INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Monday, January 06, 2003

Content vs. Audience

I hate to take issue with a blogger--George Partingtion--for whom I have the highest regard and with whom I enjoy a friendly blogging relationship. But when something just flies in the face of what you—as a professional—know to be true, you can’t let it slide, no matter the source.

George tells us about an unfortunately rare phenomenon, a popular liberal radio show host, Randi Rhodes, operating out of South Florida. He quotes from an interview she had with BuzzFlash. The first part of the quote that George shares is great fun—an expose of Oliver North’s spinelessness. But the subsequent section that George quotes requires my immediate rejoinder.

Ms. Rhodes, talking about advertisers, says:

”They are buying CONTROL of CONTENT. It's leverage, whether it's radio, cable or network. They control millions of dollars of any company's revenue source. So that if something is said or done to disrupt their global business, they take their advertising elsewhere, or threaten to and then shut down the message.
RHODES: Ask yourself, why does ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) advertise? Do they want to sell you a soybean? Why does Boeing advertise? Are you gonna' buy aircraft? Aircraft parts? GE the largest defense contractor wants to sell you a light bulb and/or a missile? And then there's BASF -- they don't make anything! They just make it better. Uh huh. They're buying CONTENT. Millions and millions of advertising dollars DO affect the message you get. It controls the news that is reported and the news that is NOT.

Sorry, George. I have to set the record straight. Randi may kick butt, and I'm all for getting some hot liberal hosts out there who can attract an audience, but her advertising analysis is pure conspiracy-theory bullcrap.

As a grizzled advertising veteran I can tell you that I have NEVER seen an advertiser buy anything but eyeballs and ears. If a media rep were to call an advertiser or his agent and say, "I've got some content you might really like to get behind", the rep would probably be fired on the spot for showing his ignorance of the fundamentals of the biz. The content is relevant only to the degree that it draws the eyes and ears that the advertiser wants to buy. The rep’s opener is always, always, “I’ve got an AUDIENCE you might like to buy.”

Apparently Randi never heard of brand-building. Does she think that all ads are for direct selling? You buy media time to build brand image and brand value so that the guy who sells the soybean to the buyer, or the aircraft part, will be working inside a climate of brand value which helps support his selling proposition. That’s what those ads are about—not for you and me picking up the phone and placing an order. Geez, that’s just fundamental.

This gal may have a great radio show, and she may be a beacon of hope in the vast media wilderness. I wish her nothing but great success and huge ratings. But she shouldn't be making pronouncements about advertising when she clearly doesn’t know what the hell she's talking about.


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