Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information." T.S. Eliot

"To look is to learn, if you listen carefully." Per Arnoldi

"Knowledge is little; to know the right context is much, to know the right spot is everything." Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Today's image: Wilderness of Glacier & Snow Lake by Heartkins. Amazing! Thank you.

In recent posts I have asked questions about HD Radio. Specifically, the need for an intellectually honest evaluation of progress made, results produced by the HD Radio Alliance.
Previous posts here and here.

My sense is we need hard data before any such evaluation is possible. Earlier posts were a call for disclosure. We have an urgent need for transparency here.

Here is what we do know.

This month marks the second year anniversary of the Alliance formation.

Member stations have invested something north of $400 million in air time to promote HD Radio. Perhaps, the single most significant consumer marketing investment by and for radio in radio history.

It appears that about 500,000 HD Radio receivers have been sold.

The website seems, according to one measure, to be getting approx 33,000 visitors per month.

Should these receiver sales and site visitor numbers prove to be even close to correct it is fair to suggest we have a serious problem.

Either radio is not an effective media to get the message out, the wrong communications channel to use in selling radios and driving web traffic or the messaging is not right. My conclusion is the messaging is wrong, clearly not effective.

The latest development: the Alliance is changing up the creative strategy. My understanding is Alliance CEO Peter Ferrara ordered and approved new creative.

After hearing the new creative I must respectfully suggest it is best that it never air.

I urge Peter Ferrara to order a delay in the launch of this new creative set to air beginning 12/31. We need to take a time out. We need to begin a candid and serious industry conversation about the consumer marketing needed to produce a meaningful result in the HD Radio roll out.

Listen to the creative yourself here.

Fred Jacobs blogs on this issue here. Bravos to Fred!

We can get this done the right way, we can make this happen, make a genuine difference, however we should give this nothing less than our best shot. This new creative does not represent the best possible use of our audio given the challenges at hand and in this critically important initiative the standard must be, without qualification, unconditionally, only the best that we can do. We can do this. Game on.

LATER: Peter Ferrara responds via Fred's blog...

"Fred (an all) –

We're sorry you didn't enjoy the spots. We are working with an one of the top brand building ad agencies in the country that's done great things for clients like Southwest Airlines, BMW, MasterCard, AT&T and the PGA Tour. We explained our challenge, the current status of HD Radio and asked them for their honest evaluation and recommendation.

It's completely natural for all of us in the radio business to bristle at the thought that not everyone shares our passion and commitment to our medium. The truth is that these spots aren't aimed at you and me - and we need to have the courage to engage the folks we're trying to reach in a way that speaks to the way they see it. And when we connect with them on that, authentic level, we can hope to re-engage them in what's outstanding about radio.

In the meantime, all of us in radio's inner circle have an opportunity to trust in the experience and the track record of an ad agency that's been here before."

My response to Peter via Fred's blog...


You're being intellectually dishonest to wit: SW, BMW, MC and AT&T were established brands long before the engagement of your unnamed agency; the proper qualification needed would seem to be a proven track record of successfully launching new, previously unknown, brands in the marketplace - you have provided no such credential with your comment. I again respectfully request you do the right thing and put this creative on hold, take a time out, open a candid and serious discussion with the industry. Should you be right, should you and your agency have the research to prove this approach to be sound, to be the best possible creative needed to get the job done then share it. We can then all move forward together with the knowledge that we are, indeed, doing the right thing."

Update: The HD Radio Alliance creative is now password protected. What is this, high school with money? Peter, we have an urgent need for transparency here. Why would you or anyone else at the Alliance decide to hide your new creative with a password?

Mr Ferrara, tear down this password wall!

At this point, days away from the debut of the new creative, it is disappointing we have not enjoyed the benefits of a more open, serious and candid discussion on this matter. The promotion of HD Radio deserves to be on the agenda of every radio station in 2008. The attitude that Peter Ferrara seems to suggest in his comment reminds me of the line attributed to Groucho Marks, "...who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes." At a time when radio's digital strategy includes betting its life on HD Radio, the Alliance is telling radio professionals "Who you gonna believe, our agency or your own ears." LATER: Peter permissions the new HD Radio Alliance creative. Updates here and here.


