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Defending Radio Advertising

For some time Radio has been seen as a dwindling artform and a decidedly ‘uncool option’. Here Radio Advertising Jury President Jenny Glover aims to turn this around in a humble, heartfelt and honest call for entries. Using Golden Girls’ Bea Arthur as her conceit, she explains why it’s the perfect exercise for 'out-of-shape' writers and why the medium is here to stay.

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It’s hard work loving radio. Many in the industry view her as the big-boned, frumpy medium, partial to unfashionable trouser suits with elasticated waists. Essentially, she’s Bea Arthur and you will be judged harshly for subscribing to her fan club.

Fortunately, I’ve always been very comfortable with unpopular choices, including elasticated waists and radio.

It seems fitting to begin my defence of radio, with the very reason I was driven into her arms in the first place, the opportunity to write. 

Radio is one of the few places left for copywriters to practise and master their craft. And yes, it’s a skill that’s still important.

It will help you structure arguments, sell work, refine your thoughts, solve scripts and thanks to the rise of the case study video, it is now also your ticket to winning awards.  

More importantly though, writing remains one of the most powerful ways to persuade, move and entertain that increasingly slippery and disinterested target audience upon which our livelihoods depend. While these audiences watch 9-hour marathons of shows written by the likes of Aaron Sorkin, advertising writers are becoming somewhat flabby and unfit. Radio is an excellent way to tone up.

Improving the overall standard of writing in the industry is of course in the best interests of every medium. So much branded content and social media for example is insipid, highly forgettable schlock that could benefit from the sharpening, tightening and focus that comes from great writing.  

If we want to remain valuable to marketers we need to separate ourselves from a million 12-year-old YouTube sensations by demonstrating our ability to deliver perfectly aimed, precise thinking and creativity. And to that end, writing is the sniper in our arsenal. 

There’s also something to be said for the discipline and uncompromising brutality of the medium. Radio offers no cover for conceptual or executional flaws; it’s the creative equivalent of standing naked under fluorescent lighting. Terrifying, but necessary for honest and accurate self-evaluation.  

Similarly, there’s merit for every creative person in an occasional smoke and mirrors detox, of feeling the pressure of having to create something without flashy trappings and safety nets.

Radio is all on you; the brilliant director and his VFX team will not be swooping in to save your sorry-ass script. Not today.

This lack of backup and support can be daunting but it’s also one of the best things about making radio. In an industry where you can’t put ChapStick on an extra without getting written approval from at least four people, here lies a rare opportunity for unsupervised play. Clients will, for the most part, leave you to do your thing in studio while they enjoy the complimentary refreshments and Wi-Fi.

The budget will take care of itself, happily accommodating unlimited helicopters, exotic locations, exploding cars, and if the fancy takes you, whistling German Shepherds.

For a few precious hours you get be a bossy, antisocial radio brat. It’s not a concept that’s likely to get approval from the folks in human resources but for many like myself it’s a way of coping with the immense pressure of having to be a team player and collaborator.

I’m not sure that anything that I’ve said here has successfully given radio the asymmetrical fringe that she so badly needed.

But as a final thought, I’d like to offer up what I believe to be the most important point on the subject of radio and the only defence for the medium that actually matters.

Bea Arthur or not, radio is worthy of our attention and yes, affection because it’s still effective, relevant and meaningful for vast audiences around the world.

We don’t get to roll our eyes at their ‘uncool’ media choices, because we’re in advertising, not the high school cheer squad.

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Professional Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

For more creative inspiration and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s best design and advertising, join us at D&AD Festival.
 

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