August 21st, 2007

For Some Hollywood Fare, Radio Mini-Ads Are a Perfect Fit

Los Angeles Times

Miniature radio ads, spanning just a few seconds in length, are a hit in Hollywood, says market leader Clear Channel Communications Inc., which launched the spots known as blinks and adlets last year.

Homer Simpson’s unmistakable “D’oh!” or “Woohoo!” followed by the familiar tagline “Tonight on Fox!” for example, has been a popular two-second ad—known as a blink—for Fox Broadcasting.

“We love the blinks and adlets. They are great frequency builders, especially when you have iconic sounds associated with shows,” said Kaye Bentley, senior vice president at News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting.

Clear Channel, which launched the shorter ads in the face of a slowing radio ad market, said at least 20 national advertisers had tried out the shorter format since the ads were launched last summer. Nearly half of those are entertainment companies, Clear Channel said.

The company in the last few years has also begun selling 15- and 30-second ads in addition to more traditional one-minute spots.

Unlike longer ads, which run during minutes-long commercial breaks, the blinks and adlets are slipped in between songs.

“It’s grown so much in the last six months. It continues to grow on a daily basis,” said Jim Cook, senior vice president of creative services for Clear Channel Radio, noting that the mini-ads worked particularly well for companies with recognizable brands and in conjunction with longer ads.

“We all enjoy and memorize things of an entertainment nature, and adlets are a great way to get the message out cost-effectively,” he said.

Clear Channel declined to disclose pricing, but one ad executive said five-second adlets typically fetch as much as 20% of 60-second ads, which cost about $800 in major markets, and two-second blinks cost 10%.

Cook noted that only one adlet and two two-second blinks per hour can run on any station in order to avoid ad clutter.

Bentley said Fox Broadcasting planned to run about 15,000 “Simpsons” blinks across a multitude of stations on one day in September to promote the series’ fall season and had similar plans for other Fox series as well.

Bentley said she had also placed blinks with other radio groups such as CBS Corp., owner of CBS Radio. CBS confirmed that Fox and General Electric Co.’s NBC had run shorter-length ads on its radio stations.

Clear Channel said Walt Disney Co.’s ABC had used the shorter ads to promote “The View,” and Viacom Inc.’s MTV had employed them for “The Real World” and Viacom’s Paramount Pictures used adlets to promote the film “Stardust.”

Although the concept appears to be gaining traction in Hollywood, some advertising executives remain skeptical.

“I think a few advertisers have found a strategic way to use it, but it’s not something that’s going to work for the majority of advertisers,” said Richard Cotter, managing partner for WPP Group’s MindShare local broadcast unit.

“If your product is well known, you can probably have some fun with these things, but they’re not easy to use if you have to really communicate a sales message to listeners. You can’t do that in five seconds,” he said.

Dennis McGuire, an executive with Carat, said a few of his clients had tried the spots but were not hooked on them.

“I don’t see it as a huge thing but as a way for clients to have some fun and get a presence on radio,” he said. “We have used this for certain accounts, but they haven’t rushed back to use them.”

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