How To Make The Morning Drive Less Painful

When my wife took a new job in Newark, NJ recently, I started driving in with her and then taking the train into Manhattan from Newark Penn Station. This has awarded us some decent quality time together, despite the fact that we are usually both slightly grumpy as we sit in traffic. There is one thing on the radio that never fails to make us laugh, and that’s the Scott & Todd morning show on New York’s 95.5 PLJ. Well, as of Monday, it’s The Todd Show now. Todd’s personality is our favorite, but we were very sad to see Scott retire.

Despite the fact that we love the show so much, we find ourselves switching the channel at times to Elvis Duran or anything else. Why?  The commercials are so incredibly painful; who wants to spend their precious downtime listening to them? From time to time Scott & Todd have done live reads, or pre-recorded spots, and we will typically listen to those. But they are relatively boring as well.

I come from the print and digital publishing business, where sponsored content – or native advertising – is all the rage. With sponsored articles, an advertiser is able to join the conversation in a natural way, as opposed to a banner ad or something else that is meant to interrupt the experience. Branded content has also been popping up more and more on TV recently, but it’s not something that radio programs are offering to their partners. Every once in awhile you might hear the traffic reporter say something along the lines of, “This traffic report is brought to you by Auto Zone, get in the zone,” but that’s about it. I can’t help to imagine the opportunities for branded content on the radio.

Here are some ideas that would bring value to the morning drive:

1.) Get a brand to buy an entire commercial break. How amazing would it be to hear the morning radio show host say, “We are not going to a commercial break, thanks to our friends at Starbucks we are going to have a coffee break. In the studio with us is a team of baristas to give a quick update on what’s going on at your neighborhood Starbucks.”

2.) Allow a brand to sponsor a specific segment. For instance, “Today’s phone scam is presented by Geico, 15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance. We are going to call Gloria, her husband let us know that on her way to work yesterday someone rear-ended her. We are going to pretend to be the guy’s insurance company – True Blue Auto Insurance. Yeah, it’s no Geico.”

3.) Let a brand sponsor an original segment. You could record a day in the life of the host, or create a new interview series with famous athletes or even little league baseball players, or have an open mic segment for listeners – America’s got talent via the radio. It would be a way for a brand to align themselves with content that they know their target would find interesting.

Local radio is facing steep competition from streaming services, but at the same time if they have a good enough product they can use the technology to their advantage by picking up a global listener following.

In this multi-platform, always-on world we are living in, radio is one of the few mediums left where you nearly have someone’s full attention. Radio executives, if you are reading this, I don’t expect you to follow all of my advice, but please try to be a little more creative when it comes to advertising. And stop playing crap music!