The National Association of Broadcasters rolled out Radio 2020 at the Las Vegas NAB Convention. While the first reaction might be to rally around any effort to reignite radio, this campaign is so misguided and ill-conceived that it might actually do more harm than good. What radio does not need during these tough times is a national effort to reinforce the negative stereotypes of radio that put us in this hole in the first place. So it is in radio’s best interest to fully vet the campaign to make sure it puts radio in the most positive light possible while not creating any unintended negative messages.
In the following paragraphs we will quote from the NAB website where it explains the campaign (shown in bold) and explain the potential problems.
Radio 2020: Reinvigorating the Great Medium of Radio
In the fall of 2007, the National Association of Broadcasters, Radio Advertising Bureau and HD Digital Radio Alliance embarked on an unprecedented initiative that we call Radio 2020 – a nod to radio's centennial year and our clear vision for the future. This set the wheels in motion to remind radio insiders, the media industry and consumers of radio's value.
So the name is “a nod” to 1920. Radio will be 100 years old in 2020. It is hard to imagine that many people see its 100 year history as a positive attribute. Does longevity breed loyalty? Walkman versus iPod, VHS versus DVD, incandescent versus compact fluorescent, broadband versus dial-up. Would you rather be the old or new product? Do we really want to point out that radio is 100 years old? And if the 1920 connection is lost, what is so significant about 2020? Do listeners need to wait until then before we get our act together? We’re not off to a strong start when the name of the campaign is so obtuse.
Based on extensive consumer research conducted last year, we know that radio has a great story to tell. It connects, informs and inspires an estimated 235 million listeners each week.
Our research shows that 92 percent of Americans believe radio is important in their daily lives. But while it is valued, radio is also taken for granted. Because it is so pervasive, radio is sometimes overlooked, just like water or electricity.
Yes, we may inform and inspire 235 million people each week, and yes 92% of Americans may believe that radio is important in their daily lives, but listeners are very selfish. As far as they are concerned, we succeed if we inform and inspire a single listener–them. The pervasiveness of radio is totally irrelevant to a listener.
Over the past three decades, Harker Research has talked with tens of thousands of listeners, and we’ve never heard listeners liken radio to water or electricity. The pervasiveness and availability of radio creates the real positive attribute of radio-choice. They can listen to station A or B or C. The attempt to compare radio to water or electricity reveals more about the creators of the campaign than listeners. The research behind the campaign was poorly designed, focusing on radio’s breadth and reach when it should have focused on radio’s intimacy and connectedness. To compund the problem, the research results were then misread and misinterpreted.
This is a fatal problem for the campaign. “Radio” is not some monolithic product that people love. That passion is spread across over 13,000 diverse products. That’s why people say, “my radio station.”
Based on what we heard from our consumers, radio's intrinsic value lies in the fact that it's accessible. It's a medium where everyone can freely and easily connect to a diverse world of entertainment and information, anywhere, anytime and everywhere.
Again, this is a misreading of the strength of radio. There might be a few people who fell in love with radio, but the majority do not love radio in a generic sort of way. People value what their radio stations’ offer, in some cases passionately, but people don’t value radio outside their chosen few stations.
To provide "one voice for radio" we launched a comprehensive, multiplatform campaign with a wide spectrum of promotional and educational initiatives designed to engage virtually the entire ecosystem that radio touches.
This campaign, called Radio Heard Here, will include everything from radio spots to Web banners to outdoor advertising and promotional merchandise to reach every single person in America with the message that radio is heard everywhere.
We've unveiled a new Web site – www.radioheardhere.com – that we will populate with resources for you. It has an online newsroom, radio facts and viral videos that provide a "behind the scenes look" at the work going on at your stations daily.
We're going to repeat these messages over and over again - until we're sure every man, woman and child in this great country knows the value of radio.
If there is any doubt that the campaign is misguided, a look at the web site will erase it. The Radio Heard Here logo has a dated “retro” look. Retro can communicate something is cool and contemporary if the look invokes the past without looking like it came from the past. The logo fails on this measure. It just looks old. And the accompanying pictures just reinforce the dated feeling of the campaign. A boom box with dual cassette players is not retro–its old.
There is a strong self-consciousness to the campaign. It is reminiscent of the uncool kid in school that worked so hard to look cool that he looked even more uncool. To be honest, this is exactly where radio is today. We so desperately want to be cool that our self-conscious efforts to look cool just come off as trying to be something we are not.
Kelly O’Keefe, the creator of the campaign has been quoted saying that the retro look tested well in the research. This should be a major alarm bell for the campaign. We know we have an image problem among young demos (the future of radio according to O’Keefe), but we let them pick the imagery that invokes radio to them. Of course they pick imagery from the 1980s and before because they think we are from the 1980s.
A successful repositioning campaign takes a perceived positive attribute and builds on it. A repositioning campaign that takes a negative attribute and tries to turn it into a positive is misguided and doomed to fail. The whole campaign should be scrapped. It will do more harm than good.