Mea Culpacabana

Tractor-Mea CulpacabanaLooks like radio is finally taking, well ... radio, seriously.

Pummeled by losing market share, declining stock values and an eroding position in the media-buying topology of both traditional and new media agencies, the radio industry has decided it's time to start investing in itself.

The industry recently announced a new branding effort dubbed "Radio Heard Here." Created by Richmond, Va.-based Work Labs, the marketing effort is a riff on the classic Goodby, Silverstein & Partners "Got Milk" campaign originally done for the California Milk Processor Board in the early '90s. The new campaign - which radio officials estimate will be a branding investment of tens of millions of dollars - is from a partnership of the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio Advertising Bureau. And there is a significant mixed-media component: print, outdoor, viral, a blog and a Web site,

The industry is also pushing a significant unpaid media effort: CEOs from the major radio station groups have been granting combined sit-down interviews with the media. That group includes Jeffrey H. Smulyan, chairman of the board of Emmis Communications; David Field, president of Intercom; Dan Mason, president of cbs Radio; and Jeff Haley, president of the Radio Advertising Bureau. These big four are not only out flogging radio's traditional virtues of low cost, deep local reach and high ROI, but also owning up to some serious mistakes.

They admit that the radio industry was directly responsible for its own fate by failing to answer the challenges of satellite radio, Web music and the iPod.

"That's our fault," says Smulyan, who describes how the industry was slow to defend its brand turf with consumers and investors. But despite these missteps, he says, traditional, ad-sponsored radio is still a vibrant, profitable way to advertise. "Nobody has ever made a dime in pay radio," Smulyan asserts.
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