The year was 1984. Hollywood director Ridley Scott had just released Alien and Blade Runner and was called upon to helm the production of a Super Bowl ad for Apple Computers. The concept was based on the book 1984, by George Orwell, and in the thirty years since that iconic ad aired, advertisers have spent millions trying to replicate the results.
Mostly, it’s been a losing bet. While thirty-seconds of ad time during the Super Bowl costs four million dollars, a study by Communicus Advertising Research, cited in the January 6, 2014 issue of Advertising Age, estimates that 80% of Super Bowl ads have little or no effect on sales.
This year, however, a new player entered the field: clickable radio. While Jerry Seinfeld and his cast-mates reunited and a host of heart-tugging puppies strutted their stuff on TV, this relatively new audio recognition technology increased radio audience engagement by over thirty-percent for some advertisers.
The basis for the technology is to make radio more relevant and interactive by driving the call-to-action to mobile devices. Listeners point their devices toward the radio and push a button to “clip” the sound from the speaker to the smartphone. From there, an app determines the station and offer, allowing marketers to provide prospects with hidden content, promotions and purchase methods. Once the ad is clipped, it remains in a tag list, so that listeners can return to and/or share it with others.
Right now, the biggest players in this growing industry are Westwood One (in partnership with SoundHound) and Clip Radio. In order for Clip Radio to work, it requires special equipment to be installed in the broadcast area, so their foothold is in a relatively small number of markets. However, Westwood One’s SoundHound capability is already available to 225 million listeners. SoundHound’s Vice President, Katie McMahon, estimates SoundHound’s mobile app at 130 million worldwide. Both free and premium (paid) versions of the app are available to users.
The cool-factor of this marketing technology is undeniable, and so are the results. Inside Radio reports that both Wal-Mart and Geico have taken advantage of clickable radio. In the case of Geico, its SoundHounded 2014 Super Bowl campaign saw a 31% increase in prospect engagement over their 2013 campaign (which did not use clickable radio). With that kind of outcome, it’s no surprise that Geico is planning to continue their campaign beyond football season, and other marketers are following suit.
Not only does clickable radio provide a new source of profits for direct response and brand response radio advertising, it also provides a built-in measuring system. This includes the ability to report on how many listeners “clipped” an audio ad and took action. Alpha Broadcasting’s Senior VP and Market Manager, Milt McConnell states that, in many cases, “This is brand new money.” For marketers who haven’t tried radio or have focused their efforts on other media, this is a fact that cannot be ignored.
Thirty years ago, Apple won the battle for iconic television commercials because, at the time, the format was unique and original. Every Super Bowl commercial since then has attempted to reproduce those results by also being unique and original. But with creativity trumping marketing prowess, it’s mainly been a lot of cute mini-movies that may even go viral but don’t actually prompt target audiences to take action. Meanwhile, clickable radio is coming up fast on the sidelines, delivering tangible value to listeners and, consequently, making a whole lot more touchdowns.