Anonymous said...

There is no way 500,000 HD radios have been sold with almost total consumer apathy - iBiquity has been saying that for two years. Many have been returned for poor reception, bland programming, and serious dropouts. Once radio-geeks are finished buying HD radios ,sales will stall. HD Radio is stillborn:

dave said...

Via email:

David, thank you for bringing attention to this. After listening to the new spots I must say you are 100% correct in your thinking - these spots must never be aired. Not only do they put down radio as lame but they call into question the benefits of HD. It is hard to imagine what Peter was thinking when he approved these spots - they are beyond bad, they are totally embarrassing. We have to stop this insanity before it hits the air.

Anonymous said...

are you sure they spent 400 million? Maybe you should ask the traffic department oh I don't know at ANY STATION airing these dumb commercials and ask them exactly how much per a commerical. If you get a blank look and can hear crickets in the background then you will have your answer.

Anonymous said...

David - excellent posting - thanks for being a champion for station guys. Here is what is wrong imho

1. Why not name the agency? Wheres the press release that talks up the brilliant new campaign?
2. Where is the research to support this brilliant new campaign? Why is it not being shared with the industry?
3. Why is this new campaign being served up when most every station is down to skeleton crews? If I didn't know better it feels like this is a move to get the spots on under the radar without local management knowing about it. Our hard working traffic people consider the Alliance a house account and don't even check the creative except to match it with the Katz order.
4. Why are the spots now password protected? What is the Alliance hiding? These are going to be broadcast coast to coast why now the need for a password? What are they hiding, afraid of what station people might think which is "We gotta stop this crap before it airs"

The Alliance has got some splain to do.

Anonymous said...

The problem with HD radio is much more fundamental than the creative being used to promote it...although that's not particularly strong either. The radio industry and the HD Alliance has completely missed the mark introducing this new technology. The industry is treating HD Radio as a "push". Just put it out there and, of course, people will line up to buy it. HD Radio has to be a "pull". That is...tell me why I NEED this...draw me in! What content is available on HD to make me WANT IT...TO GO OUT AND BUY A RADIO!!??! The short answer is that with a couple of noteable exceptions...NOTHING! If you want people to invest in new technology, you have to offer them something they can't get with the technology they already own. Argue all you like about the money they paid, but satellite radio got at least part of it right. If you want Howard Stern, you have to get a satellite radio. Cant' get enough Oprah? Subscribe to XM. Looking for the NFL? Ya gotta have Sirius. And on and on! NASCAR fan?? Sirius has your stuff! Martha Stewart?? Where's my XM Roady?? Had enough of 18 minutes of commercials? "Less is More"??? Bulls*it!! For all the bloviating the industry does about "content is king", and the "we have to pay more attention to what's in between the records" sessions at the radio conventions, the content offered on HD Radio is nothing more than a bunch of automated jukeboxes. There are people running Internet radio stations out of their basements with more compelling content! Unfortunately, not unlike the rest of terrestrial radio, the industry has been in a race to see who can build the cheapest jukebox. Put some compelling, UNIQUE, otherwise unavailable content on HD (or AM & FM for that matter!) and people will get excited about it. Until then, just keep runnin' that 400 mil in air time and scratch your heads wondering why nobody is interested.

Anonymous said...

David, cheers on another post and thank YOU for speaking truth to power. What you and Fred do not understand is you both obviously don't get it! We are not going to run them at our stations just do what we've always done and say we are. F this. Peter is being the same person we all know him to be - arrogant! He is of the mind that he is above you, above Fred, above the industry, he is the C E O, how dare you - who are you to question HIS genius. What Peter needs is a leash, this guy has gone around the bend, he's delusional and giving him the benefit of the doubt the victim of some snake oil Madison Avenue types. Bet those spots sounded great after a three hour lunch at the Palm.

Anonymous said...

HD radio is idiocy. People who might have bought HD to get more variety have already abandoned radio for satellite or internet. Furthermore, from what I've seen so far, the people being given the reins of HD programming are the either the same people who strangled radio in the first place, or their handpicked puppets. Radio consolidated itself into irrelevance. Putting your ultra-niche format against someone else's similar ultra-niche format isn't going to bring back the audience.