Radio ad hoax lures public, advertisers

In a bid to draw attention to the effectiveness of radio advertising, 14 Toronto-area radio stations got together this month to run an ad campaign that was, in fact, an elaborate hoax.Among the stations that participated in the campaign were cfrb,...

In a bid to draw attention to the effectiveness of radio advertising, 14 Toronto-area radio stations got together this month to run an ad campaign that was, in fact, an elaborate hoax.

Among the stations that participated in the campaign were cfrb, 1050 chum and chum fm, cftr and The MIX 99.

The two-week campaign, which began Feb. 4, featured two separate series of spots, one advertising a non-existent discount outlet called Basil’s Pre-Owned Warehouse, the other, a trio of never-to-be published mystery novels by Cliffhanger Publishing.

The spots were created by Toronto’s Pirate Radio. The writers and producers were Pirate Radio’s principals, Rick Shurman and Terry O’Reilly.

Shurman says the purpose of the campaign was to demonstrate to advertisers the effectiveness of radio advertising.

‘The stations have been feeling there is a lack of interest in radio advertising among advertisers and they decided to do something about it,’ he says.

The other participating stations included chfi, Q1O7, Country 59, The FAN, AM 640, CFMX, Light 97.3 and ciss FM

By all accounts, public and media reaction to the campaign has been better than anticipated.

Listeners have flooded the stations with calls, demanding to learn more about the advertisers and their products.

It is no wonder.

Basil’s sells such items as pre-owned business cards, pre-owned monogrammed shirts and pre-owned socks.

Cliffhanger Publishing gives away the ending of its whodonits at the end of each ad.

Shurman says the off-beat creative approach was chosen because the station advertisers wanted to do something interesting and give listeners a reason to pay attention.

He says radio stations have historically, when running radio ads in support of their medium, focussed on pumping up the medium, ‘rather than on attracting people’s interest and drawing them in.’

While most listeners found the campaign humorous and intriguing, if confusing, some came away angry after searching in vain for Basil’s which the ad said was located at the corner of Yonge and King streets. Needless to say, it was not.

Shurman says he realizes the ads were plausible enough to confuse people and possibly upset them, so the back end of the campaign featured disclaimer spots letting people know the campaign was a hoax and identifying the purpose of the ads.

Each participating station ran six spots daily throughout the two-week schedule.

To kick off the campaign on the first day of the schedule, all 14 stations ran the same spot at precisely 8 a.m. and again at 5 p.m. PA