In Your Ears – The 30th Anniversary
Radio Mercury Awards

Author: Madison Wright, Associate Producer, Radio Mercury Awards

For the past 30 years, radio broadcasters, agencies and advertisers have entered their creative work into the Radio Mercury Awards. Produced by the Radio Advertising Bureau, it is the only awards competition that exclusively honors creativity in radio and audio since its creation in 1992. Around 20,000 commercials have competed for close to $3.5 million in prizes.

When reflecting upon the Radio Mercury Awards, especially during this special anniversary, two things come to mind – the rich heritage of the awards show and how they continue to matter to the creative community as the medium continues to evolve.

Since their inception, the Radio Mercury Awards continue to seek the best of the best in radio – a medium creatives continue to declare the hardest to execute well. From the first Best of Show winner in 1992, Motel 6’s “Singing Phone Number,” courtesy of The Richards Group, to the most recent winners like 2020’s “Radio Recliner,” by the Luckie agency, these advertising commercials not only made their mark first at the Radio Mercury Awards, but they have also become a part of popular culture. Many have gone on to be recognized at the Cannes Advertising Festival, The One Club and the Clio Awards after being recognized at the Radio Mercury Awards. Our award winners have gone on to do amazing things, including rising from junior writers to chief creative officers at agencies across the U.S. They continue to feel an important connection to the Radio Mercury Awards, and they think fondly of their first Radio Mercury Awards experience and what it means to be a finalist and winner.

“The show has always meant a lot to me; it was something I entered as a student, something I became a finalist in as a young writer and finally I was able to do some winning work,” said Mitch Bennett, chief creative officer of Luckie, who is a multiple Radio Mercury Awards winner. “It’s such a special show.”

Above all, the Radio Mercury Awards serve as a place for radio and advertising leaders from across the U.S. to celebrate radio creative. Whether it’s a luncheon, an evening cocktail event, or even a virtual show in 2020, the creative work honored at the event sets the bar for creative excellence as well as motivates and inspires the next generation of creatives. The future is also bright for the Radio Mercury Awards, as radio and audio’s footprint continues to innovate across media platforms, captivating listeners and creating unique opportunities for brands. 

According to a March 2021 Audacy report quoted in RAB’s most recent Matter of Fact article, “audio — comprising over-the-air, streaming-over-the-air and podcasts — is more immersive than other media” and with that comes more opportunities for companies to dip their toes into the audio pool. The definitions of audio and radio have changed drastically from the past five years, let alone the past three decades – from the way we tune into our favorite shows, how we connect with our favorite local stations, from where we can tune into and how the audio medium as a whole infused itself into social media platforms like Clubhouse and Facebook. Especially after the past year, the conversations being fostered over the airwaves have changed, and that also affected how businesses promote themselves to their local communities. 

The Radio Mercury Awards evolve each year and reflect the current and future audio landscape. This year, along with favorite categories like Creative Spot for a Cause and Integrated Brand Campaign, new categories emerged, like Purpose-Driven Spot or Campaign. This new category will showcase the topical radio work that was done during the pandemic and how advertisers and companies used radio to promote their actions and efforts towards the public good and demonstrated how they addressed social, environmental or public health/safety issues. Another exciting change beginning this year is that all categories are open to all languages for work that was broadcast, aired digitally, released or transmitted initially and primarily in the U.S. and its territories.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is the sentiment we feel when hearing some of our favorite radio commercials from years past and the anticipation of who will become a finalist in 2021. Take a few moments, and may we suggest you delve into the Radio Mercury Awards Audio Library, press play, close your eyes and remember the feeling you had when you first listened to Wieden+Kennedy’s work for Old Spice, Fitzco’s “Share a Coke” campaign for The Coca-Cola Company, DDB’s “Real Men of Genius” for Anheuser-Busch, Motel 6’s “We’ll Leave the Light on for You” commercials by The Richards Group or the Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the Room” spots spanning across different agencies.

In short, the Radio Mercury Awards’ legacy and their future shine bright – as long as creatives continue to produce great audio work. The Radio Mercury Awards will be there to award and honor them. If you’ve created a spot you’re proud of lately or have heard a great one – we encourage you to enter it in the competition or to urge your colleague to do so today!  

The Radio Mercury Awards, the only competition exclusively devoted to radio and audio, was established in 1992 to encourage and reward the development of effective and creative radio commercials. The annual Radio Mercury Awards competition draws entries from advertising agencies, production houses, radio stations and educational institutions across the country. The Radio Creative Fund (RCF), a nonprofit corporation funded by the radio industry, governs the Radio Mercury Awards. The Radio Advertising Bureau produces the Radio Mercury Awards.

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