...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

dehype U. -- PI advertising.

Not ads for private eyes. Per-inquiry advertising.

PI advertising works like this: the advertiser—let’s say the maker of an herbal good mood pill—signs a contract with a radio station to run his commercials. He agrees to pay nothing for the station’s air time. He pays only when a customer calls his 800 number to buy his product. The station gets X dollars per inquiry. Of course, the station has to run the commercials enough times to get response. No response, no pay.

When I was in radio we thought of PI advertisers as bottom feeders. We wanted cash for our time, based on the huge, precisely targeted, high-quality audience we delivered. Besides, PI spots were the worst, the schlockiest. The announcers sounded like sideshow barkers. They gave the phone number at least four times in a row and the claims were ridiculous.

Sound familiar? Yep, you’re hearing more PI ads on the radio lately. Partly because the mainstream ad business has been dogpaddling in the toilet since 2002. Fear of bankruptcy makes folks way less uppity.

Besides, we’re not likely to sell that night time anyway. Why not get a few bucks? Our local classical station runs them. I hear three in a row regularly. That’s fifteen phone number repetitions in three minutes. Do they make me want to order “high on life” pills, or sign up and fend off my creditors, or save big bucks on term insurance? Nah. But hey, I’m just a listener. In commercial radio, advertiser trumps listener. Besides, who knows how many Neville Marriner fans need that stuff?

Well, I just signed up for Google ads for this blog. I’m back in the biz, I guess. Unlike radio, Google ads are off to the side, not taking over the show for five minutes. And, presumably, they’re relevant to your interests. Google has made PI advertising respectable—palatable, even.

We’ll see how it goes.

1 comment:

geoff said...

If you were "back in the biz" you'd be writing them, not running them.