Friday, February 27, 2009

Selling Seafood on Radio

OK, I'll say it: I like this spot.

It's the third iteration of a commercial we created a couple years ago to build awareness and increase traffic for the fresh seafood department of a hometown supermarket. We changed some of the copy around late last year and relaunched it at the beginning of the Dungeness Crab season.

Our research identified two consumer touch points for the commercial: product freshness and variety of choice. (Living in a coastal state with a high quality fishery, most consumers have high expectations where both are concerned. Seattle-area restaurants probably set the standard in this area, providing a frame of reference generally shared by local seafood lovers.)

Interviews with the seafood manager yielded details concerning the process and timetable for getting fresh fish and seafood to the store. We decided simply to convey this information as demonstrable proof of the store's assertion that their seafood was, in fact, the freshest available.

Response from listeners and shoppers to the ongoing seafood campaign continues to be favorable. (In fact, the feedback was sufficiently positive that I briefly considered entering the spot into this year's Radio-Mercury Awards competition.)

Looking over my past few posts, I realized that I'd neglected putting up any commercials recently - one of the main purposes of this blog. So, let's fix that now and share a spot for seafood.

I'm ready for dinner.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When Opportunity Knocks

I worked last evening and into the wee hours this morning, composing an email for my radio station clients and prospects. When I was finally satisfied with its contents, I hit "Send."

This morning's incoming mail contained the usual amount of undeliverable mail (email addresses are frequently changed), eight "remove" requests from people who had no use for the ideas I presented, and almost as many "thank-you" messages from broadcasters who genuinely appreciated them.

One reply in particular, from a GSM in a large Florida market, was especially gratifying. It read:

I really liked this email, and if you have no affiliate here in [city], I am very interested. This is exactly what our business needs, honest and bona fide approaches to securing new businesses with IDEAS, genuine ideas. I intend to utilize several of these thoughts in next Monday morning’s sales meeting.
I started this past Monday mornings meeting with my IDEAS FOR SALE lead, and there’s no doubt that even without ratings, advertiser’s are always looking for new ways, new ideas. They may not always be “gems” but at least the seller is making the effort, instead of just waving a package.
Thanks so much for sending. As my years in the business will attest, I am more than certain most of my counterparts will have already rolled their eyes and deleted this correspondence, at least I am hoping they have.
Thanks again,

I replied that it was always a pleasure to meet a kindred spirit. In today's challenging environment, it's refreshing to meet another broadcaster who understands how important it is to invest the time, make the effort, and apply the resources needed to provide advertisers with the ideas and opportunities they need to succeed.

For the record, here's the first part of my email:

Every radio sales trainer and consultant I know is saying the same thing: Stay positive. Stay focused. Cover your bases.

It's certainly no small challenge for those of us who sell radio advertising for a living. We're racking our brains and beating the pavement, trying to help our clients as best we can, while "the news media" (a group that unfortunately includes our own national radio networks) continue to wallow in Bad News. More than a few thinking people have wondered out loud whether the news media aren't merely reporting, but actually contributing to our economic woes.

It's frustrating...

...even more so when we hear about big spenders like Anheuser-Busch and General Motors now demanding 120-day and longer terms for paying their advertising bills...

OK, so there's nothing we can do about the national economy.

But there are many things we can do in our local markets, with our own advertising clients and prospects, to make the best of it.

Many years ago, one of radio's most influential sales trainers taught me THE ONLY THREE WAYS TO GROW A BUSINESS - whether it's a radio station or a retail or service business:

1) Bring in NEW CUSTOMERS.
2) Cause existing customers to BUY MORE FREQUENTLY.
3) Cause existing customers to SPEND MORE PER PURCHASE.

Any growth in our personal billing, station billing, or advertisers' sales volume must come from one or more of these three sources. Everyone agrees it's more costly in time, effort, or money to win a new customer than it is to influence an existing customer. (The only exception is a new customer referred by an existing customer, a happy but unpredictable event.)

Here are a few specific steps you can take to make the most of every opportunity.

First, bring clients IDEAS. Ideas to help them stand out from their competition. Ideas to give their advertising greater traction. (I'll share a few good ones with you in just a moment.)

