How Bad Creative Can Kill a Whole Medium

by Dorn Martell

I tried to listen to commercial radio this weekend, I really did. My wife and I were working in the garden and plugged in a boom box with no iPod dock and turned on the radio. I know, I know – no one does that any more. But we just thought that we could listen to some light holiday music to get us in the gardening mood. But after a couple of songs it started. An incessant barrage of horrific retail spots with “chain saw” voice announcers and horrible, aggressive sound effects and “music.” There were endless blocks dedicated to a new electronics retailer and a car dealer who is still ripping off the Ghost Busters theme song. Every single spot started on “11” and went up from there. We tried to tough it out, just to get through to something listenable, but the endless stream of mindless scripts read at a scream level got the best of us. ” The radio is all crap, Baby”, said my wife Adriana. “Yes it is, Honey, they must think we are all morons”, said I as I yanked the plug out of the wall. But, I couldn’t help but feel sad. Radio was such an important part of my childhood and it can still be an amazing medium. Some of our classic radio spots like “Michele” and “I love food” prove you can make a radio spot that people actually like and our retail advertising for the Huizenga School of Business got great numbers while refusing to wallow in the ditch of cliche retail radio tactics.

If commercial radio wants to stand a chance against iTunes, Pandora, Spotify and XM it will have to come to terms with the fact that some of the advertising they air is so abrasive and condescending that listeners will simply opt-out and choose to listen to the neighbors’ weed wacker instead.

1 Comment
  • Joshua

    December 19, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Hear hear! I work in public radio and completely agree with your assessment. Not out of some animus against commercial broadcasters, but because you’re right: these awful tropes of radio ads are such a turnoff, they’d be almost funny if they weren’t so unavoidable. Unfortunately, Pandora doesn’t always do much better, but it seems to be more adept at matching the tone of ads to the channel they’re on.