Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Make Up Your Mind to Be Happy"

For too many people, especially in our prosperous society, the euphoria of a Christmas celebration centered not on Christ but on consumerism often gives way to gnawing discontent, disappointment, and depression.

These, in turn, lead some to resolve to change their thinking and its consequent behavior in the new year.

Jesus taught that "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," and cautioned His disciples that they could not serve two masters, God and money. Inevitably one must take precedence over the other.

Reminding us of God's love, He exhorted: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you."

* * * * *

Robert Louis Stevenson died at 44 years of age. For most of those 44 years, Stevenson endured poor health and a great deal of physical suffering.

Yet he bequeathed to succeeding generations a literary legacy that has lifted our spirits and enriched our souls.

Many years ago I encountered a brief paragraph penned by Stevenson, summarizing his thoughts on happiness, and was moved to copy and frame his words.

As 2009 winds to a close, may I share them with you?
"Make up your mind to be happy. Learn to find pleasure in simple things. Make the best of your circumstances. No one has everything, and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with gladness of life. The trick is to make the laughter outweigh the tears.

Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't think that somehow you should be protected from misfortune that befalls other people. You can't please everybody. Don't let criticism worry you. Don't let your neighbor set your standards. Be yourself.

Do the things you enjoy doing but stay out of debt. Never borrow trouble. Imaginary things are harder to bear than real ones.

Since hate poisons the soul, do not cherish jealousy, enmity, grudges. Avoid people who make you unhappy.

Have many interests. If you can't travel, read about new places. Don't hold post-mortems. Don't spend your time brooding over sorrows or mistakes. Don't be one who never gets over things. Do what you can for those less fortunate than yourself."

I wish you a blessed, truly Merry Christmas.

And I wish you a Happy, truly prosperous New Year.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Meaningful and Memorable Spiff for Meeting a Radio Advertising Sales Goal

The Friday Poll question at Radio Sales Café last week was: "What is the most meaningful or memorable spiff you've ever received as a salesperson? What did you do to earn it?"

The question brought back vivid memories of a formative period in my professional life, and I felt compelled to take time to answer the question in some detail. Here is my reply:

Hands-down, the most meaningful and memorable spiff I ever received took place over three decades ago.

It was sometime during the autumn of 1976. Around the conference table where we held our weekly sales meetings sat all the salespeople, general manager Len, owner Jerry, and sales trainer Jim Williams, with whom we'd just completed an intensive day or two of training.

Jim turned to Jerry and said, "Did you bring it?" Jerry nodded, reached into a pocket, pulled out an envelope and extracted from it a $1000 bill. Jim asked him to pass it to the person next to him, and so forth, stressing that each individual at the table should spend a few moments handling (he may have said "fondling") the unusual bill. I'd never seen one before, and I'm sure there was a silly smile on my face as I examined the bill with President Grover Cleveland's image on it.

Amidst the ooohs and ahhhs, Jim said: "Sell one 'standard month' in the next 60 days and this is yours."

I no longer recall whether a standard month was $5000 or $10,000 run within a 30-day period by a single client. (Do any other RSC members familiar with Williams remember which it was?) But in either case, that kind of sale to a single client represented a ton of money for a station in a town of 26,000 back in 1976. It had never been done before at our stations.

At the time, I was calling on the local Pamida/Gibson discount store and had them on the air using primarily coop dollars. My practice was to call the coop manager at their headquarters in Omaha to find out if they had funds for, say, Black & Decker, Hamilton Beach, West Bend, Skil tools, and so forth. I had learned that many, perhaps most of the stores in the chain were not using the radio coop dollars they'd accrued, so if I went "overboard" on occasion, the funds were typically there to cover the local store's excesses.

Since the holiday season was approaching and most radio coop funds expired at the end of the calendar year, I seized upon what seemed a natural opportunity. I went to the local manager with an ambitious proposal for the months of November and December, easily equal to two of Williams' "standard months." He agreed to sign the proposal on the condition that I secure home office approval for the excessive coop funds. I called my contact at headquarters in Omaha, he said the funds were available. (He also asked me to "go easy." I failed to ask him what that meant.)

So, Gibson's became by far and away the dominant advertiser on the stations those two months, filling the airwaves with exciting reminders to buy electric drills and jigsaws, blenders and crock pots, and all manner of name-brand gifts for Christmas...and I earned two spiffs, one for each of the "standard months." The combination of those spiffs, my regular commission, and a nice tax refund the following spring, enabled me to make the down payment on my first house in April 1977. We moved in just a few days before the birth of our second child.

I wish I could say that the experience was 100% positive, but in truth it was not. My expectation, based on the words that came out of Jim Williams' mouth and seemingly confirmed by my employer, was that the bonus would be a $1000 bill, just like the one we passed around the room. When the time came though, I was paid by check...with the standard withholding and SS deductions taken from the amount of the bonus. As much as I hate to admit it, this was something of a letdown. (Yes, I realize this sounds like niggling.) I'd understood the bonus to be that $1000 bill we passed around; that's what I was expecting!

Now, under the circumstances I didn't complain, of course. In fact, until this moment, only my dear wife has been aware of my disappointment. But I mention it now only because it taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of fulfilling the implicit terms of an agreement, and striving to meet (if not exceed) the legitimate expectations of others grounded in a commitment I've made to them.

So, I am grateful both for the bonus and for the lessons that came with it. And there it is...meaningful and memorable, thirty-three years later!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Getting $$ (Cash, Trade, or Comps) For Social Media Posts? Read This.

Bloggers, Facebookers, Tweeters, and others who receive compensation (cash, trade, comps, etc.) in exchange for publishing product promotions or reviews must disclose this fact, or face the wrath of the Federal Trade Commission.

This is probably something all radio stations and their advertising clients will want to be aware of as they work on integrated promotions. Now, in addition to avoiding payola, lotteries, and the like, you'll need to make sure that any favorable publicity that can be tied to compensation - whether that publicity takes the form of a DJ plug, a comment on the station's website, a blog post, or something you put up on your Facebook fan page or Twitter broadcast - is properly disclosed.

Thanks to the folks at Spokane's The Purple Turtle for bringing this to my attention. You'll find their summary and a link to the 48-page FTC document HERE.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Please, Don't Pass It On.

I am standing with my wife in the checkout line at a client's store this evening.

The checker, a guy in his late 40's to mid-50's, takes money from the customer ahead of us and places it into the till. Suddenly he lurches forward and catches an explosive, sloppy sneeze with his bare hands, wiping his nose with the back of one of them on his way up.

He mutters something about "this darn cold," and begins to check us out.

I am not making this up.

I stare as he picks up items we've placed on the conveyor, scans them, and places them back on the belt for bagging.

Evidently the shock and disbelief on my face fail to register.

I say to him, "Don't they provide you with hand sanitizer?"

"Oh, yeah." He points (taking no further action) toward a three-quarters-full bottle at the right of the cash register. "I've been using it all day."

Mr. Sneeze continues to handle item after item, passing them along with his germs down to the kid bagging groceries, who appears unfazed, oblivious to his fate.

Not wishing to cause a scene - in retrospect, probably a mistake - I say nothing more. My wife writes out a check and away we go.

On the way out, I grab a handful of complimentary disinfecting wipes to clean the cart handle and my hands. The gesture is largely symbolic, but there's not much else one can do at that moment.

On the drive home I recount a similar experience from a number of years ago, during a meeting with an advertiser. I was seated in front of the client's desk when her young grandson, a lad no older than five or six years, approached me from the left side. Just as I turned to acknowledge him, he sneezed right into my face, making no attempt to cover it and leaving me with no time to turn away or shield myself from the wet blast. The cold that little bugger shared with me was particularly nasty, and lasted several weeks. I don't think I'll ever forget that sneeze.

I am determined to protect my family and myself from whatever Mr. Sneeze is spreading around. As soon as we get home, I fill a little pump spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol and proceed to disinfect: 20 containers of yogurt, two packages of ground beef, two squashes, two packages of mushrooms, and a carton of cole slaw.

Meanwhile, the checker's words keep going around in my head.

