How to tune in to direct response radio

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Buck Robinson
Buck Robinson

"Radio doesn't work... we know, we've tried it." That the reception that I am used to receiving from clients. Based on a single mishandled, poorly targeted, untracked radio test, they come to the determination that the entire medium has no merit for their particular product or service.

That's when we introduce them to the concept of direct response radio (DRR) and, after a good dose of prodding, get them to allow us to prove the difference to them empirically. Poor radio marketing does not work, but you can immediately identify and separate the good from the bad to allow for an optimized, profitable approach to radio.

The best candidates for DRR are products that can be explained easily within a 60-second spot without the need for a demonstration. Products or services that have some degree of consumer familiarity are also good DRR candidates, as long as the campaigns underscore a "new and improved" positioning. Think of it this way: if your prospective buyer can immediately identify what the product is, what it looks like and how it will benefit him — all in his mind, without the need to see something for validation or comprehension — it has a shot of working in DRR. If it is so novel or unique that the listener can't form a frame of reference, or if your pitch includes the phrases "you won't believe your eyes" or "wait till you see this," chances are radio is not right for it.

Traditional radio likes to put all of its emphasis on frequency — running the spot repeatedly over a long period of time to continuously reinforce the message. While direct response radio also benefits from frequency, it certainly is not a panacea. It's important to avoid the "one size fits all" approach and, instead, prepare custom-tailored scripts and/or offers for several specific audiences. Fortunately, the fractional costs of radio production allow for multiple creative approaches. It is important to test radio spots nationally first, trying at least two different scripts. Equally crucial is sending consumers to a call center that has experience in radio. Inbound operators understand that calls need more "massaging" and that callers often are in the car without credit card access.

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