I was asked to judge this month's Aerial Awards. This meant I had the dubious pleasure of sitting through a CD of radio ads playing back to back.
There were a couple of good ones on there, but what struck me was the similarity between the vast majority of them - similar voiceovers, similar tones-of-voice. Similar rubbish little scenarios.
It got me to thinking about radio ads and how unloved they seem within agencies. And how under-exploited they are as a medium.
Is it because in a lot of ad agencies, radio is seen as a way of letting juniors cut their teeth, before getting stuck into TV? In one big agency I worked for, there was definitely an unwritten hierarchy of media that you got to scale as you proved yourself - and I can tell you radio was not at the higher end.
There are a few top-notch writers who do radio ads, but generally I've seen them passed down to juniors. Now this certainly doesn't necessarily mean they'll be worse - there's no saying junior writers couldn't write a better ad than a senior. But it does seem indicative of the lack of love for the medium within agencies. I wonder if it's partly due to there being a lack of something to look at when it's finished? I've never seen a creative, or an agency dig out its best radio spots to show off their skills.
It would help if everyone would stop trying to cram everything into every radio spot. When was the last time you wrote a phone number down off the radio? When was the last time you remebered the URL that was hastily tacked on at the end? There is so much thrown in to a lot of them that even if there was a strong communication in there at one point, by the time it hits the airwaves, it's become a mush of noise amongst similar noise.
And that's why, on that Aerials CD, the simple ads that Mother produced for Coke stood out. It was actually refreshing (ahem) to hear them, among the mess of people yabbering at me from the speaker.
There have been some great radio commercials. But generally there doesn't seem to be the same level of innovation, craft and energy put into them. Maybe that's why specialist radio companies have sprung up and prospered?
When used well, radio is a powerful and effective medium. And it can make other media more effective when it's on the schedule. Maybe it deserves a bit more love?