"This darn cold," he said.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Social Networks and Business 101 for Radio Advertising Professionals

Thanks to Eric Rhoads at Radio INK Magazine for sharing on Facebook this article by social media expert Soren Gordhamer posted recently at It's an insightful and incisive piece on the new opportunities - and pitfalls - that sooner or later will confront all of our radio station clients and everyone else in business, thanks to the inexorable growth and influence of social networks.

Gordhamer touches on four broad shifts that will have a profound effect on the way we do business:

1. From "Trying to Sell" to "Making Connections" Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube have exploded into our daily lives with powerful repercussions. They're redefining how we establish and maintain successful customer relationships, without the limitations formerly imposed by time or geography.

2. From "Large Campaigns" to "Small Acts" Word-of-mouth used to take days, weeks, months, or years to have an impact. Today, thanks to instant communications via the social networks, a small flame can become a raging fire in a matter of minutes. No wonder CEOs, owners, and top-level officers are increasingly engaging their customers directly via Twitter, Facebook, or the company blog. (Most radio stations have integrated these channels into their own websites - or soon will - and AE's with an eye to the future are also helping their advertising clients navigate these waters.)

3. From "Controlling Our Image" to "Being Ourselves" Public scrutiny is a fact of life for a businessperson. The old model suggested a wall of separation between a company and its customers. Forget it. That wall is crumbling and is being replaced by the new paradigm: transparency. Might as well roll up your sleeves, let down your hair, get comfortable in your own skin and let people see you for who you are. This is not to suggest becoming artificially casual or sloppy, or to jettison the professionalism customers have come to expect. But you - and your clients - are also human beings, with a life beyond work. Don't be afraid to share that part of you, also.

4. From "Hard to Reach" to "Available Everywhere" Having a telephone number and an email address is fast becoming not-good-enough. Customers increasingly want to be able to reach you on their terms (read: favorite channel - Twitter, Facebook, et al) and they're spending their time - and money - with companies that get this.

Put on your customer hat for a moment. Think about the last time you researched a purchase online - at Amazon, say, or Cabelas, or some other big player - especially for a new and/or expensive item. Did you check out the customer reviews? Were you influenced by them? (Most consumers say "yes" and "yes.") User feedback on eBay falls into the same category. Do your advertisers make it easy for their customers to provide open feedback? This is no passing fad or light option; it's the wave of the future.

We really do care what others think, say, and do. Today, even a stranger's experience can have a significant effect upon our own decisions and behavior as consumers. And strangers can quickly become friends, fans, consultants or customers.

Success in business will become ever more dependent upon the quality of interactions with customers and prospects, experiences that are no longer confined to stores and offices.

Welcome to the future.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Opportunity for Any Station in Any Market

Take the total population of your market or listening area. Divide that number by 365.

The result equals the average number of birthdays taking place in your market every day. The actual number obviously will be lower on some days, higher on others. But the point is, every day represents an opportunity to wish some of your listeners a Happy Birthday.

It's easy enough to start a WXXX Birthday Club - have your listeners register via email or a form on your website - and give them some recognition on the air and online.

You might even draw one name each day to win a birthday prize: a cake, a birthday meal, a special gift, etc. - traded in whole or part with advertisers who help sponsor the promotion.

Fun, simple to execute, and it likely would mean a lot to each day's celebrants. What's not to like about that!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Just How Gullible Do They Think You Are?

I've seen my share of pathetic ploys to create store traffic through the use of important-sounding esoteric headlines ("Emergency Inventory Abatement"), but the one I received in this afternoon's mail takes the prize:

Bad enough it's billed as a "Private Sale," seeing as how it's addressed "Resident" and coded ECRWSS (USPS abbreviation for "Enhanced Carrier Route Walking Sort Saturation") - in other words, everyone in town is on the mailing list. Reminds me of the furniture store that once advertised on its readerboard sign, "PRIVATE SALE - PUBLIC INVITED."

The second paragraph reads: "In the very near future we will be announcing the decision to conduct a REMERCHANDISING RELINQUISHMENT. In order to complete this enormous task, we must empty the building for new incoming merchandise."

The insult, of course, is that the advertiser is counting on the naivete or gullibility of x-number of recipients to lead them to believe that this is a rare opportunity to take advantage of the advertiser's vulnerable position.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Politically Correct Advertising

Five candidates were vying for an open seat on the Washington State Legislature in the recent primary election, held August 18th. Washington being a vote-by-mail state, ballots were sent out at the end of July, giving voters several weeks to make their choice. One of the quirky and somewhat controversial aspects of our primary is that the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. This particular race was among four Republicans and one Democrat. I am pleased to report that the candidate whose radio advertising I was asked to handle, ended up cinching the top spot by a comfortable margin over the second-place finisher, another Republican, whose late husband had occupied this particular seat in the legislature until his battle with terminal cancer forced him to vacate the position. The individual appointed to fill the remainder of his term, a former state legislator himself, chose not to run again.

My recommendation to my client was to start early and advertise consistently. Given the size of our sprawling district - larger than the state of Connecticut - we had several radio markets to cover. The plan was to introduce the candidate, her background and qualifications, and then build the campaign around the endorsements of people throughout the district who know and support her candidacy.

I did not want to use prepared scripts and risk having the individuals sound stilted and artificial, which is often the case when asking people to read from a printed page words that are not their own. Rather, I chose to interview - in person or over the phone - the people whose endorsements might be meaningful to voters. Most of these interviews lasted from ten or fifteen minutes; some took considerably longer. I had prepared a list of questions designed both to keep the conversation focused and to elicit meaningful answers. But we kept the conversation open enough so that each individual might have ample opportunity to share his or her insights.

As all experienced writers and producers well know, the greatest challenge (and the real work) is in the editing. I'm not referring simply to removing pauses, stumbles, "uhs" and all the little mouth noises - the saliva clicks, plosive pops, excessive sibilance and clipping - though this is certainly a part of the process, and can require scores of individual edits. Rather, I'm talking about the choice of which ideas, words and phrases to keep, which ones to leave out, and how best to combine them to convey the intended message clearly and effectively. It is painstaking and time-consuming; one might devote several hours of concentrated effort to the creation of a single one-minute spot. But this investment of time and effort often makes all the difference when it comes to the end result.

I created seven commercials for my candidate's primary election effort. Most of them went through several revisions and refinements, based on input from the client and her campaign staff. We ran them sequentially, each airing exclusively for a few days before being replaced by the next.

One of the ironies of the outcome of this primary race (to me, anyway) was that the candidate who theoretically should have conducted the most effective broadcast campaign, given his background in television journalism, his current position in marketing and communications, and his campaign promise to be, in his words, "your communications warrior" came in a distant fifth of the five candidates. He did his own radio spots, in which he sounded quite confident (some thought perhaps a bit cocky) that he was the man for the job. But his strategy, as embodied by his radio schedule, proved anemic. He ran ads (fairly heavily) for just two days during the entire campaign: the day the ballots were received in the mail, and again several weeks later, on the Monday before the election. By contrast, the top two contenders' radio campaigns were much more consistent.

Ultimately, my candidate's greater reliance on radio proved the best overall plan. Even her main competitor acknowledged this, specifically citing her radio campaign: According to a newspaper report:
Pat Hailey, republican candidate for the 9th District House position, said Fagan is likely in the lead because she spent more money and had an extensive radio advertising campaign.
Music to my ears.
Here are the seven spots from that campaign:

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Death in the Family

I've been thinking a lot about death lately.

As a rule, we don't much care to think about death, let alone talk about it. As with politics and religion, death is a subject unsuitable for polite conversation - or so the conventional wisdom would have it.

Still, we're all headed there, aren't we? We may not have a clue as to how or when, but we all recognize that death is the inevitable terminus.

For the Christian death is not something to be feared. Absent from the body means face-to-face with Jesus Christ, forever. No more sorrow; no more tears; no more pain. These are the burden of the living.

Which brings me back to why I've been thinking a lot about death lately: a number of people close to me have been dealing with it personally.

A friend of ours traveled back to Minnesota this week to speak at her dad's memorial service. She'd gone back to see him a couple months earlier when he was in hospice care, knowing that it would be the last time they'd be together this side of heaven. In fact, their parting words to one another were, "See you in heaven." They meant it, and their heartfelt smiles were soul-deep.

