Sponsors Sour on Radio

Radio’s top advertisers are still stinging from perceived mistreatment over the last two years at the hands of radio stations, which greedily grabbed new dot-com ad dollars at the expense of their core customers. As some advertisers made their feelings known at last week’s National Association of Broadcasters’ radio conference in New Or-leans, many top radio executives were down the street meeting with Wall Street financial firms.

“Just because you have had a relationship with us for 10 to 12 years doesn’t mean we can’t take our business somewhere else,” warned Mary Kay Eschbach, U.S. media director for McDonald’s, which spends more than $85 million annually in local radio.

Radio also got bad marks for sloppy execution of schedules. “We have spots running out of flight and running in programming we don’t want,” said Rex Conklin, manager of broadcast media for Sears. “If we have a sale on a weekend and [the spot] runs a week early or late, it causes turmoil and there’s a loss of good will.”

Clutter continues to haunt the radio industry, just as competition is forming. While advertisers don’t think satellite radio will be a big ad option in the near term, it offers a very attractive commercial load — 6 minutes per hour, compared to 15 to 17 on radio.

“It’s something stations should think about,” said Jeni Cramer, media manager of national radio for Warner-Lambert, which is testing ad campaigns on satellite radio. “It could be another way to reach consumers. Eventually, it may be big enough to warrant a long-term commitment. [For now], it helps us grandfather our rates.”