many people in this world who want everything to be complicated so they can make up an explanation of it for you and make money doing it. Unfortunately for them, sometimes reality is simple and uncomplicated.

I’ve been doing business on the Internet since 1994, a fairly early adopter. I saw a lot of future in it then and I dove in, since I thought it would make a nice addition to my radio business. At first it was as I expected. Not everyone understood it, but the Internet developed a synergy with the radio. Over the years the Internet has grown and made a life of its own. It is no longer a “nice addition”. It’s now a business all its own. The Internet as a business is now in its adolescence with growth spurts, awkwardness, and confusion all daily distractions from its hopeful and promising future. It is no longer a “cute little baby” to be laughed at and played with. And the ‘pundits’ predict it will destroy radio.

The Internet as a business is now experiencing the inconvenient realities of grown up life. National advertisers, hearing the words of the pundits, have over the last few years directed huge percentages of their advertising dollars to the “shiny new toy” of what they now call “Digital Advertising”. Unfortunately, things have not turned out as they planned.

Looking back, the big difference between advertising on a broadcast medium like radio and in Digital Media like websites was seen by these pundits as measurement. Numbers. The ‘language’ of business.

Radio always had ratings numbers, but people knew that ratings were only valid in big cities and couldn’t always be relied upon because ratings companies could only ever get listenership reports from a small ‘sample’ of the total mass of radio listeners which was then multiplied mathematically to estimate what ‘everyone’ was listening to. In the radio biz we all knew how inaccurate this was, but there was and still is no better way to tell your advertisers who heard their ad.

Digital Advertising, on the other hand, claimed they had a better idea. “Why wonder who heard your ad when we can shower you with so many numbers from our web servers that you can type out reports and pie charts to show your bosses and prove to them you’re smart!”, they claimed. Advertisers loved this idea. One major advertiser, Ford Motor Company, even demanded that a substantial percentage of advertising money each year MUST be used for Digital Media on web pages because “numbers don’t lie”.

Meanwhile, guys like me who toiled in both fields knew the truth was that much of the Internet numbers were misleading, and that more importantly the numbers didn’t add up to sales. We knew advertising on web pages had a value, but that value was not in pushing ads on top of what you were trying to read or tricking you with misleading ads which wasted your time, or allowing you to skip the ad after ten seconds. I ask you, if you were looking something up in a book at your local library and someone came up to you and pushed a flyer between you and what you were reading, wouldn’t you be annoyed and very unlikely to buy whatever was on that flyer? Sure you would!

Simple value and treating people with respect never fails as an advertising strategy. When a good message about a good product or service is delivered with respect and consistency across all platforms, it always works, regardless of how comfortable bean-counters feel with “lots of numbers and pie charts”. It’s the dollars returned from the investment which count in the end.

So now, after a bad year of being called on the carpet by CEOs demanding an explanation of why sales didn’t skyrocket when advertising dollars were shifted to poorly designed Internet advertising in 2016, national ad execs are calling for audits of Face Book advertising claiming FB gave them bad and misleading numbers. Yup. They still don’t get it. Ugh!

Yes, the ad industry, like any industry, has its share of bad practitioners. It’s my industry, and I wish there wasn’t the radio station which puts all their ads each hour into one humongous 12 minute commercial break. I cringe while watching the same awful ‘wonder drug’ ads on TV which list side effects that include “could cause death”. And I clench my teeth and skip through the ad clutter on Google search which tries to steer me to buy whatever their advertisers are selling regardless of what I’m looking for.

It’s not that one medium is better than any other, it’s how you use each medium that drives the effectiveness of advertising. Listen, I own an advertising business, but I still buy advertising on competing media, including right here in The Call. And I have for more than 25 years!

So don’t believe the pundits who claim the Internet and Social Media are the only future for the world. Similar pundits predicted that radio would destroy theater, that television would destroy radio, and that everything would destroy newspapers! Nearly 100 years later, you’re still holding a newspaper in your hand, friend. So much for the pundits.

--That’s what I think. What do you think? Comments to: dave@onworldwide.com or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332.

Thanks for reading!


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