My parents are in their 80's. Both have had major health problems in recent years; my mom in particular is in fragile condition. I hope to fly them out for a visit this fall. It could be the last time I see either of them on this earth. We know this and accept it as a part of life. Parents naturally expect their children to outlive them.

But it doesn't always fall out that way.

This past Sunday a good client and friend of ours lost his son, a successful physician just 47 years old, in a tragic accident on a lonely stretch of highway in east Texas. The young doctor and his family were on their way back from his wife's brother's wedding, traveling in two cars. One of the children had to use the bathroom, so they pulled off to the side of the road and father and son got out of the car.

The driver of a semitruck traveling in the opposite direction saw the cars and swerved to avoid them. The father barely had time to push his son out of harm's way, before being struck by the truck. He died instantly.

My family and I learned about this on Monday and since then have not ceased to pray for the loved ones left behind: his wife, their three children (ages 3-7), and our client and friend, the victim's father.

We all face adversity from time to time. We all have problems. Often we're preoccupied with them. Or we focus on them to the point of being nearly consumed by them.

Then we run into someone facing a real tragedy and suddenly our problems are put into perspective. A perspective we should have had all along.

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all." Psalm 34:19. God has not promised us exemption from the trials and exigencies of life, but He has promised us deliverance.

According to I Corinthians 10:13, God promises to limit the testing we face to what we can bear. (Note: it's not what we think we can bear, but what He knows we can bear. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Furthermore, He already knows the outcome. So the testing is for our benefit, not His.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

What does this have to do with radio, advertising, or business?

Only everything.

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month

Just finished producing a couple spots for a local independent insurance agency, their contribution to a national effort to raise public awareness of the importance of having life insurance.

I have to admit, this month-long industry observance was not on my radar prior to last week. But, in the client's words, Life insurance awareness month is something I feel strongly about and I hope we can educate the public via these ads.

Face it, life insurance doesn't make for glamorous advertising. Neither do automobile tires. But both are high-priority items where one's family's safety and security are concerned.

Donny Wahlberg is one of this year's national spokesmen for Life Insurance Awareness Month. Here's a link to his video on You Tube.

For my radio friends with insurance agency clients who may wish to invest in a little advertising with you yet this month, to promote Life Insurance Awareness Month, here are a couple of produced spots you're welcome to use as idea starters, or even just download and tag with your client's information. (A favor? Just let me know if you find them helpful.)

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month #1

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month #2

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reaching Out to International Students via Radio

Living in a college town, we see quite a few international students here during the school year.

A few years back one of my clients, a medical clinic, challenged me to come up with a radio spot to reach out to these internationals, hoping to attract them (and their families) as new clients.

With a bit of probing, I was able to determine that the predominant cultures/languages among these foreign students were Hispanic, Chinese, and Arabic (not necessarily in that order). I thought it might be fun to record some of these students speaking in their native tongue, a "welcome" message to their peers. But where would I find them? And how would I be able to communicate with them?

I broached the situation with another client, who owns a popular coffee house on campus. He indicated that he'd have no trouble locating some suitable candidates - students who were bi-lingual and would enjoy helping. There was no budget for all this "talent," but the clinic's administrator did offer to buy fancy espresso drinks for the participants. So, we arranged a day and time to meet together at the coffee shop for a group recording session.

The day came, the group assembled, and everything clicked. As a bonus, a young professor originally from Poland, who happened to be in the coffee shop just then, appeared to be quite interested in our little production. She was quickly pressed into service as an "extra."

The kids were cooperative, patient, and seemed to enjoy "starring" in the project. Afterwards they all received a copy of the MP3 to send to the folks back home.

The resulting :30-second commercial pleased the client well enough that the clinic has trotted out this spot at the beginning of the school year every year since. Here's the spot:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ode to a Luminous Legume

Every year around this time, I enjoy working with Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson - a broadcast professor at the Edward R. Murrow School of Communications at Washington State University and longtime stadium voice of the WSU Cougars - as we collaborate on the new radio commercials for The National Lentil Festival, held here in Pullman the weekend before classes begin. I write the copy, Glenn provides his distinctive baritone pipes, and I mix down the final production. Over the years, our work has won awards from national and international festival organizations - but more importantly, has helped to draw thousands to enjoy the festivities.

As this year marks the festival's 21st anniversary, I thought it might be fun to play with the idea of what the typical 21-year-old does to celebrate the milestone birthday. This led to the use of the word squiffy, possibly for the first time on American radio.

A couple years ago I decided to give Tase T. Lentil a voice (mine, digitally manipulated), singing his own jingle, and we've trotted it out again for another run.

The Festival has long relied on local radio to get the word out. In recent years, radio stations in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana also have been invited to air spots in exchange for receiving "lentil loot" (t-shirts, posters, wine glasses, lentils, recipes, etc.) to give away to their listeners, extending the campaign into regions that would not otherwise be reached.

Here are a couple of this year's spots.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Punk Marketing Manifesto

Just discovered these punk marketing guys earlier in the week. Dove into Richard Laermer's substantial marketing/PR blog and poked around the website, where I came across their "Punk Marketing Manifesto" - Their subject is brands. As radio advertising sales professionals, we are brands to our clients. They, in turn, are brands to their customers. With this in mind, here are a few pearls from the Manifesto:

#1: "AVOID RISK AND DIE: In times of change the greatest risk is to take none at all." The greatest rewards go to the risk-takers who refuse to be intimidated by adversity and press on with their eyes on the objective. When confronted by enemy artillery firing at his advancing troops, Patton's typical response was not to retreat or take cover, but to advance rapidly toward the enemy. Experience had taught him that the enemy most often underestimated the distance to be closed, leading them to overshoot their mark. Patton's aggressiveness saved many American lives. He covered more ground, liberated more cities, killed or captured more of the enemy, and turned in fewer casualties than his peers. The greatest accomplishments in any field - including sales and business - usually involve calculated risk-taking.

Related to risk, #3: "TAKE A STRONG STAND: Trying to be all things to everyone...inevitably results in meaning little of interest to just about everybody." How often do advertisers ask us to throw everything but the kitchen sink into their advertising messages, diluting them to the point of ineffectiveness? "The commercial sounds great. But could you put my phone number in at the end? And my store hours? And that we have a combined 37 years of experience? And..." You have to say No. For the client's sake and that of the campaign. Remember Roy Williams' nine-word dictum: The Risk of Insult is the Price of Clarity.

Related to taking a stand, #7: "MAKE ENEMIES: All brands need to position themselves against an alternative." Roy's dictum again. Uncover and focus on your strengths; let the rest go. Your presentations and results will be the better for it.

I've ordered Laermer's books and am looking forward to delving into them. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Patient Radio: Actual Illness or Acute Hypochondria?

My old college friend Carl commented on this brief post I made on Facebook:

Just read: "To provide a significant boost to your happiness, force your face into a smile and hold the expression for 20 seconds." From "59 Seconds. Think a Little, Change a Lot."

The reference is to a book review I read in the London Telegraph's online edition. I tend to be wary of those who take "the power of positive thinking" to an extreme and read their advice with a healthy dose of skepticism. But what I read of the book in the reviewer's article seemed practical and sensible. For instance: can ward off potential liars by closing your eyes and asking them to put their comments in email.
Next time you attend an important meeting, obtain a quick and easy psychological advantage by sitting in the middle of the group.

Practical advice.

Then my friend Carl posted his succinct comment: Surprising how easily we can change some things if we choose. Two things we can control- our attitude and our actions.

My immediate application was personal. I reflected on how easily one can fall into the trap of fretting over things he can't control, while neglecting the things he can control.
We attempt to look at life through the wrong end of the telescope and it warps our perspective.

Attitude and action. We can't control them in others, we may not be able to control our circumstances, but we most certainly can choose to control what we think, say, and do.

The radio industry hasn't been exempted from the economic slowdown but generally speaking, the mom-and-pop broadcasters on Main Street are faring much better than their mega-chain counterparts who hitched their wagons to Wall Street. Despite all the challenges that confront us as we attempt to ascertain our role in the emerging new media landscape of social networks, smartphones, Ipods, and Internet radio, it's silly to think that somehow there will be no place left for local radio.

