Dear Radio: Reclaim the disclaimer
by Paulo Dias (@therealptp) Let’s kick off with a philosophical question… If a disclaimer is sped up so much that no one can hear it, did you really play a disclaimer?
While most local radio ads have to crowbar various Ts & Cs, FSP numbers and responsible drinking/gaming/power-pressure-hosing messages to the end of their ads, it’s only a slightly noticeable irritation. If, though, you’ve spent any time listening to American or British radio, you would immediately pick up that most spot breaks are pretty much all disclaimer.
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The average spot duration in those markets is 45 seconds, of which 15–20 seconds are sped up disclaimers, which would easily be over 30 seconds at normal speed.
To demonstrate the sheer volume — and gibberish-ness — of disclaimers on air, a poster on SoundCloud took all of them from the UK talk station, LBC, over 24 hours and was able to compile it into an eleven-and-a-half-minute stream of DISCLAIMERS ONLY!!!
**Listen at your own risk. This writer doesn’t take responsibility for any hardware smashed in frustration**
As it says in the SoundCloud post, the total duration is equivalent to nearly 5% of all the station’s commercial airtime.
Thinking of your own radio-listening experience (and the problem is bleeding into podcasts and other audio streams), can you honestly say that you recall any Ts & Cs heard in a radio ad, sped up or not?
Listeners barely recall phone numbers and hashtags from ads, and most people feel that those garbled end messages actually diminish trust in a radio ad as it’s put there to cover the advertiser.
We all understand that there needs to be compliance and consumers need to be protected, but let’s remember that radio listeners trust the medium. Disclaimers in the way they’re presented instantly remove that element of trust and leave the listener thinking something is being hidden, thereby erasing all the hard work done in the first half of the spot. Brands, radio specialists, script writers and stations can work together to ensure good radio spots hit the air while complying with regulatory obligations.
Let’s never get our industry into the state where our favourite music station is all the hits all the time… except for the part of the day when we’re keeping the lawyers happy. And please, please let’s think about the real victims in all of this — because, every time a term and condition is added, a voiceover artist loses their wings.
Paulo Dias (@therealptp) is the head of creative integration at Ultimate Media. He works closely with the programming teams at leading radio stations to help implement commercial messaging into their existing formats. He contributes the regular column, “Dear Radio”, looking at the changing radio landscape in South Africa, to MarkLives.com