Marketing Radio Post-Consolidation

A reminder…

It’s convenient to recall the “Golden Age” of Radio — any time before the consolidation era began — as one of unlimited budgets.

The reality is, as you you know, more complicated.

Seth Godin talks frequently about vertical and horizontal marketing.

Vertical marketing is about control: it’s your money, and you choose the message (usually hyped) and the medium.

Radio used to do vertical marketing: the birthday cash TV spot, the song-of-the-day direct mail piece, the arist/song box “this is what we play and more of it” generic TV spot. When ratings were about recall, if you spent enough you could manipulate them, or at least it seemed so.

I haven’t seen a true vertical marketing campaign for any radio station in years. At the most, there’s an occasional Christmas music TV :10 or a 2-3 week “Cash & Cars” contest spot.

This reality is not going to change, for a lot of reasons, chiefly because those running radio stations see vertical marketing purely as an expense. If you can’t justify on-site full time employees, it’s hard to justify TV campaigns.

The mystery — and tragedy — of Radio post-consolidation is our abandonment of horizontal marketing. That’s where what listeners hear is so remarkable, so compelling, so imaginative and fun they can’t resist talking about it to their friends and co-workers.

The decline of on-air talent (which stems from the refusal to pay for real on-air talent), the decline of local programming talent (which stems from overly centralized control and overwork), PPM gaming by cynical math-head consultants, and a general lack of insight and leadership have brought us to this state of bland background pablum.

True growth companies use both horizontal and vertical marketing. Think Apple. Google. Samsung. Starbucks. Amazon.

Radio in 2013 uses neither, and that says everything you need to hear about what those who own and run radio companies think about its future, regardless of their public posturing.