Balderdash. Horsepucky.

The shape and capabilities of the receiver may change, but the listener's desire, need, or capacity for the unique companionship and sense of place provided by the people on the other side of that receiver remains as strong as ever.

It's bad enough to have to deal with real ills. Why add the burden of imaginary ones?

Attitude and action. Two things we can control.

It's time to get a grip.

Go out and serve someone. Help a client. Fill a need. Make yourself useful.

And if you need to, take 20 seconds to hold a smile.

It doesn't hurt a bit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Harness the Power of a Five-second Commercial

I sold my first five-second radio commercials back in 1975. (For the record, that's thirty years before Clear Channel would proclaim "Less Is More" and with great fanfare begin offering five-second "adlets" or two-second "blinks." Twitter founder Jack Dorsey had not yet been born. Heck, Al Gore hadn't even invented the Internet, though he may have been toying with the idea. But I digress.)

I started selling five-second ads because a legendary radio sales trainer taught me how effective they could be. He wasn't alone. The Radio Advertising Bureau also reported that some stations were having success with what they called "eight-word ads."

There are at least three advantages to shorter ads:

1) They force the ad writer to craft a clear, concise message. There's no room for "fat" in a five-second ad.

2) It's much easier for a listener to comprehend, retain, and recall a short message in its entirety. It's in-and-done before the listener can even react to it! (Stick around and I'll share with you a powerful technique for demonstrating this effectively to a prospect.)

3) Because five-second ads cost less than :30's or :60's, the advertiser's budget buys him greater frequency (more repetition of his message).

Short ads can be deployed to trip the recall switch, reminding the listener of something he's heard about in greater detail in a longer commercial. Think of this technique as "clutter busting" - referring not so much to the other ads on your station as to all of the messages that bombard us daily everywhere we turn, from computer monitors and cell phones to the chatter of our co-workers, from in-store POP to ads on public benches, buses, billboards, and buildings, television, newspaper, magazines. While there may be disagreement as to how many advertising messages we see or hear in each day, we can agree that there's plenty of competition for a listener's attention. We live in an age when distractions are plentiful.

So, let's say you've sold your client a schedule of :30's or :60's to get the word out about his big store-wide sale. His commercials include a number of price-and-item illustrations, maybe a special financing offer, prize drawings, and so forth. Let's imagine that he's running ten commercials a day for ten days, and these ads are scheduled to run between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Assuming even distribution, he's running one ad every 78 minutes.

By adding just ten five-second ads per day to his schedule, you've doubled his frequency, cutting the time between exposures in half. Add another ten and now your listeners are being reminded about his sale every 26 minutes. The marginal cost of the additional five-second ads has tripled his frequency!

All other factors being equal, this advertiser is going to enjoy better results from his buy on your station, which ought to bring him back for more.

Sometimes longer ads aren't even necessary. It's quite possible to build an entire campaign around five-second ads exclusively. I have a client who for many years has sponsored the weather update following network news at the top of the hour. His five-second message - usually a positioning statement, but occasionally a call-to-action - runs once an hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For all intents and purposes, his advertising message reaches the station's entire audience.

Every listener, every day.

Think about that. How many of your advertisers can claim with reasonable certainty to reach every single listener on your station during the course of a day or a week, let alone all year long? It's terrific exposure, and much easier for an advertiser to achieve and afford with a five-second ad.

The proliferation of satellite-delivered syndicated programming has all but eliminated the flexibility most stations once enjoyed when it came to scheduling commercials. If your station does all its own programming, consider yourself fortunate, indeed. You still have the freedom, or at least the potential, to schedule ads of any length, in any combination, at any time. The world is your oyster. Go for it. Stations whose programming comes via a bird in the sky have little choice but to fill fixed-length breaks with fixed-length ads at fixed times, with few opportunities for deviation from the :30/:60 standard. It might be worth sitting down with your Program Director and asking him to identify any possibilities for running short ads (such as the :05 weather sponsorship mentioned earlier).

If you are able to identify and secure the appropriate inventory, and you're ready to put it to work for an advertiser, here's a technique you can use to demonstrate to your prospective client the power of a five-second ad:
First, write the copy. Create the actual message that you're going to propose the client run for this campaign. Take the time to make it a good one. (I recall this Jim Williams classic: "Don't Make a $500 Mistake. Bob's Used Cars.")

When you're sitting across from the prospect, tell him, "I'd like you to help me with a little experiment." Pause. Make sure you have his undivided attention. Then, read the five-second copy aloud, with appropriate feeling.

Read it a second time.

Read it a third time.

Then, ask him to repeat what you just read.

In most cases, he'll repeat it verbatim without hesitation.

"You've just demonstrated the power of a five-second ad. I read it to you only three times and already you have it memorized, the whole thing."

Rehearse the advantages of the five-second ad with him:
1) forces lean, concise copy;
2) more easily understood, retained, and recalled by the listener (as he just demonstrated)
3) allows more frequency within a given budget

Then, present your proposal. Make the sale. And enjoy the results.

More than three decades ago, I used to drive the 55 miles between Winona and Rochester, Minnesota, two or three times a week. One Sunday I tuned in to Chicago's WGN (720 AM) and kept it there to hear what was happening in my old hometown. I don't remember the name of the host (though as I recall he had the most wonderfully soothing rich bass voice), but to this day I do remember two ads that he read live, several times each, during the course of my commute:
"Seven-Up, the Uncola. Chicagoland's Number One Refresher."

"Chapped Lips Need Blistex. Buy Blistex."

I swear, I never intended to memorize them. It just happened.

Like magic.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Share Your Radio Station-Produced Entry to the Mercury Awards...

Patrick Cleary is upset with the Radio Advertising Bureau. In an article in this morning's RBR, the president of Lost Coast Communications, Inc., parent of Ferndale, CA stations KHUM, KWPT and KSLG-FM isn't mincing words as he shared his displeasure over there being no Radio-Mercury Award for Radio Station-produced commercials this year.

As you've probably read or heard by now, the final round judges (all agency folks) determined that the quality of this year's station entries wasn't good enough to pass muster, so they invoked a Mercury rule that allows them to drop the category and award no station prize this year.

Ouch, that stings.

I share Mr. Cleary's disappointment. As an annual RMA entrant since 2004 (with two horses in this year's race), the judges' decision took the wind out of my sails, too. It took me a couple of days to adjust to it. I called Meghan Buonocore at the RMA headquarters in NYC shortly after receiving the finalists announcement on May 21st, to ask her what was going on. She said that the judges had "raised the bar" and none of the station entries measured up this year. End of story.

Disappointed as I was (and am) at the absence of radio station representation from this year's Mercury competition, I cannot bring myself to endorse Mr. Cleary's call to withdraw from the RAB.

Yes, the organization has its share of weaknesses and inconsistencies (who doesn't?) - as, for instance, its clarion call to stations to write and produce superior commercials, while at the same time providing its own members who come looking for ideas with cliché-ridden pap that ought to have been rejected upon receipt, let alone archived to spread around the industry like a bad cold.

Nevertheless, I believe the RAB's strengths outweigh its shortcomings. As I posted earlier, their offer of a personal membership is something I'd been wanting for a long time, and I jumped at the chance to acquire my own. Even if the RAB were to purge its archives of the stuff that doesn't measure up to its lofty aspirations, there would remain an extensive body of valuable research and creative inspiration, of significant benefit to radio advertising sales professionals and their clients.

That said, Mr. Cleary's message deserves a thoughtful response from RAB's leadership. Some of radio's best and brightest are unhappy with what they perceive as a cold shoulder from the very organization that should be their champion, their advocate, their friend.

Meanwhile, I suspect lots of radio folks would enjoy hearing the Radio Station-produced entries that were submitted to this year's Mercury awards. I know I would. So, over at Radio Sales Café we've created a special forum where station producers can upload their entries to share with others in the broadcast community.

Here's my introduction to that forum:

"The Risk of Insult is the Price of Clarity." - Roy Williams (The Wizard of Ads)

OK, so I'm going to take the plunge and post the two commercials I submitted for this year's Radio-Mercury Awards competition (links below).

They're not stunningly produced, but I believed the copy was sufficiently engaging (it certainly was from the clients' perspective) to be airworthy, if not competition-worthy.

