If Radio were a company whose share of market remained in the single-digit zone against weak competitors for as long as ours has, the board would’ve long ago forced us to reinvent ourselves, to hire someone to identify the problem and then to execute dramatic change.

Perhaps grubbing for the crumbs that fall off the media table has been good enough for Radio. Our consolidated owners continue to grow, and I suppose that keeps Wall Street happy — for the moment. But Radio’s “growth” is coming from budget cuts and tight management, not from getting a higher percentage of the total advertising pie. Owners aren’t likely to pay attention to the need for Radio’s share-of-ad-budget growth until it becomes the only alternative left for growing their companies. By then, it will likely be too late.

I’m not so delusional as to think that Radio will displace broadcast television and cable TV to become the leader in nabbing electronic advertising expenditures. I just know we’re a much stronger medium than we get credit for, and we can do much better.

I believe we can get a respectable 20 percent, instead of a pathetic 7 or 8. But I don’t think Radio believes it.

I know in my heart that Wal-Mart, America’s largest retailer, could use long-term Radio to significantly strengthen its brand in the hearts of Americans, but Wal-Mart doesn’t believe it. According to Cult Branding author B.J. Bueno, the problem is that Wal-Mart and other corporate giants believe Radio’s ill-advised sales pitch that it is primarily a transactional medium, rather than a relational or “brand-building” medium. What are we doing to change the minds of America’s corporate giants? Nothing! We haven’t even corrected our faulty presentation!

Those of us in Radio know that well-executed Radio strategies get incredible results. The problem is that advertisers don’t believe us, which means we have a marketing problem. Because we’re too close to it, we need to tap the best minds in marketing to help us solve our image problems. What will be the Master Marketing Plan to change Radio’s image in the minds of advertisers? When will we demand that Radio focus its strength on curing this deadly disease called Apathy?

Frankly, I’m tired of screaming. So I’m making it my mission to develop a plan to solve the problem. That’s why, in early 2004, Roy Williams, BJ Bueno and I will be hosting a small, invitation-only conference of Radio’s boldest brains to explore what can be done to help Radio find the land of milk and honey. If you are as passionate about this as I am, and feel that you have a solution or know how to find one, tell me; and I’ll carry your message to the hilltop. Ultimately, we’re all in this together. If you’re sick and tired of eating leftovers, your commitment to change will be imperative.

Or are you okay with not getting what you deserve?

12/08/03 Radio Ink Magazine. By B. Eric Rhoads