Marketing Legend O’Reilly cites WiFi as the next radio frontier

Pirate Radio and Television co-founder says 3G radio will provide the medium with 'a big kick in the pants.'

Inducted into the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends at a ceremony in Toronto last night, Pirate Radio and Television co-founder Terry O’Reilly looked back on his nearly 30 years in radio advertising.

O’Reilly also looked forward to the next frontier: WiFi radio. ‘Radio is the great survivor, it’s the cockroach of mediums,’ he told MiC after accepting his award. ‘People have written its obituary for so long, from when television arrived, but it’s always survived. But I think it’s now on the cusp of truly changing.’

The arrival of the iPhone has served as an instigator, O’Reilly says, as people connect to 3G networks from shops, parks, and cars, accessing Internet radio stations from points far beyond the reach of terrestrial radio signals. ‘With WiFi, suddenly you get Internet radio stations not just in a ghetto on your computer but walking around, on the bus, that’s going to change everything.’

O’Reilly cited the breakaway from the 30- and 60-second format currently restricting advertising on terrestrial radio as one potential creative revitalization of the medium. ‘So many great ideas are 40 seconds long and we have to throw them away, so loosening the boundaries on 30 and 60 will be a huge creative leap. I also think we’ll be more creatively courageous in an environment on the Internet that doesn’t have a lot of CRTC rules. I don’t mean that we get to swear at them; it’ll just be a little looser and a bit more daring, and that can only be good.’

The big question for O’Reilly is how the new freedom will play out in the industry. ‘I wouldn’t say media companies [will benefit most],’ he says. ‘My first instinct is online is going to be a different world; I don’t think it’s going to be big dollars. It’s going to be five-second commercials, two-minute commercials; it’s going to move around a bit before the media companies can get a lock on it. But advertisers are going to fall in love with radio again because it’s going to become sexier and more interesting and not just a support medium which it’s been for so long.’

O’Reilly’s fellow 2009 inductees were Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts president and COO Kathleen Taylor, Canadian Tire Corporation vice chairman Wayne Sales, WestJet founding shareholder and chairman of the board of directors Clive Beddoe, and former SVP/CD of Doyle Dane Bernbach (later DDB Needham Canada) and OCAD associate professor Allan Kazmer.