Though, frankly, I'd hoped at least one of them would make it into the finals, even if I didn't expect either of them to win the prize.

I have been supporting the Radio-Mercury Awards since 2004, the year I first entered any of my work into competition. I was surprised and humbled when I learned that my submission had won the Radio Station-Produced award that year. But I was also encouraged by it and determined to improve the quality of all my work.

The following year I entered 5 or 6 spots; one of them was chosen as a finalist. Each year thereafter I've entered at least one or two spots, though I will admit that none has equaled my 2004 entry (which, by the way, is still running on the air as part of a multi-spot campaign for the client, and still producing measurable results for him). Nonetheless, I've thought it important to support radio's premier advertising competition, to continue to raise the bar for our industry and advertisers.

On May 21st I received the email from RAB announcing the finalists and immediately noticed, to my great dismay, the absence of any station-produced finalists. A telephone call to Meghan Buonocore at the RMA headquarters confirmed this, and I have to confess, it took me a day or two to come to grips with the judges' decision.

As one of the early round judges this year, I had an opportunity to hear what I considered some good examples of station-produced advertising. (Listening to the best of them cemented the realization that my own entries weren't likely to win, place, or possibly even show.) It surprised me to see none of them emerge as finalists.

After reflecting on the situation, my biggest personal takeaway was a resolve to do better work next time. But I can understand, and to a certain degree share the feeling expressed by other radio station folks that maybe the playing field for radio work wasn't completely level.

That's water under the bridge now.

I'd like to urge the RAB - Radio Creative Fund to consider balancing the final round panel of judges, by including representatives from the radio side, and not solely the agency side, to avoid the appearance of elitism.

To the extent that this year's RMA competition has been tainted by the wholesale exclusion of the Radio Station-produced category, the RAB would do well to reach out to its station members to answer any questions, address their concerns, and attempt to make next year's RMA a happier occasion for everyone in radio.

So now, let's hear what you did!

Friday, June 12, 2009

An Offer You Can't (or Shouldn't) Refuse...

When I learned that the Radio Advertising Bureau has begun to offer personal memberships, I could hardly wait to sign up.

At $210 a year, it's a bargain.

$210 a year. $4.04 a week. About the price of a 20-ounce Espresso drink. Or a Happy Meal.

For a veritable treasure trove of research and resources quite likely unsurpassed by any other advertising organization.

The RAB's vast archives contain tools to make creating and selling radio advertising easier, more productive, and more likely to generate results for radio advertisers.

Now, I've not agreed with everything RAB has said or promoted over the years. Decades ago, they often seemed to reflect and reinforce Radio's inferiority complex, the idea that the highest and best use of our medium was in a supporting role to print or TV, as part of a media mix. (If the ad buy were a martini, Radio was the vermouth or the olive.)

But gradually the RAB reflected a growing confidence in our medium, i.e., that Radio as a primary medium was capable of carrying 100% of the weight of a campaign and make it work!

Beginning with radio sales trainer Jim Williams, his protegés Chris Lytle, Chuck Mefford, Darrell Solberg...along with folks like Sean Luce, Dave Gifford, Jim Taszarek, Paul Weyland, and Jerry Frentress...and more recently Norton Warner, Jeff Dostal, Michael Tate and Matt Hackett, radio advertising sales professionals have had unparalleled opportunities to understand and unleash the unlimited potential of our medium. Support from the ad creation side has come from folks like Roy Williams, Dan O'Day, Jeffrey Hedquist, and others (watch for a guy named Doug Zanger to be making big radio waves in coming years). I'm sure there are many more I've failed to name (Jason Jennings just came to mind).

The point is, for many years now the RAB has been leveraging the talents of these folks and others for the good of our radio team and every last player.

$4.04 a week ought to be impossibly attractive, like the sizzle and smell of a prime ribsteak on a bed of hot coals (sorry ... it's Friday dinnertime and I'm fantasizing).

Personally, I was thrilled to be able to secure a personal RAB membership, for my benefit and ultimately the benefit of my clients.

Eric Rhoads, publisher of RadioINK, wrote a thought-provoking piece in which he expressed his concern for the future of RAB, which is facing cutbacks in the support it typically has enjoyed from the largest broadcast groups. They recently (and undoubtedly painfully) announced layoffs that included veterans George Hyde and Mike Mahone, themselves champions of education and training for thousands of radio advertising salespeople.

Whatever the reality of their present circumstances, of this much I'm certain: every membership matters to RAB.

Please consider supporting them with yours.

Thank you!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

$8000+ Advertising Workshop Sells for $1.29 on eBay

I was a little surprised to see the folks at Aria offering their "How to Advertise in a Tough Economy" workshop on eBay to the highest bidder.

Billed as an "Economic Stimulus Package" for radio stations, the workshop is said to have a value of between $8000 and $25,000, depending on market size.

I was more than a little surprised to see the final bid: $1.29.

Perhaps business isn't as bad as some folks are saying it is.

Or...maybe it's worse?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

$2500+ for Thirty Seconds: "Don't Tax That Dial!"

The NAB has announced a contest, open to all over-the-air U.S. broadcast radio stations, to create a thirty-second political spot encouraging defeat of the so-called "performance tax" on radio stations. The (mainly foreign-owned) record industry, represented by the RIAA, is trying to compensate for a failing business model by levying a fee on radio stations that play music, utterly destroying the symbiotic relationship that has existed for many decades, to the mutual benefit of artists, stations, and listeners.

According to an article in RADIO magazine:
The winning entry will be awarded $2,500 and be recognized at The 2009 NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia. Additionally, airfare, hotel accommodations and complimentary NAB Radio Show registration for two will be provided to the winning entry. Entries for the competition, open to over-the-air U.S. broadcast radio stations, must be submitted to the NAB no later than 11 p.m. EDT on July 31, 2009. Stations must complete a Political Agreement Form and place it in the political portion of their public file for a period of two years. Complete rules, guidelines and supporting material can be found on the NAB website

OK, so here's an idea: invite several of the station's best clients to participate in the effort personally. Presumably these advertisers have a vested interest in the continued existence and health of the station, their valued marketing partner. So, they talk about the station's importance to them, both as listeners and as advertisers, and urge their fellow listeners to contact their legislators to reject the Performance Tax. Advertisers enjoy some additional exposure, reinforcing their ties with the station and its listeners, and the station gets the message out in a "bigger" way.

Everybody wins.

In fact, stations could even sell these opportunities to advertisers (rather than giving them away) - with an offer to share the cost of the schedule in view of the shared benefit. I can think of a few advertisers in our own market who would take advantage of such an offer.

After all, it's essentially cause-related advertising, right?

Only in this case, the cause is us.

Worth considering.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

You Can't Recall the Bullet After You've Pulled the Trigger!

Sent an email to 100 local clients earlier this week, announcing a new format and a chance to win $7200 worth of advertising. I spent over half an hour composing the message, getting it just right, and making sure the two attachments were correct.

As is my practice, I sent the email to my own address as well.

You can only imagine my chagrin when upon opening my confirmation email, I saw (in 18 point type, no less) the name and email address of one of the recipients pasted into the first sentence of my correspondence, breaking the sentence, the flow, and the appearance of the message.

I cringed. I winced. I said bad words.

It looked stupid. I looked stupid. In front of 100 people.

And there wasn't a thing I could do to change it.

However, I couldn't in good conscience let it pass without acknowledging and attempting to correct the mistake, so I sent a follow-up email with the following message and illustration:
"Caution: bullet cannot be summoned back
into gun once trigger has been pulled."
(Rod's lesson for Monday)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Does Not Advertising Mean You're Going Out of Business?

From today's "Radio Sales Today" newsletter, research on how not advertising during a recession can hurt your brand.

The research study, "Advertising's Impact in a Soft Economy," which was undertaken to determine whether stopping advertising during the recession could harm a business, takes an in-depth look at specific consumer perceptions regarding firms that continue to advertise in the current economy, as well as those that do not.

Not advertising can harm brand

Advertising appears to play a key role in consumers' view of how a business is doing, the study found. By not advertising, businesses may be sending a warning signal to current and potential customers, Ad-ology said.

