Unlike audio visual content, radio advertising gives the audience an opportunity to let their imagination run wild. The commonly echoed sentiment at the MTN On Air Radio Conference is that radio advertising is akin to "the theatre of the mind" where every sound, each utterance and the tone of voice are aimed at stimulating the mind, which results in the recipient having graphic image-driven on the scenarios that they are able to imagine for themselves. This has made radio one the most effective storytelling platforms, which also forms the foundation for engaging advertising content.
In the past few years, radio has dropped significantly as a communication medium in the minds of marketers and advertisers. Their budgets were largely spent on television and print where they have seen a dramatic drop in viewership over time. The conference speakers and panelists are of the view that radio is a viable option that marketers need to explore more, which boasts large audiences and "people in search of entertainment" as some maintain.
It seems that brands and advertisers are of the notion that one size fits all, where the same message is thought to appeal to different LSMs with insufficient audience research having been conducted, at least that's what radio stations thought at the conference. One of the cases, as later echoed by African station radio legend, Treasure Tshabalala, was that a directly translated advert - from English to an African language - could get a different reaction depending on the audiences it targets.
The parties involved need to ensure that messaging is suitable for their audience, as opposed to what we have witnessed before where a western company simply translated a message and changed the voice-over artist. Radio stations stand to lose out when they play adverts that do not stimulate their listeners' minds because they no longer have to spend time searching for stations as there is a proliferation of them.
Brave and entertaining advertising could be the reason an audience decides to stay tuned to a radio station during an ad break, as opposed to skipping stations. In South Africa, Netflorist has produced adverts that keep listeners yearning for more and a lot of brands can learn from this. This brand's ads were met with cheers and laughter at the conference, as people recalled hearing the advert and others did not receive a similar reaction, where the latter translated into lost advertising revenue in a room filled with radio professionals.
Listeners are no longer brand advocates where they listen to a single radio station religiously, which could be as a result of the proliferation of community radio stations. Listeners now have an opportunity to tune in to different stations whenever something they do not like is being aired.