One of my favorite bloggers and simply an extremely knowledgeable and friendly individual, Mark Ramsey had a great post today. Mark has been on the leading edge of pushing the radio industry into the digital world as they should be.
Below is today’s post and I encourage you all to make reading Hear 2.0 a regular habit.
Last week Inside Radio featured one of the most important items of
the year, and I’m guessing the significance of it evaded many readers:
Auto rebound has Ford reinvesting in media, but it’s
not “buying off the shelf.” The automaker’s seasonally adjusted
year-over-year sales rate is up 17%, according to Ford Motor Media-Team
Detroit senior partner and managing director Kevin Brown. “We’re all
about consumer engagement and brand advocacy,” Brown says. That means
giving consumers first hand experiences with its brands so that
prospects can then “push out to their own personal networks.” The goal
is to build a “culture” around the product, followed by endorsements
and, ultimately, traditional advertising. It’s the opposite of the old
one-to- many paradigm where Ford would start with a big network TV
During his nearly 60-minute chat with 35 Michigan stations, Brown
illustrated the approach with a pair of recent examples. To bring back
the Ford Fiesta, which hasn’t existed in the U.S. for 15 years, it put
100 vehicles into the hands of bloggers and other user-generated content
producers so they could share their experience with their own social
networks. “Those people in turn, pushed it out even further,” Brown
says. Within five months, Ford was able to measure 60% awareness of the
brand — months before commercially re-introducing the vehicle in the
marketplace. “Social media will play a role in how we market going
forward,” Brown says. So will event marketing, such as a recent Drive
One For Your School campaign. Working with high schools, Ford staged 800
test drive events where it donated $20 per test drive to school booster
clubs to help under-funded school activities. The campaign generated
close to 120,000 test drives.
Such events represent a “huge opportunity for local radio and TV
stations getting their on-air personalities involved,” Brown says. He
also suggested that the distinction between traditional and digital
media needs to be “erased — all of this is audience-driven media.”
His advice to sellers: Forget “off the shelf ad packages. If you can
customize a program that meets the strategic needs of the product, your
opportunity to make the sale greatly increases.”
While it’s lovely to suggest that this represents “a huge opportunity
for local radio and TV stations getting their on-air personalities
involved,” one might legitimately ask: “WHAT on-air personalities?”
But that aside, can you read between the lines here? Because
if you can you’ll see that Ford is putting your best personalities on
par with bloggers. Why? Both have audiences – and, if
anything, the audiences of their target bloggers, while smaller, are far
more interested in the subject matter than your audiences.
If there’s anything
we know about “viral” messaging, it’s that it spreads through
communities that are interested in the content, regardless of how big or
small they are. Ford is placing a premium on first-hand
experience and the social networks of influentials.
And what about advertising? Rather than being the first step in the
process it’s the last. And that means it’s automatically less important
than it once was.
So if we “erase the distinction between traditional and digital
media” we have to recognize that, as I have been saying here for some time now (thank
you Tom Asacker),
there is no longer any such thing as radio per se. We – and the
bloggers who compete for our dollars – are all “media.”
What Ford is saying is that the customer – the consumer – the
listener – owns the ability to spread the word about the product. The
customer is driving the messaging bus. Building a “culture” around the
product (and that word really does not require quotation marks) is not
some kind of manipulative pre-fab exercise. Rather, it’s about tapping
into existing threads of interest and sparking them with something
attention-worthy which drives their passion. In other words, it
has everything to do with “marketing” – and nothing to do with
Thus leading to the obvious question: Which business are you
in, Mr. and Ms. Broadcaster?
What Ford is really signaling is an interest to shift ad dollars to
marketing dollars. Now because radio reaches so many people and, in
many cases, has relationships with these people, we have an opportunity
to leverage those relationships in interesting ways for our clients.
But we need to recognize the significance of Kevin Brown’s words: Media
today is audience-driven. Audience-driven. Not radio-driven. And not
As I read headlines from radio conferences where group heads bemoan
“radio’s need to get new customers” or “too much reliance on Detroit” or
other low-hanging nonsense du jour, I feel like there is a high-ranked
tier of this industry which is completely out of touch with audience
trends and completely deaf to the words of one of their largest clients.
Listen to Ford.
They are your client.
They know their audience and yours – perhaps better than we do.
Thank you Mark.