Unless someone out there has been doing a really good job of keeping a major announcement quiet, I predict the buzz at this year’s NAB convention will be about Clear Channel’s “Less is More” initiative.

Will it catch on? Will it hurt the industry? Is it a Wall Street ploy? Will John Hogan lose his job over it? You’ll probably hear the rumor that Mark and Randall “slipped this one past Lowry while he was in the hospital.” Sadly, much of the buzz will come from radio’s ever-present drones explaining all the reasons “it can’t work.”

Every good thing is met with resistance; Less is More will be no different. The unimaginative, the cowardly, the backward and the small will cry out for solidarity against “the oppression of Cheap Channel, the evil empire.” How they think they’re being oppressed I don’t really know, but they can always spin it somehow.

A number of months ago, I wrote an editorial suggesting that we reinvent they way we sell and place commercials so that we:
1. reduce cluster lengths to keep people listening,
2. give advertisers a more favorable environment,
3. sell premium waterfront real estate by making the first spot in the break the most expensive, and
4. re-evaluate why :30s and :60s are priced the same.

Frankly, I think we should abolish :60s altogether and make most of our inventory :15s, especially if you believe, as I do, that Radio is a branding medium. A cluster of :15s sure beats a cluster of :60s and :30s. But it’s never going to happen if Radio backs away from John Hogan and leaves him to fight this battle alone.

John Hogan founded the “Less is More” initiative, and he had to sell it in every direction. So far, he’s been met with tremendous resistance from his own managers, who understand how hard it will be to do. If the initiative fails and the numbers go in reverse, we’ve probably seen the last of John Hogan. And that would be a shame.

Less is More is bigger than Clear Channel. It needs a commitment from all of radio.

The only issue I take with Clear Channel on this initiative is that it’s expecting too much too soon. Less is More is the right idea. It will work; it will change the industry and will powerfully benefit radio’s advertisers. But can it work in 2005? I doubt it. Clear Channel’s board may or may not see the results they need to see within the timeframe they consider to be reasonable. I hope they will be patient. Less is More will work, but it’s clearly a three-year, not a one-year, initiative.

If someone other than Clear Channel had introduced Less is More, the other groups would have immediately jumped on board, and the buzz at this year’s NAB would have been whether or not Clear Channel would commit to it.

Reader friend, we’ve known each other a long time, so I hope you’ll forgive me for asking what needs to be asked: Are you big enough to get past the fact that “your enemy” was the one who suggested this?

10/04/04 Radio Ink Magazine. , by B. Eric Rhoads