Is Radio a Dying Art?

August 20, 2019
3 minute read

Short answer? Hell no.

The long answer is more complicated. Despite the rise of the digital age, I would argue that traditional advertising will never go away. Traditional advertising is not dying, but it is evolving.

My roots in radio started 15 years ago. It was how I broke into the agency world. My very first gig as a copywriter was writing weekly ads for a national grocery chain. It wasn’t unusual to write and rewrite 30 to 40 scripts every week. Then we’d cast, record, and produce four of those every week, plus French. It was hectic but fun. And man did I learn. That experience was really what taught me how to write, and triggered a life-long love affair with marketing.

For me, writing for radio is arguably the most difficult kind of writing. I mean, you have to grab your audience and make a point in 15 or 30 seconds, with only sound. If you want to write something funny, you write it funnier. Emotional? Bring the drama. You have to go over the top…but not too over the top. Finding balance is rough. You need to be able to hear the dialogue and know the characters you’re creating. Writing/reading something is not the same as hearing it.

Radio is kind of a first love for me. Nothing beats good radio. And nothing is worse than bad radio. I think what I really love is hearing one of our clients’ ads on the radio, and hearing how much it stands out. Newfoundland and Labrador is also a great market for radio. We still listen to it here! More than anywhere else. Advertising with radio is still effective. But it has to stand out to be effective. Whoever made that ad has to love the message and the medium. And I love it.

So what makes a modern marketing approach? And how do trad elements fit in?

I think it’s a struggle for some agencies — rooted in the trad way of doing things — to evolve with the times. Incorporating technology in a meaningful way takes more than turning a brochure into a website, or taking a billboard and making it into a social media post. It takes a team of people who know how to think and who know how to make a creative concept move between mediums.

Our agency, WaterWerks, has successfully evolved into a truly modern agency. We don’t try to make something traditional work digitally. Or vice versa. The WaterWerks approach is a hybridized one, shaped by our innovations in both tech and strategy. We evolved our agency model as we added to our digital capacity. The collaboration and integration of everything we do to solve problems for clients is a definite advantage. Radio, print, TV – these trad advertising solutions are paired with our abilities in the digital realm. We design for web, we code, we have different people dedicated to Search Engine Marketing and social media marketing. But we’re not siloed; we’re always learning from each other.

I guess my point is, marketing is undergoing constant evolution and agencies should be evolving too. There are always elements that complement an overall strategy, both traditional and digital, and the strongest agencies have teams that know how to use both strategically. My personal and professional mantra is to always start out by asking, “what’s possible?” The answer to that is always changing here, which is exciting. I am so fortunate, as a Creative Director, to have the team we have here at WaterWerks. It’s a dream. They really can do it all, so it feels like anything is possible. 

This article is in honour of National Radio Day, August 20th. Check out a few of our ads. 

Julie Rowsell is the Creative Director at WaterWerks Agency. When she’s not writing awesome radio ads and managing the creative team, she’s playing soccer obsessively or hanging out with her two boys, Griffin and Ryder.