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Desperation, in a Desperate Message

Author's Note: Please Read This Article's Preface

There's one thing a seasoned sales person wouldn't do, concentrate on bashing the competition. Inflating onerous reasons for NOT using a competitor's product or service goes beyond insecurity. It borders on demonstrating there's nothing about your own product or service worth emphasizing.

Today I read a good example of the paranoia in radio, published by Thom Callahan, Southern California Broadcasters Association President. Titled "A Responsibility to Tell the Truth," this is presented as the definitive weapon for radio sales people to use as revenues slide. Let's look at what is said.
"Desperation takes form when dissuading a person from their goal, instead of convincing them you have a solution. Dissing competition is the weakest form of desperation. Mr. Callahan's words show a good picture of both."

I'll only take three points of Mr. Callahan's commentary because that's all you need to see this is an exercise in propaganda.

1) Take these words from Thom Callahan, which are true: "61.5% of all web traffic is NON-HUMAN or Bot traffic as itís called." For someone with an "about" page stating he has "over 30 years of broadcast and digital platform experience in sales," this certainly can't be news to him. "There are legitimate and official bots and bad bots."

We know there is a level of fraud in digital ad serving, about as much as you'd expect in radio scheduling if we take the world's radio stations as a measurement base. The internet is global, and much of the statistics used by Thom Callahan are inclusive of traffic not appearing in the U.S.

Anytime you place humans in a revenue chain there will be someone figuring out how to game the system. Relative to "bot traffic," though, any ad serving company with integrity will filter this traffic in its analysis; the only concern it brings is that the Net's infrastructure needs updating to accommodate the unanticipated non-human traffic.

2) "38.5% of all web traffic is Human." Here's where a broadcast sales mindset interferes with what digital brings, and why advertising money is moving online at lightning speed. His quote is a percentage. It represent hundreds of millions - if not billions - of eyeballs daily. And they are reached by accurately targeting content through behavioral data analysis, in ways the radio industry only dreams of.

3) "48.1% of all video ads are not heard or seen by humans." I'm interested in hearing Mr. Callahan place this against the percentage of radio ads not heard due to tune-out in 12-spot cluster breaks.

When done well it's not the numbers reached that matter in an online campaign, but the number of responses generated. In many cases, those can be calculated. For radio? Not.

There are too many twists to truth in his message to go over here, so please read it. But let's take a few quotes that to me seem disingenuous and false:
"Our listeners can be measured and proven." No. They can't. The radio audience can be extrapolated with statistics, generated through a system that even those within the radio industry argue is flawed. In Mr. Callahan's own town of Los Angeles, we've just gone through a Book recall. Experts agree there are other similar cases not captured or discussed. So this measurement of a radio station's audience is still a guessing game.

"Radio is fully accountable." This is so far removed from the digital reference of accountability as to be humorous, as was pointed to when the radio industry introduced its "Accountability Initiative" in 2009. To quote an AdWeek article: "The 'Radio Accountability Initiative' introduced Wednesday (March 18) in Orlando at the RAB's annual conference, will help ensure that an advertiser's commercials get on the right radio outlets at the right time." Only, this is NOT what any analytics person refers to when asking, "Is your media accountable?" Nor is it close to what a client expects when asking if their advertising media offers accountable ROI.

"Radio has honest, defined, digital platforms." Broadcast radio stations are online, but the digital platforms are few. (iHeartRadio, Rdio, Last.FM) To the eyeballs looking at radio's digital eforts from within the industry, it may appear to have digital platforms. But, to a code writer looking at the software used to create a radio web site - or the analytics used to assess performance - the interactive elements are basic, and accountability components practically non-existent.

Accountability in a digital environment is an awesome power; it's the reason so many online campaigns are based on a pay-per-action revenue model. In many cases, when a vendor sells a product or service online, you can trace the consumer's action from ad served to the checkout. (It's a form of accountability that radio isn't interested in pursuing, though it's capable of implementing in over-the-air campaigns.)

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You want to bash the competition that's your business, but it lowers respect for you, your company, and the industry. Look at the image of politicians who, almost exclusively, use this form of persuasion.

Regardless of how radio executives wish modern-day advertising buys would be, filling a client's ears with tilted truths, misnomers and twisted reality only buys you so much time before the real truth comes out.

From Mr. Callahan's view, this whole discussion centers around the delivery of impressions. Meanwhile, true digital companies are moving further into post-campaign analysis each year - as radio serves the same type of advertising created in the 1960s. Why does no one at SCBA see this as a problem?

Desperation takes form when dissuading a person from their goal, instead of convincing them you have a solution. Dissing competition is the weakest form of desperation. Mr. Callahan's words show a good picture of both.

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