For example, when consumers no longer see/hear advertising from an auto dealership during a down economy, 50 percent say they view the dealership as "struggling." In addition, 19 percent feel these dealers are "less willing to deal," and only 7 percent believe they "must be doing well."

On the other hand, when a dealership advertises during tough times, 34 percent believe the dealership to be committed to doing business.

Consumer perception is similar for stores and banks.

Click on the link for the full article. (Source: Marketing Charts, 05/25/09)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Speaking of Better Radio Ads...

Listening to the finalists in the 2009 Radio-Mercury Awards and reviewing the briefs for the integrated campaigns is as instructive as it is entertaining.

Don't miss the opportunity to gain valuable insights into the inner workings of these million-dollar campaigns. The education is priceless. The tuition, free.

Here's the link.

How to Make Better Radio Ads

Eleven of the top creative directors in the country participated in a round-table discussion in New York recently. They were gathered to judge entries in this year's Radio Mercury Awards, but they took some time after the judging to discuss the disconnect between the growth of Radio's audience (up by 3 million pairs of ears in 2008) and the decline in Radio's ad revenue (down by 9% in 2008).

Andrew Hampp's article in Advertising Age (the online version includes an 8-minute video excerpt from the roundtable) is enlightening and instructive, a valuable read for any radio advertising sales or creative professional.

Toward the end of the video, RAB President Jeff Haley talks about a Houston study by Coleman Research in which researchers observed listener behavior during 92,000 commercial "pods." Haley noted that the "breakaway" (listeners going elsewhere) was just 8%, even in the middle of a lengthy 6-minute break. The majority of listeners stayed with their station.

NOTE: That's not perception; that's measured behavior!

But if you listen carefully to this segment of the video, right after Mr. Haley mentions people listening to 92,000 commercial pods, one of the panelists interjects, "Poor people!"

Why did he say that?

Obviously, because many (if not most) ads on radio are notoriously "bad."
"Radio needs to get better before radio ads can get better," said Crispin's Bill Wright. "When I read a magazine, all the ads don't annoy me. When I watch TV, all the ads don't annoy me. Even when you do a good radio spot, it's still the best-looking house in a bad neighborhood."

There's our problem. And our opportunity. To change, one ad at a time, one client at a time, on stations across America, the quality of the commercials we write and produce.

Radio, as a medium, is powerful, versatile, and personal. It's everything an advertiser could ask for.

But radio advertising needs to improve, to exploit the full potential of our medium, to achieve its highest and best uses in the marketplace.

This is our job, our challenge, and our responsibility as radio advertising professionals. We can't make the industry better apart from making our commercials better. And that, my friend, is an individual operation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What Does It Take to Create Good Radio Advertising?

"Creating great radio ads is hard work
and an acquired skill." - Bob McCurdy

Bob McCurdy is the president of Katz Marketing Solutions, the national marketing unit of the Katz Media Group, a division of Clear Channel Communications.

Right on, Bob!

That statement ought to be printed in 60-point boldface type, framed and posted at the desk of every radio advertising salesperson, sales manager, general manager, operations manager, production director, copywriter, producer, and board op at every radio station in America.

Right next to it should be posted a list of cliches* that from henceforth are banned and must never appear in a radio commercial without severe consequences to the perpetrator or perpetratrix.

Creating good radio commercials is painstaking, time-consuming work.

Anyone undertaking the responsibility of writing advertising for a client must understand the fundamentals of advertising. What works, what doesn't, and why. This information is readily available in books, on CD's, videos, online, in the library.

Writing good advertising involves an investment of time for research, to understand the advertiser's customers, as well as his product/service, market, competition.

It involves think-time, before and during the process of writing, editing, tweaking, refining and polishing, spinning words into gold.

It involves choosing an appropriate spokesman. Extensive casting opportunities may be out of reach for many stations, but thought should still be given as to who should deliver the message. Often the advertisers themselves make great spokespeople (I can hear the protests rumbling from the "professional" bench already. Don't bother. I've been writing for and coaching ordinary folks for years, decades really - with consistent, bankable results for the client! It CAN be done. Just takes a little more time, patience, and perseverance, that's all. Want to hear examples? I can provide you with plenty.)

Great production won't compensate for poor copy. If you can't have both, put your money into the copywriting. Great copy always trumps great production.

Invest in improving the quality of your advertising copy for clients and the inevitable improvement in their results will keep them on the air.

It's just that simple.

And because it is, there's no reason it can't be done.

*Cliches that should be forever banned from radio commercials include:

for all your ______ needs
conveniently located at ___________
the friendly folks at ___________
the professionals at ___________
your ________ headquarters
and much, much more
just in time for ________
like never before
the sale you’ve been waiting for
lowest prices of the year/season/ever
it’s that time of year again
we sell the best and service the rest
our service is second to none
our friendly, knowledgeable staff
you heard it right
it’s happening right now
(Season) is right around the corner

Bob McCurdy's article appeared in Media Post's Marketing Daily Commentary.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Google Radio Redux

The Wall Street Journal's Jessica E. Vascellaro does an excellent job of recapping the rise and fall of Google's moribund radio advertising initiative.

In a nutshell,
Google Inc.'s foray into selling radio ads was supposed to show how its online-advertising brainpower could revolutionize an old-fashioned people business.

The company teamed up with Chad and Ryan Steelberg, brothers who were sharp dressers and wore deep Southern California tans. They had a technology for transmitting, scheduling and tracking radio ads. "Google is going to conquer radio," boasted the exuberant Chad in 2006.

Instead, radio tripped up Google. The company is pulling the plug on its attempt to automate radio-ad sales on May 31, exposing how far Google is from its goal of grabbing a big chunk of the multibillion-dollar business of off-line ad sales.

A look at what went wrong shows that Google misjudged the capacity of its technology to work beyond the Web, and underestimated the human side of the business [emphasis mine]. Radio stations refused to turn over airtime to a computer algorithm that set prices far lower than their own rates. Big advertisers steered clear.

Good story. Good reminder that some things, like human relationships and interactions, are not reducible to automation.

Read the FULL STORY HERE (for as long as WSJ keeps it available to the public):

Friday, May 08, 2009

Radio Works for Constant Contact

Radio advertising works.

And not everyone is hurting these days.

Just ask the folks at Constant Comment, a provider of email marketing services.

Perhaps you've heard their ads running in radio network news broadcasts and syndicated programs.

How are the ads working? According to company President and CEO Gail F. Goodman:

Summarizing our results for the first quarter. Revenue was $28.1 million, an increase of 55% year-over-year and adjusted EBITDA came in at $1.7 million, which was up a 112% on a year-over-year basis.

During the quarter, all of our sales and marketing channels performed well. We believe our national radio advertising campaign helped drive much of the better than expected demand for our email marketing service. Equally important based on the statistical analysis we have recently completed national radio is delivering results within our cost expectations. We expect to continue national radio advertising in the fall following our usual seasonal marketing pullback across all of our acquisition channels during the summer months...

Read the transcript of Constant Contact's 5/7/09 conference call HERE.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009 - A Model for Radio

Wisconsin broadcaster Roger Utnehmer was recently named "Entrepreneur of the Year" by the Door County (WI) Economic Development Corp.

Utnehmer's online newspaper and website have become a model for broadcasters around the world.

Although he is a "radio guy" through and through (including stints as head of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and board member of the Radio Advertising Bureau), the owner of four local radio stations recognized the potential and power of the Internet early on and, unlike many of his peers, embraced it with open arms, an open mind, and sufficient investment of financial and human resources to make it work.

And work it does.
Nicolet Broadcasting, Inc. — owners of WBDK (96.7 FM), WRKU (102.1 FM), WRLU (104.1 FM) and WSBW (105.1 FM) — has made significant capital investment and has experienced above-industry growth and a 400-percent increase in sales since moving its main studios and corporate offices to Door County in 2002. In 2007, Nicolet Broadcasting expanded its coverage in Door County when they introduced WSBW and opened a studio and office in Fish Creek. A recent article in a national broadcast industry trade publication cited Nicolet Broadcasting as one of the 30 best broadcast companies to work for, based on employee training, compensation and future financial security.

