L'articolo è dedicato a Robinson Radio, una piccola società specializzata nella produzione di spot direct response. Un fatturato modesto, 6 milioni di dollari, ma quest'anno la somma dovrebbe triplicare. Il proprietario, Buck Robinson, è un figlio d'arte, suo padre era stato un pioniere del marketing. E oggi Buck cerca di utilizzare un approccio il più possibile scientifico alla confezione degli annunci. Secondo lui è fondamentale creare un contenuto ben fatto, accattivante. Di solito su queste forme di pubblicità si investe poco in termini di creatività. Robinson radio cerca di ribaltare questa percezione e il suo fondatore dice di essere molto ottimista sulle prospettive future di questo mezzo.
Marketing on the radio
Fast-growing Robinson Radio of Henrico sees 'blue skies ahead of us' in advertising
Monday, Sep 08, 2008
By JOHN REID BLACKWELL
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
You might say that Buck Robinson was born into advertising. When he grew up in California, even the players on his Little League team were human billboards. "We were Ronco's Raiders," Robinson said.
His father, direct-response marketing pioneer Frank Robinson, was an advertising agent for Ronco, the company famous for selling products such as the Veg-O-Matic on television infomercials. All members of Buck's team had a product name on their jerseys. "I was Mr. Microphone," Robinson said. "The catcher was the Food Dehydrator."
With that kind of background, it's not surprising that Robinson is still in the business of direct-response marketing - a type of advertising that seeks an immediate response from people hearing or seeing the ads, usually through a toll-free number or Web site. His Robinson Radio company focuses entirely on developing, producing and placing direct-response advertising for radio. That segment is about a $5 billion slice of the roughly $20 billion radio advertising industry.
Robinson started out small in 2004, working out of his home. "My office was my den," he said. "I had just one other part-time person who did the books. I was perfectly happy. There was no commute. "But then a couple of my larger customers said, 'If you don't add capacity, we might outgrow you.'" So Robinson began hiring and looking for office space. The company has 27 employees who work in an 11,000-squarefoot office in the Innsbrook Corporate Center in western Henrico County. The company moved there this year from a 2,700-square-foot office elsewhere in Innsbrook.
The firm is expecting about $16 million to $18 million in revenue this year, compared with $6 million last year. And the company is forecasting revenue of $35 million for 2009. Despite an economic slowdown that has hit consumers and advertising spending, "we are not only thriving, but we see only blue skies ahead of us," he said. The company built its business on a foundation of developing the 30and 60-second spots that are the backbone of radio advertising, but Robinson has more ambitious plans.
This summer, the firm announced it also is moving into long-form radio advertising, which means producing three-hour radio shows that give its clients a chance to pitch their products in longer, talk-show style formats that will run on stations around the country. "One of the reasons that we are successful is that we don't see [radio] the same way" as advertisers who see the medium as "gray-haired," Robinson said, adding that he believes radio has been misunderstood and misused. "Television is more demonstration driven," he said. "What we do in radio is more explanation-driven. We are working in the theater of the mind."
The company is developing the longer shows, hosted by radio personalities, that will run on weekends, giving clients an opportunity to promote their products in a talk-show format. The shows are expected to start airing Nov. 1 via the Robinson Radio Networks. Almost 80 stations have signed on. That outlook may help as radio looks to try new ways of attracting advertisers. Direct response "is very much a growing trend in radio," said Kelly O'Keefe, a professor at the Brandcenter, the nationally recognized graduate advertising school at Virginia Commonwealth University. He also is owner of consulting firm O'Keefe Brands.
The radio industry is investing hundred of millions of dollars on new technologies, new formats and trying to remake its image to lure back advertisers who have been attracted to the Internet, he said. "We are seeing this increase in experimentation," O'Keefe said. "These folks that are doing long-form [advertising] are real pioneers." The Direct Marketing Association predicts that direct-response radio advertising will grow about 3.3 percent this year.
Direct response has its drawbacks, one being that listeners are apt to simply turn the dial. Only 20 percent of people who hear an ad are inclined to respond, and of those, 15 percent to 30 percent are likely to make a purchase, compared with up to 50 percent in television campaigns, Robinson said.
He said his company approaches direct response as more of a science than a craft.
The advantage of the format is that it enables the company to provide its clients with more data on who responds to ads, and why. "Everything we do has measurable metrics to it."
The company takes a "crawl, walk, run" approach to direct-response advertising, which has its clients start out small and see what works before putting money into larger campaigns. One advantage of radio is the loyalty of listeners to talk-show personalities. "If someone listens to a certain program, they are very dedicated to that host," said Kurt Eddy, senior marketing manager for DirectBuy. "The host endorsement has a lot of weight, and that appeals to us greatly."
Robinson has worked with clients such as DirectBuy, a Merrillville, Ind.-based company that sells products directly from manufacturers, and gotten endorsements from radio personalities such as Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham.
Clients for the Robinson Radio Networks long-form advertising will include some large, national firms, though networks President Phil Armas declined to say who those clients are. The company also has not identified the stations it has signed but said its goal was to have the programming available in the Richmond market.
The key to success of the three-hour shows is providing information that is relevant to listeners. "It is not going to be billed as the typical infomercial. It is going to be very conversational," Armas said. Holland Cooke, a national radio industry programming consultant mostly for talk radio stations, said Robinson Radio is trying to make direct-response advertising more mainstream for radio, and more appealing. "In the national direct-response radio industry, a lot of the programming you hear is just tear gas to an audience," he said. "What Robinson Radio has managed to appreciate is it needn't be. It can be compelling programming."