Growing up in the streets of Ghana, one thing was clear to baby boomers – an abundance of radio stations. In their eyes, radio was both a luxury and a requirement that should be present in every home. The access to live updates on everything from current affairs to sports commentaries made it very high in demand in the then Gold Coast, now Ghana.
Radio is still relevant today and, more significantly, to many brands. According to the National Communications Authority (2022), Ghana has a total of about seven hundred and seven FM broadcasting stations. It has become so important that many spots produced for radio are featured in the international award category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. This shows how influential radio has become in marketing communications.
Many Ghanaians listen to radio actively or passively, either on the road, working in the garage, on the farm, during cooking activities, or before bedtime either on their mobile phones, online platforms, social media or radio itself.
The part of radio that is so fascinating to brands revolves around radio advertising. When we talk about radio advertising, we are looking at how products or services are promoted on radio. It is also when advertisers pay a set fee to radio stations for their commercials to be broadcasted to their listening audiences. Radio advertising can be traditional, satellite or via the Internet. It has been considered an inexpensive method of advertising when compared to TV advertising.
Radio advertising comes in three formats – live reads, sponsorship and produced spots.
In a bid to understand how influential radio advertising is, a student of Ashesi University, in 2010, conducted a regression analysis to confirm this hypothesis. His findings revealed that in Ghana, radio listenership is higher than that of print, television or Internet media. Also, radio advertising is an effective way to improve sales. Furthermore, products advertised on radio in local languages lead to a quicker customer response than advertising in English language.
It is unarguable that with traditional and digital radio broadcasts, there is never a better time than today to use radio spots, which do make an impact on listeners and brands’ profit margins.
But the question here is that, are Ghanaian radio spots dynamic or creative enough to win awards at the international level amid the influence they make on listeners and brands? A question for the gods I guess; but let’s examine why radio spots seem to have a conservative approach and are not creative enough to win international awards, like that of the Cannes.
What is a radio spot then? It is an announcement or advert on the radio.
The culture of producing short duration radio spots of 15secs, 30secs and 45secs that are quick and to the point makes it very difficult to be creative at times, especially when Ghanaians are used to a particular format and when the clients are also focused on what they think works best.
Brands want to communicate the essential information about their products in a single clear message without complicating the whole messaging, which leads to the conservative approach – making the hook, the pitch and the call to action. The hook is the chance to grab the listener’s attention. The pitch differentiates the product or service with its unique selling propositions while the call to action informs the listeners what action to take. This conservative approach can become boring, uninspiring and unrewarding if not looked at differently.
Every length of radio spot presents advertisers with a sweet spot to be creative, be it 15secs, 30secs or 45secs. Definitely, the sweet spot of being creative must be focused on the concept, jingle and sound effects, matching the right tone with the right voice and bringing the script to life. However, the concept seems to be the pivot of the entire script perfected with the right language, tone, personality, and accent that suits its target listeners.
A single concept can be brought to life in multiple ways by the production team, and this is where there seems to be a deficiency in our local productions. All radio adverts seem to follow one or two basic formats, with no experimentation whatsoever. Is it that we are scared to push the boundaries, or we are bound by the usual this is what the client wants situation?
Many international award bodies, like the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, focus on audio excellence, sonic innovation or superior aural story-telling potential, and the power of emotional performance. For instance, many Cannes award-winning radio spots are judged by the proficient use of music, sound design, script, cast and performance. But most importantly, the ability of the radio spot to creatively transform a brand idea or message into an audio context that enhances the listener’s experience meets the confines of the brief, and regional regulations make it ideal for a win.
Story-telling and emotional performance conceptualised in a knitted manner can help a powerful radio script win international awards.
Ghanaian radio spots can also win big on the international stage (Cannes) when we start giving it the attention needed creatively – the power of story-telling and emotional performance.
We are capable; we only need to be brave and challenge what we know as the status quo and voilà, there will be breakthroughs that we could never have imagined.
There are hundreds of brands with radio spots on numerous radio stations in Ghana. Therefore, more than enough opportunities exist to get it right and make the desired impact globally. Let’s get ourselves to do better.
Creativity has no boundaries; therefore, we must push the boundaries as far as possible to get out unique pieces of work that stand out for international awards and can put the spotlight on our creativity as well.
Innovation starts with change. Who knows, maybe Ghana will be taking home the gold at the Cannes next year if we start looking at our radio spots creatively and differently!
The writer is the Chief Operating Officer (COO), Innova DDB Ghana