Editor’s Notebook: NextRadio “Data Pigs” spot contest winner conveys the wrong message

Emmis-owned NextRadio announced the finalists and winner of its radio spot contest this week. The winner, by college student Thomas Baker III, is called “Data Pigs.” That label refers to Spotify and Pandora (and presumably other music services). Here is the well-produced spot:


The “Data Pigs” phrase evokes a dirty image and is surprisingly insulting, but that’s not what reduces the spot’s effectiveness. It’s an issue of confusingly mixed marketing messages. Reducing data use has always been a selling point for NextRadio, which receives over-the-air FM stations in enabled smartphones. So, no problem there. The problem lies in pitting FM radio against music services, which cannot be an effective marketing tactic.

NextRadio has two broad competitive marketing paths at its disposal:

  1. FM radio is better than online music services.
  2. Over-the-air FM radio is a better mobile delivery than Internet-sourced FM radio.

The second choice is where NextRadio has resided. Most of NextRadio’s pitch has been about data-free listening, with a secondary advantage of reduced battery usage. Bundled into that value equation is enhanced delivery of interactive features, in stations that take advantage of TagStation, which is NextRadio’s back-end programming engine.

That pitch is valid. Detractors say it’s not enough in a market where telecom data plans are cheapening, but it’s still sensible marketing of the product.

Mixing in the different value equations of online music services gets the consumer thinking in the wrong direction. The spot’s message can be reduced to: Listen to FM instead of Pandora and Spotify. Most smartphone users, even radio lovers, will say No to that, possibly dismissing NextRadio because it has been positioned wrongly in their minds. It’s an unnecessary and futile pitch — not because nobody prefers FM; traditional radio is the number-one listening choice for many. The pitch and its attention-getting insult are ineffective because radio and music services operate as complements in the market. Their values are too different to replace each other. Spotify’s recent commissioned study of audience overlap demonstrates that (in Europe).

NextRadio shouldn’t be in the business of swaying users away from music services on smartphones, all of which come optimized for music service apps. Radio doesn’t have the feature power to do that. Emmis has always evangelized NextRadio as a preferred delivery of FM to people who love FM. That focus should imbue all its spot marketing.

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Brad Hill