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5,000+ Spec Spots: What We Have Learned (so far)

In 2023, we created a new Spec Spot service at Futuri called SpotOn. This is AI-enabled spec spots, automatically generated with scripts, voice overs, music, and production. After six months live in the field, some early numbers are in. We now have a preview of potential paths of growth for radio, along with some astounding efficiency gains. 


In case you’re not familiar with the term “Spec Spot,” (although you probably are, if you’re reading Inside Radio), these are mock-up ads created to pitch an idea to a potential (or current) client. Spec Spots are not paid for by the client but instead are made to demonstrate how the final ad might look or sound. Spec Spots help clients visualize the end product for easier and faster decision making..


In the six months that Futuri’s SpotOn has been live, over 5,000 spec spots have been created for prospects and clients. Spec spots that previously soaked up time and bandwidth from copywriters, producers, and editors for every pitch can now materialize on demand, within a matter of minutes thanks to AI. 


Popular Spec Spot Categories by Industry

The majority of spec spots made by SpotOn in its initial months fell into five core radio advertising categories:


Automotive

Car dealerships are historically radio’s top spending vertical. With SpotOn copywriting models and voices, spots were tailored for individual dealers and sales events. We observed spots written for end of model year sales, holiday sales, seasonal events, pre-owned sales, and we’re already seeing tax refund spec spots. AI’s fast production of spots can help the radio industry to showcase fast-pivoting tactical execution in a top revenue category. This is a critical category for radio to showcase flexible fast-pivoting messaging and production capabilities.


Retail 

As omnichannel brands have been aggressively promoting holiday deals and loyalty programs, users of SpotOn have been creating spec spots for clothing, big box, and e-commerce players. We observed a large number of Black Friday and Cyber Monday spec spots, and interestingly, campaigns developed around Small Business Saturday. Toys, electronics, and home goods were the most popular products featured in spec spots in Q4 within SpotOn. This clearly highlights radio’s value in driving shopper actions with flexible, geo-targeted messages. 


Financial Services 

Radio creative covered by SpotOn has spanned banks, credit cards, tax prep, local accounting firms, insurance and more. We observed stations using AI-generated spec spots to emphasize key nuances for regional brands, such as credit unions and local banks. Feedback from account executives in the field using AI included discussions about ways to create a ‘consultative production process’ with the client and AE sitting side by side crafting the spot. 


QSR 

Quick-service restaurants rely on radio to connect promotional offers with impulse-driven consumers. SpotOn spec spots delivered production-quality examples of what dedicated, multi-market partnerships could sound like - with localized flair. We saw regional and locally owned restaurants highlighted in November and December. Most common keywords mentioned in these spec spots – Special, Limited Time, Fresh, Sale, Combo, Happy Hour, Kids Eat Free.


Travel and Tourism 

Usage of SpotOn for travel and tourism businesses intrigues us, because radio does not typically capture a high market share of travel and tourism related business. We observed local recreation (kayaking/biking/hiking/fishing) businesses, cooking schools, and equipment rental shops using SpotOn to adjust the creative for destinations and seasonal hooks. Most common keywords mentioned in these spec spots – Adventure, Local, Winter, Explore, Relax, Deal.


These categories are interesting – because the top four show AI immediately plugging into core radio advertiser verticals like automotive and QSR, proving adaptability to already established brands who are looking for new creative angles. Even more interesting (and exciting) is Travel and Tourism, showing expansion into previously underrepresented budgets in radio.


What types of spec spot voices are most popular (so far)?

Approximately 57% of the ads predominantly feature a male voice, while the remaining 43% utilize a female voice. The most popular accents among these commercials are, in order of prevalence, Midwest USA, Southern USA, Australian, and British. 


SpotOn AI Habla Español

SpotOn has produced spec spots in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, German, and French. The second most popular language in SpotOn is Spanish, and interestingly, the most popular categories for spots produced in Spanish are Direct to Consumer Brands, particularly digitally-native startups, which are increasingly targeting younger, tech-savvy Latino audiences. Also, SpotOn was used to create spots for a number of healthcare brands including services like telemedicine apps, addressing a vital need for accessible health communication in the community. Most common keywords mentioned in these spots included ahorre/ahorrar, envío gratis, fácil, rapido, moderno, nuevo.


Popular Spec Spot Length

When it comes to the duration of these commercials, the majority leans towards brevity and impact, with 15-second spots being the most common, closely followed by 30-second versions, indicating a strategic focus on concise, engaging, and memorable messaging.


Efficiency on the Horizon

In the 1800s, a cross-country trip from New York to California took about 6 months by covered wagon. Today by flight, it takes less than 6 hours - a 5,000x improvement. Just as transportation saw massive gains via technology, AI promises similar velocity increases in content production. And with AI-driven tools, like SpotOn, closing sales can also be expedited. 


The phones in our pockets hold computing power multiple times greater than all of NASA had during the moon landing with the Apollo Guidance Computer. 


IBM's first commercial hard drive unveiled in 1956 cost $50,000+ for just 5 MB of data. That would be like paying $50,000 just to save an mp3 of Hey Jude. Today a memory card with 1 terabyte retails for under $100, giving individual consumers 200,000x the capacity at 1/500th the cost in 65 years.


If each of the 5,000+ spec spots created by SpotOn took humans ~25 minutes to produce, this saved approximately 2000 human hours – a year of a single production director’s time. 


Technological adoption curves allow 10x or even 100,000x efficiency gains over relatively short multi-decade timeframes. This precedent illustrates AI's imminent promise for the radio industry. The foundation is now set for stations to exponentially scale AI-generated spots across many categories in 2024.


In summary - 1) High usage and time savings 2) Adoption by key sponsors 3) New budget expansion 4) Spanish language resonance 5) AI efficiency gains ahead

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