It's wonderful to see radio getting recognition, but it's always been like this.

I love radio. I’m rather enthusiastic about radio advertising too – after all it’s fed and clothed me for the last (coughs) years.

It’s therefore very gratifying to see the recent torrent of reports and articles saying how great and effective it is. Industry bodies talk about how audiences trust radio ads, agencies wax lyrical about the ROI, brands eulogise about recall, and even media buyers can see the power of targeting and tailored audio with the increased number of stations and delivery methods now available.

Yep, radio is back in fashion – it’s been rediscovered as the new Wunderkind, and after 30 years, it’s about bloody time.

So, why do I get a niggly feeling about all this new-found enthusiasm for the baby I love?  

For me Radio Advertising has always been everything it’s now being recognised for. Or at the very least, it’s always had the potential to be.

I know how powerful, effective, engaging and successful it can be – and also how weak, wasteful, boring and expensive it can be too. I’ve made a living by trying to give my clients the benefit of the former, in a marketplace where the latter has influenced the historic perception of most of the advertising industry.

So why the shift in perception now? Radio is cheap and fast to produce – standing out on TV is becoming more and more of a challenge. There’s a new and more professional approach to regulation (just compare the number of ASA complaints about radio commercials with TV and the web – they’re virtually non-existent), and there’s a LOT more research to back up everything I’ve always presented as fact!

But here’s my worry. Radio is great, but it’s not a magic Silver Bullet guaranteed to cure all ills of a badly conceived campaign. It’s not always easy either. When I hear some of the ads produced by Agency Creative Teams, it’s clear that they’re not exactly masters of the craft. And why should they be? A novelist doesn’t automatically make a great screenplay writer – and a copywriter can’t always write wonderful dialogue. Only the best shops have ever employed radio specialists – for the rest it just wasn’t a priority.

If you’re about to divert a chunk of your marketing budget into Radio, here’s my advice. Don’t just be blinded by the hype – find a team of creatives and media buyers who KNOW their craft and have a track record of delivering quantifiable results. Respect their advice, give them the freedom to come up with the best ideas, and agree on what outcomes you can reasonably expect from your investment. That way you’ll be qualified to talk about how successful Radio Advertising is too.

Paul Carter