Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Infinite Commercial Load

Inside Radio today reports a growing use of :15-second spots and Citadel EVP of sales Mike Pallad claims price may be attracting some advertisers but he believes it’s their placement alongside news, traffic and other programming that’s equally appealing.
“We’ve seen an increase in the demand side from advertisers to :15s,” says Pallad. “The thing that makes them most of interest to agencies is that they’re adjacent to content rather than just a free-floating shorter length commercials.”

Meanwhile, in the last few days I witnessed an ongoing battle between a client PD and GM on commercial loads. A PPM analysis of this station clearly demonstrates that quarter hours with less than 12 or 13 minutes of non-commercial content lose audience to shared-cume competition with lower commercial loads/cleaner quarter hours in the same time periods.

Ironically, the same station just did some research and their listeners didn’t perceive the commercial load to be higher or lower on the two stations. Obviously, the GM felt triumphant at this news, seeming unsympathetic to the equally-obvious usage deficit being caused by minute-by-minute reality.

Earlier, I happened to be in a meeting where a savvy manager was bragging that their company holds the line on commercial unit limits with no exceptions ... until he was informed that his station has been oversold for the last few days and so the morning show had been running 18 commercial units per hour, 30% more than the agreed-upon limit.

Then, there’s a friend and client who gloats about the growth in his internet revenue, so we click to the cluster’s websites only to see more space on the home page for banner ads, flash video of a car dealer walking across the station image info, a dating service click through, help wanteds and half price special coupons to the point that it’s difficult to tell that this is a radio station’s internet presence.

It looks like the inside of a very busy coupon flier.

OK. Times have been pretty tough lately and on one hand we should all be grateful that there’s this kind of demand building right now, perhaps another sign that the recession is officially over and things, hopefully, are getting better.

On the other, as PPM and click-throughs clearly demonstrate which advertising messages engage and which ones enrage, it’s worth counting up our HD side channels, streaming media, mobile, unlimited potential page views, thinking instead of the power of commercial messages embedded in content (charging top dollar) and stop thinking of our inventory as "60 minutes per hour on FM."

New media has taken away all of the limitations so long as we create content which drives eyeballs and ears first.

Yes, nine of ten of your revenue dollars do still come from analog terrestial radio, but tomorrow’s growth is unlimited in its potential IF we focus less on selling spots and more on usage, monetizing, not commercial units. but talent/content which gets the value equation of entertaining and building an audience while driving them to every platform at your disposal.

The potential for places to put commercial messages is unlimited.

Which means that tomorrow’s problem isn’t holding the line on inventory and yield management, but a risk of the infinite commercial load driving average prices down to the point that media can’t afford to create the content users expect.

If we’re moving to more :15’s because it makes our medium more listenable, that’s great.

If it’s because we’re now selling units for 25% of the price we once did, and only staying even by having to sell four times the units we once did, we better recognize that we don’t have a financial plan for a growing business, we have a yard sale.


Facebook Thread said...

Steve Harmon, Bitboard:

interesting.. in realistic terms what can the morning show do after mentioning those facts.. and maybe trying for more content placed ads.

Jaye Albright:

Watch how Comedy Central integrates commercial plugs into the fun, i.e. with Stephen Colbert. I bet they charge a LOT for it. I think that's our future, if we're smart. And, it would be very rewarding for personalities who do it well.

Steve Harmon:

I love this idea more and more!

Leela Vox:
30 Rock is great at this. The first time I heard "Jack" mention a sponsor I did an "OMG... no they didn't!" Now it's just part of the show's landscape.. little, mini, non-commercial commercials. I don't mind because I get the game, even think it's kind of cute in a slutty sort of way. I wonder how the folks at home feel about it.

Jaye Albright:
I'd say that the ratings prove that they don't mind as long as its fully-integrated and very entertaining in ways which support the character and deliver on audience expectations.

Paul said...


We're having fun with this one...
I've started the Q93 Commercial Replacement Program - effectionately known as CRAP.

At :35, when our competition is in spots our station voice, Dave Morris says over an intro, "normal radio stations are stopping for commercials, but thanks to the Q93 Commercial Replacement Program and McDonalds, instead of commericals you're hearing more music now!" More music...I'm Lovin' It on Q93!

The audience tells us they love hearing that commercials have been replaced by music, and they really take notice and appreciate our clients that provide the service.

Mike Mitchell said...

Sorry but I'm hearing a repeat of a lot of old crap! Folks, we sell and run commercials, otherwise we cease to exist as a financially viable operation! Why do you want to INSULT your Listeners by telling them WE DON'T RUN COMMERCIALS? Believe it or not Listeners are not STUPID! Treat them that way and you'll be trying to find them before long.

Creative, informative ads provide the public with information that is welcomed. This is how they find out about STUFF! It has been shown time and time again that Listeners are not turned off by Ads, they are turned off by poorly created and produced Ads!

I know you Young Guns will tell this 'ol timer" to go to the corner and sit down, however, I was Programming GREAT Radio Stations before many of you were born! Programming principles still rule.

Mike Mitchell

John Michaels said...


Paul & Mike Mitchell are my two favorites. Infact I have already "copied & pasted" Paul's idea to our GM. Paul is doing what Mike Mitchell is talking about....Being creative! People want to be with winners!! Be creative & they will come, listeners & advertisers. Bottom line is to get results...We work with so many people that use "That" side of their brain...So use & abuse them...Do what we do best...Be Creative...

John Michaels

Ray Massie said...

Guys I'm sorry, but no one has enough creative ability to get a listener to stay through an 8 minute stop set. Even if the second coming were promoted as coming up, right after this, we got nothing. Talk to Gen X and Gen Y. They don't have time for bullsh*t.

What I have found is they'll stand still for maybe 2 minutes max, if they really believe you'll hold to that.

We have lost our advertisers in a sea of sameness. We bury their messages in 10 unit sets. And we wonder why they pay less for them. Would you put your hard earned money on a station to be 10th in pod?

Its a matter of time before clients wake up and walk away from our media entirely if we don't look for a way to try something new. Product placement is a great way to do it. Problem is, I don't think we have sellers who can sell it, nor advertisers who understand how to buy it. And we certainly don't have agency queens who can figure out how to plug it in their CPP formulas