Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Spot Training

The BizRadio Network is all about helping you. Either helping you make money, or helping you tell your story, which, in turn, helps you make money. We do this by painting word images on the radio for you. I like to describe this to groups I speak to as “theatre of the mind,” and once graphically illustrated the concept by asking everyone to close their eyes, and proceeded to describe a somewhat disturbing image of myself cavorting in a lime green leotard.

After I got everyone calmed down, I asked them what they saw as I used words to illustrate the point I was trying to illustrate. I’m sure that the shape and hue of my physique defined in lime-green spandex looked different to each individual as they listened to the words, but the point was that everyone had the same basic idea implanted in their mind’s eye.

We can do things on the Radio you cannot do on TV. Sure, on TV you can be shown exactly what something looks like, but on the Radio…you can be told what something looks like, as well as how it tastes, feels, and behaves, and because only spoken words are transmitting the tactile cues, your brain prompts your memories of associated experiences, and what results is your own personal, private one-act play in the theater of your mind.

Radio has always been great at this, using standard bites of half-minute and one-minute chunks of time…here at the BizRadio Network we’ve gone an extra step to create 2-minute vignettes that allow more canvas on which to paint the word images.

Advertising Age this week discusses an idea at the opposite end of the spectum—one-second “Blink” spots for Radio and TV, and one major Radio group is already working out the math with media mavens for one-second spot units.

AdAge accurately notes that the real value of the Blinks may only be in the publicity they can generate. The idea behind the nano-spots is actually a response to the need to find new uses of a medium that is continuously being asked to show how effective it really is…and whether it can successfully touch consumers in new and surprising ways.

Will it work?
Will it offend?
Guess it all depends on your receptiveness to things like this.


What did you just see?
What did you just crave?

I just gave you a “blink”—at no charge to The Coca Cola Company—which planted in your brain a prompt to recall an already familiar icon. That’s going to be the trick—you cannot use a Blink campaign to roll out a new product. The theory will only work with people places and things that are already established.


Fred Flintstone.

Mort Fenortner.

Who? See—only the familiar can sustain a blink campaign. My plumber, alas, is not a household word…yet. But with the right advertising campaign, he could be. Don’t go there, Mort.

The use of Audio Mnemonics is a versatile tactic—in some cases you don’t even need to use words.

Imagine the McDonald's jingle, minus the "I'm lovin' it" language, dropped-in between a couple of songs on any Radio station in America. Intel has been doing this for years, a blink within commercials for high-tech hardware that use Intel chips. AdAge predicts you may someday soon hear a blink for your favorite automobile, featuring the sound of a horn, and simply the name of the car being spoken. Perhaps Pavlov was onto something.

This is nothing new. The National Broadcasting Corporation did this years ago with it’s three-bell chime…which everyone over the age of 50 still associate with N-B-C. You can hear it now, can't you?

Jim Gaither, director-broadcast at Richards Group, says Blinks are not about building brands, but refreshing a brand.


See, I just did it to you again. But do we really want to hear about a soap bar between liks of our favorite tunes? And what is the threshold (Zest) for effectiveness (Dove) vs (Irish Spring) irritant (Dial)?

The AdAge article notes that not everyone is convinced national advertisers would want a sound effect thrown into Radio programming. How would you know it's connected to the brand? Would such a tactic lose value for an advertiser?

Some media buyers are already pushing back on the concept, denying anyone in their right mind would pay for a spot one-second in length. Um, did you see some of the ads in the Superbowl this year?? Please...

Which raises the question of pricing…Blink ads could see a markup of 200% to 300% over what one-thirtieth of a 30-second spot might cost. And then you’ve got to deal with the sticky wicket of verification. If a one-second spot runs and no one hears it, how do you know? Another issue for consideration is tracking broadcast spots that are five-seconds or less in length, which defies most technology in place. Would it work, and is it worth it?

Remember that one-second TV spot for Master Lock in which a padlock wass shot with a bullet in front of a bull's-eye? The image of a high-powered rifle shooting through a Master Lock padlock was a Super Bowl ad staple for years, so the icon had been established before the one-second spot aired. AdAge says the actual media buy was small, because most networks weren't set up to handle a one-second ad, but the PR and publicity were worth millions of dollars…and that just may be the unspoken benefit (no pun intended) for some unique product marketer of the future.

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