Trust The Voices…

Radio truly is the opiate of the masses. Where else can you find a whole lot of folks accepting and agreeing to ideas and opinions from people whom they’ve never met?

So what happens when the voice you trust suddenly starts sounding like a commercial? That’s what’s happening here in local South African radio. A number of stations have taken to inserting paid-for commercials in the “content” sections of their broadcast. You may not notice it at first, but soon you’re going to pick up on your favourite DJ acting as a pitchman for all kinds of things, from airline tickets to fuel brands – outside of the regular commercial breaks.

Here’s the kicker: radio stations are selling this “advertising space” to their clients as the ultimate breakthrough form of advertising. “Our [x] million listeners won’t be able to tell the difference because our DJs are so great they can sell anything.”


This “endorsement” isn’t as powerful as you think. People listen to radio to be entertained – by the music,  engaging personalities and  competitions. They’re not there to buy anything. They’re not shopping. And a large number of people will even turn down the sound or switch to another channel when there’s an ad-break. Admit it: you’ve done the same.

And even though the trust in the DJ is eroded ever so slightly by this cack-handed approach to dressing advertising as cotent, listeners will forgive it because they like their DJs – and mentally tune-out the advertising message. So we’re back where we started…

Bottom line: radio advertising needs to rethink its model. Maybe less breaks, relevant marketing messages that tie back to content, more sponsored segments, maybe even capturing a little of the television programming model…

A little something extra: here’s a quick lesson from an Australian radio station, 2DayFm in how to break trust in one fell swoop. This audio is from the “Kyle and Jackie O” show, the station’s flagship breakfast show, where  a 14-year-old girl was strapped to a lie-detector and questioned about her sexual history. The male voice is Kyle Sandilands –  the host.

The show was suspended indefinitely following this incident.


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