And while he certainly knows how to make a buck, he's no miser. Roger's stations donate one :30-second ad PER HOUR, 24/7, to non-profit and charitable causes. And Roger himself is glad to share the things he's learned about success with other broadcasters.

Congratulations, Roger. Thanks for setting the bar high for Radio, and for your willingness to share your ideas and experiences with other broadcasters.

Learn more about Roger's award HERE.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Real Reason Advertisers Are Abandoning Newspaper?

Business columnist and author Geoffrey James returned from a recent Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) confab with a stinging indictment of the newspaper advertising industry.

According to James, the reason newspapers across the country are folding faster than a bad poker hand is not the national economy, but "...that advertisers have finally figured out that newspapers, in collusion with clueless marketers and unscrupulous ad execs, have been fleecing them for decades."

The writer asked a room full of newspaper writers how many of them actually read the ads that appear in their papers.

Fewer than five percent said they did.

This made me wonder, what if a similar question were asked of radio broadcasters? How much higher would our percentage be? (You do listen to the ads on your station, don't you?)

After all, radio advertising is intrusive. When the radio is turned on, the listener can't help but hear the ads. (As someone once said, God's gift to Radio is that He created human beings without earlids.)

Whereas newspaper advertising tends to be passive: ...if the reader happens to open that day's paper to the right section...and if she happens to turn to the right page...and if she happens to notice your ad...she might actually read it.

Or she might not.

James' real problem with newspaper advertising is its lack of measurability and/or accountability. Is it effective? Do you know for sure? How do you know?
The problem with newspaper advertising is that, in most cases, you have NO idea whether anyone is reading an ad, or whether that ad is driving buying behavior. And because nothing is being measured, newspapers and ad agencies have been able to artificially inflate the price of their space ads. Massively.

One way newspapers do this is to simply lie about circulation. For example, it’s not uncommon for a newspaper to claim that each distributed copy is read by 3 or 4 people. But that’s total BS. Many copies of most print publications don’t get cracked even once. And the ones that do, I’ll bet that only a fraction of the content ever actually wins the reader’s eye.

As for the ads themselves, only a tiny fraction of the circulation reads them, and the number of people who take action as result is probably in the single digits. (I’m talking the actual number here, not the percentage.)

Newspapers also cook the books is by setting the value of advertising based upon what other newspapers are asking. As if that made any difference. But it worked, in the past at least, because marketers (many of whom don’t want to be measured anyway) never asked the obvious question: how much revenue will this ad generate?

James is bullish on online advertising because click-throughs can be tracked and ad performance measured with greater accuracy. In this, he echoes Ken Dardis of Audiographics - a former terrestrial radio guy, now SVP of Spacial Audio Solutions, an authority on Internet radio, and an outspoken critic of "business-as-usual" where Radio is concerned. For Dardis, the Internet holds the key to Radio's future, which makes him either a gadfly or an augur - or both, depending on whose ox is being gored at the moment.

Ken Dardis is passionate about Radio, but critical of the status quo. His company recently gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of software and hosting to displaced terrestrial broadcasters willing to start their own Internet radio stations.

In other words, he's walking his talk.

The take-away from all of this, for those of us who make our living as radio advertising professionals, is our responsibility to exert every effort to create advertising that is as effective (and measurable) as we can make it.

We do this by investing as much time and energy as needed to understand our advertisers' objectives, their customers' needs/desires/motivation/buying behavior, and the realities of the marketplace that may affect how they interact. Only then can we begin to write and produce the advertising messages that have what it takes to move people and products.

I remain optimistic about Radio's future. Terrestrial stations and online stations both have a place in the new media landscape. They may differ in their delivery, degrees of accountability, and demographics, but they will still provide valuable information, entertainment, and advertising to their audiences.

Read Geoffrey James' full article here.

This from NPR: "Radio Ads Are a Good Thing!"

It is SO enjoyable to hear Real Radio Ads (A Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" spot, no less!) airing on..."ad-free" National Public Radio.
All Things Considered, April 28, 2009 · Radio offers advertisers the last captive audience.

Radio ads are cheap to produce and buying airtime is inexpensive, too. You can blanket the airwaves with a slogan or jingle in a way you can't with TV.

Warren Berger's forthcoming book is Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life and Maybe Even the World.

Listen to Warren Berger's >enthusiastic evaluation of radio advertising (2 minutes, 50 seconds).

All of us in the radio advertising business ought to appreciate (and emulate) Mr. Berger's enthusiasm!

Thanks to Eric Rhoades for the tip!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sinking the Boat or Missing the Boat?

Much has been written - and is being written (by marketers and economists alike) - on the subject of marketing during a recession.

Today's Small Market Radio Newsletter carried a fascinating New Yorker piece by James Surowiecki on the subject.

Surowieki contrasts the Depression-era responses of two ready-to-eat cereal makers, Post and Kellogg:

Post did the predictable thing: it reined in expenses and cut back on advertising. But Kellogg doubled its ad budget, moved aggressively into radio advertising (emphasis mine), and heavily pushed its new cereal, Rice Krispies. (Snap, Crackle, and Pop first appeared in the thirties.) By 1933, even as the economy cratered, Kellogg’s profits had risen almost thirty per cent and it had become what it remains today: the industry’s dominant player.

Chrysler took the same approach during the Great Depression and in 1933 passed Ford to become the #2 automaker in America, thanks to its aggressive marketing of the Plymouth brand. This gain was not as long-lived as some, but it demonstrates what can be done when a company goes after market share while others are trying merely to preserve what they have.

I was visiting with a new client earlier in the week. He's in the retail furniture business, a category not exactly thriving these days, given the overall economic climate and contraction in the housing market. But he's not hunkering down. He's planning for expansion and growth. He said to me, "We're in a kind of Ice Age now. And you know what an Ice Age is good for? It kills off the dinosaurs!"


Commenting on why many companies are so quick to cut their advertising during an economic slowdown, Surowiecki cites economist Frank Knight's distinction between risk and uncertainty.

Risk describes a situation where you have a sense of the range and likelihood of possible outcomes. Uncertainty describes a situation where it’s not even clear what might happen, let alone how likely the possible outcomes are. Uncertainty is always a part of business, but in a recession it dominates everything...

For businesses that choose to place their bets on minimizing risks and preserving assets in the short-term, cutting back makes sense.

For others, deep pockets or not, the opportunity to chase a bigger slice of the smaller pie, believing that they'll keep the larger share of their market when the economy rebounds (as inevitably it must), is a worthy challenge and a calculated risk.

Surowiecki concludes:

It’s true that the uncertainty of recessions creates an opportunity for serious profits, and the historical record is full of companies that made successful gambles in hard times: Kraft introduced Miracle Whip in 1933 and saw it become America’s best-selling dressing in six months; Texas Instruments brought out the transistor radio in the 1954 recession; Apple launched the iPod in 2001. Then again, the record is also full of forgotten companies that gambled and failed. The academics Peter Dickson and Joseph Giglierano have argued that companies have to worry about two kinds of failure: “sinking the boat” (wrecking the company by making a bad bet) or “missing the boat” (letting a great opportunity pass). Today, most companies are far more worried about sinking the boat than about missing it. That’s why the opportunity to do what Kellogg did exists. That’s also why it’s so nerve-racking to try it.

I am privileged to work with a number of clients who have the ambition, foresight, and fortitude to pursue relentlessly their goal to be the best they can at what they do.

Counterintuitive though it may seem, this is a great time for smart advertising on Radio!

Read the full article here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Women in Sales, Selling to Women

This week's Small Market Radio Newsletter had a short piece by copywriting teacher David Garfinkel entitled, "Women, Business, and Advertising." In it he writes:

One problem is that the sales culture and sales training fields are dominated by men...and we often use war metaphors and battle strategies as the basis for success.

Women, generally speaking, don't think in these terms. (Those who do can be very scary.) The female approach tends to be more collaborative and nurturing.

Reading the piece reminded me of a funny and insightful video presentation by Wisconsin pastor and marriage counselor Mark Gungor on the differences between men's brains and women's brains. If you've not seen it before, enjoy it here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Following the Wall Street Journal's Example

As I type these words, three dozen major newspapers have filed for bankruptcy protection.

