Google, Radio and the Great Convergence

As an old time marketer with a particular affection for the medium of radio, I found myself with a rush of emotions when Google announced last year that they were adding radio advertising into their expanding marketing quiver.

At first blush it appeared that they were simply buying and reselling excess radio ad inventory for pre-negotiated rates in select markets. But a look at the fine print showed a much more ambitious agenda. By licensing certain production sources, Google is seeking control of every aspect of radio advertising except (and this one just kills me) copywriting.

Why would they do this? Same reason your local supermarket is rotating those naked chickens for you to take home for dinner. They’d rather you buy from them than the restaurant down the street. Even if they don’t make a dime on their whirling chickens, they’ll reclaim once eroding market share and position themselves as the universal solution for “hungry” – a position now held by fast food.

But Google and radio? That’s like General Motors and skateboards. Sure, they’re both into personal transportation, but… Until you look at the great media convergence. Online access to local radio now makes many local stations, national stations. Not that Google is that concerned about addressing just this aspect of radio. Apparently, they’re skipping right over it.

The big loser in all this is, as always, the consumer. The quality of what will be interrupting your listening day always suffers when creative becomes a low bidder commodity. Google has established a production budget of $100 – $1,000 per radio spot and is seeking to license approved producers. Clients are told to write themselves a nice little 30-second radio spot (Google has apparently decided to single-handedly kill the 60-second variety). Boil your entire message into a compelling 75 words – that can’t be hard, can it – and then send it to Acme Productions where undoubtedly Ed and Shirley Acme and their magic accordion will be providing all the “talent” and homemade sound effects from their occasionally leaking basement studio.

Needless to say, Google has a lot to learn about radio and what it takes to make it effective.

If you want to see a more immediate and interesting trend in media convergence and radio, look into online radio stations and some of the new reverse auction ideas out there to sell online radio station advertising. Check out sites such as Bid4spots, where advertisers can pick up unused local online station inventory for a predetermined price and demographic. Advertisers provide their own creative while getting deep discounts on a well-targeted national media buy. Stations participate in the auction and low bidders who deliver the most for the least get the business. Creative doesn’t suffer and media budgets deliver more bang for the buck.

What do you say, let’s not mention this to Google.