Interview with Tony Hertz, award winning radio creative director.
Tony Hertz, an award winning radio creative director with over 40 years experience, winner of Yellow and Black D&AD Pencils for Radio, and the first Jury President for Radio at ADFEST, was recently in Karachi to conduct a PAS seminar on radio advertising. Here we ask him why the medium is still lagging behind other platforms.
AMBER ARSHAD: What was the thrust of your seminar on ‘The seven secrets of creative radio’?
TONY HERTZ: I wanted to impart two messages. One, you can be as passionate about radio as you can be about any other medium – even if not to that lunatic extent that I am! Two, the techniques and approaches that will help raise the advertising level above the ordinary – or what is usually done. Advertising is driven by an obsession to be good, to earn the respect of fellow admen and to be appreciated. This passion is missing when it comes to radio advertising. My single minded vision is to address and bridge that neglect.
AA: Why do you think the medium is neglected?
TH: Because developments in other media happened faster. The world has become a visual place. Twenty years ago, we had radio stars, although listeners never actually saw them. As TV and digital media grew, ad agencies became skilled at manipulating images and the audio part of it was left behind. To elaborate further, while agencies are very comfortable with audio-video, they lack the confidence and persistence to produce for an audio-only medium, and because they haven’t truly understood the medium, they don’t present the ideas as they should to the advertiser. What is missing is the skill set to do it as effectively as they do it for other mediums. Yet, radio is a cheap enough medium to experiment.
AA: What are those skills?
TH: Having a visual approach to radio, because it recognises and builds on where your agency’s skills already lie. This means finding some kind of emotional link – as people make their decisions with their hearts and stomachs and then use nuances, pitch and annotations in the voiceover, music, sound effects, etc., to help create a ‘visual’ of those emotions. Like other media, it is about good storytelling – only it is more pronounced in radio. The implication of a story is that it engages; people want to hear it and they want to know what happens when they use the brand. The rest of it is the craft and the skill in how you do it.
"Making a commercial that screams as being a missed opportunity that you paid for – is there anything sadder than that?"
AA: Why hasn’t radio advertising managed to keep pace in terms of creative ideas and execution?
TH: A lot of the advancements and evolution in other media has been technical; by using various editing tools, you can do things on your laptop which would have cost millions of dollars to do in a film not that many years ago. There have been advances in audio technology, but realistically speaking, it is still an audio medium. There is a reverse side to the exponential growth in technology. Years ago, when the editing process was manual (we would literally cut and join the film reel manually with customised blades), the focus of the message was very clear and you had to commit to something at one point. Now, digitisation offers multiple choices, and the creative work is always a work in progress – down to the absolute last minute. Although for visual mediums, this approach may work, for an audio-only medium, it increases the chances of watering down the core message in the finished product.
AA: What can the radio as a platform do to improve matters?
TH: Radio stations need to integrate more with other media. Maintaining social media pages, having web cams, a well designed website is one way to invite more participation – also having a convincing active digital presence provides increased opportunities for advertisers. Branded content programmes are another way. The radio industry essentially needs to help itself and market radio as a medium. In countries where radio does well – for example Australia, Finland, Ireland, South Africa, the UK and the US – there are active radio marketing forces such as dedicated bureaus and associations. Part of the problem with radio is that the people who buy it (media buyers and planners) may not be the people who listen to it, so radio stations need to actively market themselves before expecting clients to give them business.
AA: What do you think are the cardinal sins of radio advertising?
TH: Firstly, not giving the craft the attention it deserves and secondly, talking at people instead of with people. In other words, simply making a radio commercial full of product details announced in a beautiful voice and a bit of music at the end, without actually thinking about who you are talking to. Making a commercial that screams as being a missed opportunity that you paid for – is there anything sadder than that?
AA: How was your experience in Pakistan, and are you planning any follow up sessions?
TH: I thoroughly enjoyed conducting this seminar and was pleasantly surprised how engaged the group in the seminar was. People presented their ideas willingly, and had fun along the way – which they deserve when they step out for a day for these kinds of seminars. Also, the Pakistan Broadcasters Association has expressed interest in conducting seminars which focus on radio production techniques; recording and editing processes, hunting and using voice talent effectively.
I also hope to see more clients in the seminars, and not only ad creatives. What happens when you have an audience of mainly creatives is that they get all pumped up and inspired but when they go back to the office, they get a ‘cold shower’ – as their clients have not been exposed to the new approach or idea. It’s essential to involve all stakeholders.
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