Barely four months into 2009 and already several venerable newspapers have gone out of business or moved exclusively to a web-based format.

To drive home Old Smudgy's predicament, a recent Pew Research piece revealed that less than half (43%) of all Americans believe that the loss of their daily paper would have significant repercussions on their communities. Fewer than one-third would personally miss their newspaper greatly if it ceased publication.

Most Americans would simply shrug off the demise of their local newspaper.

But even as much of the newspaper industry is faced with precipitous declines in circulation and advertising revenue, one newspaper has actually been experiencing growth.

If you guessed The Wall St. Journal, advance to Go and collect $200.

According to WSJ Managing Editor Robert Thomson, quoted in parent News Corporation's The Australian , "One of the reasons our core circulations are rising so strongly is because papers around America are diminishing. And whether it's in San Francisco or Los Angeles or Detroit, it creates a tremendous opportunity for us to gain readers who are increasingly internationally aware and also aware of their need to be well informed about the world."

It's worth noting the WSJ's aggressive marketing mindset. They're mindful of the supreme importance of content and are leveraging their leadership and expertise in this area across their various platforms, creating a powerful global brand.

As with other marketers that recognize and seize the opportunities that inhere during a recessionary period, to gain market share at the expense of weaker competitors, the WSJ is exploiting their advantage and moving full speed ahead.

If they can do it, so can you! Assess your competitive strengths, focus your marketing accordingly, muster your troops and take that next hill!

What's stopping you?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Substance vs. Style

Here's an example of a radio commercial that from a distance sounds terrific. Positive, uplifting, even inspiring.

Until you listen to the actual words.

It might make you chuckle, but not without wincing a bit.

Disclaimer: this spot was part of a RAB Sales Meeting of the Month cassette from long ago. Can't remember who the original advertiser was. The last ten seconds of this commercial contained that real bank advertiser's pitch - if you want to do business with an institution that cares, switch to us.

Clever joke back then.

Perhaps not so much today.

Consumer Confidence Linked to Advertising

"Financial Company Ads: Out of Sight ...Out of Business?"

That's the headline on a post at the Nielsen blog.

The article goes on to say, When asked about their own banks, insurance companies and investment firms, 55% of respondents who said they had seen more advertising for their financial institution reported having “complete confidence” in the financial health and soundness of their financial company and only 18% said they had “little or no confidence” in their company.

Companies that maintain or even increase their ad spend during times of economic slowdown often gain market share at the expense of competitors that cut back. When the economy rebounds (as inevitably it will), the aggressive marketer reaps the benefits of that additional market share. Some in the advertising community call this the (Procter and) Gamble strategy; it's sound thinking.

Now there's additional evidence to support the claim that positive PR and advertising go a long way toward preserving familiarity and boosting consumer confidence in an otherwise chaotic environment.

No medium is better suited to fostering this kind of familiarity and confidence than radio.

A competent and caring radio advertising professional can be worth his/her weight in gold to any client who's serious about weathering the present storm and navigating toward a prosperous future.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Radio (Still) Gets Results - an Audio Presentation

The fact that I retrieved this presentation from a cassette tape tells you something about how long ago I put it together. (Hint: it was before we recorded onto flash memory cards, before we emailed MP3's, even before we burned CD's. Seinfeld was airing in prime time, yada-yada-yada.)

Nonetheless, it's worth sharing.

Thinking about the success of Steve and Theresa Myers prompted me to search for this presentation I put together years ago to share some of my clients' success stories with prospective advertisers. It was a local implementation of the RAB's original "Radio Gets Results" initiative.

Back then, I'd ask the prospect to listen to the cassette in the car, driving to or from work. It proved an effective means of establishing credibility with new prospects, and opened many opportunities to help them with their advertising.

Today, a presentation of this sort would likely be posted on a station's website, or maybe uploaded to You Tube.

Running time's about nine minutes, longer than I'd make it if I were doing it today. Folks' attention spans keep getting shorter.

That said, the clients and their stories were/are real.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Myers Auto Rebuild and Towing

It was neat to see my client, Myers Auto Rebuild and Towing, profiled in the March 23, 2009 issue of Radio Ink magazine!

Here's the link to my original post about their successful use of their thirty-second full-sing jingle, "The Client Whose Copy Never Gets Changed."

We should all be so fortunate to have clients like Steve and Theresa Myers.

Another Opportunity for Radio to Shine

May is Military Appreciation Month - providing an opportunity for radio stations and their advertisers to honor local men and women serving in America's armed forces. Five military celebrations take place in May: Loyalty Day (1st) ◊ VE Day (8th) ◊ Military Spouse Appreciation Day (8th) ◊ Armed Forces Day (16th) ◊ Memorial Day (25th)

To help radio stations and advertisers connect with listeners whose family members have served or are serving today to defend and preserve our liberty, Grace Broadcast Sales (GBS) is offering two FREE :60-second radio features for use by any commercial or non-commercial broadcast station in the United States. Each of these one-minute salutes provides approximately :10 seconds at the beginning and :20 seconds at the end for Station or Sponsor inserts.

Audition or download the free spots - and get more information on Military Appreciation Month.

Radio Gets Results - A "Radio Heard Here" Video

Whether you sell radio advertising, use radio advertising, or are thinking about trying radio advertising for your's a short, entertaining video that demonstrates Radio's pervasiveness.

Ironically, Radio's ubiquitous presence may explain why some in the advertising community don't get excited about it. It's not The Next Thing. It's just "there."

As in...


For more detailed information on the effectiveness of Radio as an advertising medium, visit the Radio Ad Lab.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Raiders of the Radio Ad Budget

Ever stopped to count all the different competitors in your market, trying to raid your clients' shrinking advertising budgets?

After posting on the supermarket video ad display yesterday, I thought it might be interesting to compile a list and see how long it gets.

Here's what I've come up with for starters. Please feel free to add to it using the Comments button below.

Newspaper display ads.
Classified ads.
Newspaper inserts and flyers.
Weekly "shoppers" and other print publications.
Cable TV.
Broadcast TV.
Sports programs.
Sports pocket schedules.
Sports schedule posters.
City maps.
Concert programs.
Backs of tickets.
Bumper stickers.
Direct mail.
Door hangers.
Yellow Pages ads.
White Pages ads.
Website banners.
Search ads.
Sponsored links.
Bus stop bench ads.
Airport panel ads.
Hotel window boxes.
Mall kiosks.
Supermarket video displays.
Movie theater ads.
Bowling alley score-sheet ads.
Restaurant menu ads.
Advertising specialties (pens, key chains, etc.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How to Squander a Perfectly Good Ad Budget

Advertising dollars are scarce in the best of times. Competition is always fierce. But in today's economy, can any businessperson afford to squander his limited advertising budget?

You wouldn't think so.

The sheer number of competitors for local ad dollars is matched only by the mind-numbing stupidity of some of these new alternative forms of advertising.

For a couple years now, I've watched and winced as a local grocery store (a client of mine, no less) has made wall space available to an out-of-town company to mount two flat-screen monitors that carry Powerpoint-type video display ads. These monitors are mounted eight feet or so above the ground, spaced 20 or 30 feet apart at the end of the checkout lanes.

I've stood around paying close attention to see if anyone even glances at these things, let alone watches them long enough for an impression to register. Drives me crazy to see all the advertisers they've bamboozled, including a few regular Radio advertisers (and many that have never spent a dime on Radio. Isn't anybody calling on them?)

Here's a view from the vantage point of Suzy Shopper, the captive consumer, standing in line waiting to be checked out. Presumably, instead of watching her groceries being scanned and rung up by the checker, while engaging in a brief, pleasant verbal exchange, Suzy's head will turn 90 degrees and her eyes will be fastened upon the monitor, as she checks out all the wonderful ads. (Assuming it's turned on. It's been dark on more than one occasion.)

Think she'll head right home with all her groceries? Nah, she'll drive to the French restaurant instead. Maybe have a new furnace installed. Or else she'll drop by the real estate agency and shop for a new home.


It's painful to think about all the ad dollars that have been wasted on this garbage "medium." At the same time, it represents an opportunity for a conscientious Radio advertising professional to help a business in dire need of better advice.

What similar opportunities exist at this moment in your market?