10 Radio Campaigns that Need to Die

Good ideas are usually only good for a limited amount of time. Once everyone else catches on, they tend to circle the drain. It’s a shame. But, it does teach us to stay on our toes. This week, I’m calling attention to campaigns that are on their last legs, as well as a few that died long ago, but still roam the airwaves. These commercials may have been good at one point in time, but overuse has turned them into brittle piles of obvious crud. I’m really sorry if this list features something that you’re currently running. If it does, please just consider this to be your intervention. I want to help you get better. Ok, so let’s begin (in no particular order...)

  • Employee Pricing – Car dealerships have been using this doozy for a while now. In the beginning, it sounded like it might be a cool new offer. But, when every other auto maker decided to jump on the bandwagon, the deal went sour. A deal needs to sound special to be captivating. This one has been beaten to death, dug up, and beaten again. I realize that these deals are passed to dealerships by the brand mothership, but that doesn’t make them suck any less. They need to be cremated.
  • The Announcer/Producer Conversation Ad – In these ads, we get to be taken into the recording booth where the commercial is being mixed. A zany, foolish announcer will mess up the read while a level-headed director/producer corrects him. Like most of the ads on this list, the idea did hold some merit at one point. Years of overuse mean we should lock this one up in the “Disney Vault” as well.
  • Talking Inanimate Objects – “Hello, this is your [car/house/floor/mop/garage/toilet] talking...” These ads will never go away, but they get less effective every time somebody picks up the idea. There’s definitely more life in this campaign, and there are ways around making them predictable, but in general, the idea is overused.
  • Superhero – I know superheroes have been all the rage in the box office for the last decade or so, but they are definitely losing steam. I’m not quite as strongly opposed to these campaigns as some of the others, but they are becoming one of my kryptonites.
  • Game Show – This idea was on its last legs before I was born. But, it still lives on today. Game Show ads are the cockroach of the advertising campaign world. They’ll be airing long after we’re all dead.
  • We are severely overstocked!!!! – No you’re not. Pipe down. Nobody wants to hear it anymore.
  • What’s Your ______? & This is My _________ - These have reproduced like bunnies. I bet you can’t go a day without seeing/hearing one. These ads describe the advertiser’s product by asking you “What’s Your (product name?) For example, if I had a sandwich shop named “McHenrys” we’d make an ad that says “What’s your McHenry?” Ultimately, some fake person responds with “My McHenry is made with tomatoes and chicken & blah blah blah. This was a very good idea before it spawned so many illegitimate offspring. Now, it’s becoming just another cliché.
  • Auditions – “We’re taking auditions for our new spokesperson.” After that, we watch weirdos act weird. Everyone listening knows what to expect, and that’s exactly why this campaign needs to go to the elephant graveyard.
  • Stupid husband/Smart Wife – It’s just too easy, but it happens all the time. One character is the oafish husband who can’t do anything right. The other is the clever wife who keeps everything together. At some point we mention a product.
  • Spoofs of Other Ads - “He’s the most interesting man in ______.” Yes you like that famous ad campaign. But, when you imitate it, you’re not making a commercial for yourself, you’re empowering the other businesses brand. There are so many great unused ideas out there. Make sure you get behind one that works with your business. That’s all that really matters.

Not everyone will like this addition, but I have one more to watch out for in 2012.

  • Ridiculous ads – I’m referring to the Old spice/Dairy Queen style ads. They are fantastic and the style is worth emulating. But, I think the ship is beginning to sale. Every time a new business airs a campaign in the same style, the idea becomes weaker. It’s not the ideas fault. It’s the frequency. Eventually the advertising world reaches its saturation point for the style. I just want to warn everyone that this technique may be about to reach its boiling point. Handle it with caution.

I don’t mean for this list to be negative. Most of these advertising campaigns are/were fantastic. Their undoing is absolutely caused by overuse. I promise you there is no end to the creative well. Keep looking for new ways to get your product out there. You can absolutely begin something that is new and interesting. Emulating campaigns like these is dangerous, because they become less effective with every company that adopts the brand. Don’t get caught with your pants down when the tide goes out.