Directors Tapped For Radio Ads

LOS ANGELES–Radioland, a radio commercial production house, has entered into a “special arrangement” with two talent agencies to enlist directors such as Rob Reiner, Robert Zemeckis and Oliver Stone to create radio spots.
Portland, Ore.-based Radioland has arrangements so far to use directors represented by Creative Artists Agency and International Creative Management. Radioland president and creative director Austin Howe believes the idea of using film and TV directors for radio spots is the first of its kind. Radioland’s client list includes Jiffy Lube, E&J Gallo and Hardee’s Food Systems.
Howe and his creative partner, Michael Niles, said they decided to launch their “directors for radio” service after discussing the idea with ad industry veterans such as Jay Chiat, Dan Wieden, and Paul Keye.
Houston-based Jiffy Lube, which awarded national radio ad duties to Radioland earlier this year, is the firm’s first client to use a director, Howe said. Actor/director Daniel Stern, known for his roles in Home Alone and as the voice of the adult Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years, will direct three spots for Jiffy Lube. Stern, represented by ICM in Los Angeles, has also directed The Wonder Years and the film Rookie of the Year.
A well-known director will add 10-25 percent to the cost of a radio project, for any agency or client who wants one, Niles said. A radio spot costs between $10,000 to $20,000 to produce, according to Howe.
More than $12 billion will be spent on radio commercials this year, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau. “With the kind of money now being spent it just makes infinite sense to bring proven directors into the radio creative process,” Niles said.
The scheme has its doubters: “I wish them all the best, but it’s a gimmick,” said Tom Cordner, co-chairman and creative director at Team One Advertising in El Segundo, Calif., which has used Radioland for projects. “When I hire Austin [Howe], what interests me is what he does,” he said. Cordner noted that few directors other than Spike Lee have produced award-winning TV commercials. He likened the venture to CAA’s setup for Coca-Cola a few years ago.
Howe, however, insists that TV and film directors will “raise the bar” in a cluttered, undervalued medium that has a highly segmented, targetable audience.