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Tuned in to radio billboards

By Gil Sennett · April 20th, 2000 · Ad Nauseam
I can understand (if not tolerate) the idea of radio station billboards.

You're driving along. You're bored. You just passed a fat billboard on the interstate blithely proclaiming "Less Talk, More Music!" for that new station that used to be owned by Clear Channel before it was devoured, sold for stale lumber then reinvented as the market's third Top 40 channel because -- God knows -- we needed another. You think, sure, give it a shot. You tune in.

Start to finish, that process makes sense. The advertising is prominently placed where people who should be seeing it do see it. Better still, those folks (called "target demos" or "mindless herd" in the AM/FM biz) have the power to use the knowledge gained from that billboard right away. In short, the medium works.

I bring all of this up because I needed a larger context with which to rip the living hell out of the new Q102 billboard campaign. "Hear the New Sound" may be the text attached to these signs, but you would never know this. You're too disgusted by the sight of that woman with an ear Photoshopped about two sizes too large for her head. People made a big deal about the WEBN billboards with the boobs.

Hands down, Q102's ads are more offensive to my senses.

More aesthetically pleasing are the Kiss 107 billboards. An attractive young woman (with ears that do NOT remind me of Mr. Spock) turns her head away from the attractive young man who embraces her, preferring instead to stare at you, the voyeur. Her demure eyes beckon, as if to say "Listen to this station, sexy man. I want you. In fact, I love short, skinny men who can't grow a beard."

Ok, maybe that's just what she says to me. I see that ad on the highway, I tune in instinctively. It's shameful how much power my libido has over me.

Did you hear that Ken Griffey Jr. is playing for the Reds? Of course you did. You saw the WLW boards. You can almost hear that marketing strategy go down: "What? We have to pay Junior to show him on our billboards?! How much? No, no, no. That will not do. I know! Let's show a cute kid in Junior's uniform! If the Reds protest, we'll put their logo up there with ours. Of course, ours has to be twice as big. What? It won't look right with all those strong images crunched together? That's for the ad agency to sort out."

WIZ's new ads just go for the bribe. "Listen to 100.9. Win a million smacks." Simple. Never mind the multitude of questions that are begged from this. They figure you'll listen to find the answers. Not a bad teaser campaign.

The jury is still out on Warm 98's "Warm-hearted" campaign. The station execs are so warm-hearted, they think the 1950s, Wonder Bread-family is still relevant. Mom, dad, boy, girl are about as racially diverse as a Friends episode. How pigeon-holed is their demographic?

On the other hand, it's refreshing to see an ad that doesn't look like a poster for the United Nations family picnic. Have you seen one of those ads that wants so badly to represent EVERY sect in the world that it becomes a tangible testament to the growing need to end the PC movement? I can't remember the last time I saw a family made up of an Asian mother, an African-American father, a Native-American daughter and white son. Mind you, the white son IS in a wheelchair.

To my knowledge, 97X doesn't have a billboard out right now, but it probably doesn't need one as long as Rain Man is stocked up at Hollywood Video.

"97X ... Bam! The future of rock-n-roll ..."



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