Second, assume the role of a trusted advisor. Practically speaking, that means staying in more frequent contact with your advertisers.
- Ask questions. What's working? What isn't? What can we do better?
- Share articles of interest that you run across.
- Use your telephone and email to supplement personal calls - not to pester, but to provide something of value.
- Do your homework. Demonstrate genuine concern.
- Write Thank-you notes.
- Take nothing for granted.

As promised, here are several good IDEAS you can take to your prospects, OPPORTUNITIES you can leverage right now to sell more advertising in March, April and May....

My letter went on to describe in some detail a dozen sales/promotional opportunities that can help advertisers and stations grow their business over the next few months.

As I look around, I see all sorts of opportunities for Radio to serve its clients.

Have you noticed how success seems to pursue the folks who know what to do when opportunity knocks?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Leaders, Cheerleaders and Obstructionists

"Lead, follow, or get out of the way!"

Chances are, you've spoken these words or responded to them. More than once.

Most of the successful people I know are equally skilled at leading and cheerleading.

They lead by example, principle and service.

They know when to admonish and when to encourage, removing themselves - their egos - from the equation.

When they criticize, it is with objectivity. When they praise, it is without affectation.

They're people who say what they mean, and mean what they say.

They also tend to be generous and gracious.

They know when to get out of the way and let someone else lead.

Clients and co-workers alike benefit from their association with such a person.

Obstructionists, on the other hand, operate from a narrow self-interest that excludes consideration of others.

They tend to be self-indulgent, hypercritical, and whiny.

Nitpickers. Complainers. Foot draggers.

Their attitude and example benefit no one, except by contrast.

They're a drain on their co-workers, a bane to their superiors, and a pain to their clients.

When things are good, they're a nuisance. When things are difficult, they're an albatross.

The best way to deal with them is to avoid them.

None of us has absolute control over our circumstances, but neither are we powerless. Every day we're given the chance to choose how we respond to the challenges, adversities, and opportunities before us.

We can choose to lead.

We can choose to follow.

Or we can choose to get out of the way and give someone else a chance.

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams

Monday, February 23, 2009

Doodle Before Meeting

You know how tough it can be to get a group of busy people to agree on a mutually convenient day and time for a meeting?

Let me share a nifty solution with you.

Lately I've been using this handy online service that enables any number of people to coordinate their schedules. It's called Doodle.

Creating your own free Doodle account takes less than a minute. You create a simple poll with the template provided, forward the link to your poll to all participants, then track online the participants' responses. Doodle will send you an email you every time somebody responds to your poll

I'm part of a citizen/government committee working to build a new arts pavilion (band shell) here in Pullman. There are nine or ten busy people on this committee, whose schedules are often difficult to mesh. Doodle has greatly simplified the process of coordinating and scheduling meetings.

But wait, there's more! Radio stations can also use Doodle to create and conduct advertiser/listener polls, opening up a ton of possibilities.

The free version is supported by (what else?) Google ads. If you're willing to spend a little money, you can even have your own station- or advertiser-branded Doodle site.

Best way to determine how Doodle's capabilities can benefit you is to visit their website and poke around. Check out the online examples.

Highly recommended!

How Do You Respond to a Bully?

Last year American icon Anheuser-Busch was assimilated into Belgium-based beer borg, InBev.

According to recent stories in Ad Age and elsewhere, it appears the Clydesdales are preparing to run roughshod over their media and advertising services vendors.

I know of at least a few associates in media who are likely to take a pass on becoming de facto lenders to corporate bullies, and will simply sell their available inventory to other advertisers.

Did you read Aesop when you were a kid? Remember this story...?

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveler coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

Or better still, the words of Jesus that many of us learned to call The Golden Rule, paraphrased thus: Do Unto Others as You Would Have Others Do Unto You.

Now, there's another so-called "golden rule" that a sales trainer of my acquaintance once coined to frame relationships in a free market economy. In his Okie vernacular, he said, "Them that's got the gold makes the rules."

That's true, too. But it cuts both ways.

So, let's say you're a media company or advertising services provider.

You want to be a bank, also? Fine, that's your choice.

Are you going to treat your other accounts with the same courtesy?

Or are you going to discriminate on the basis of a double standard, i.e., those who can intimidate and bully you into submission will get more favorable terms?

Personally, I don't like bullies. Never have.

I don't have to drink their beer. I don't have to buy their cars.

And I certainly don't need their business badly enough that I'm willing to agree to wait four to six months (or more) to be paid for services I render in good faith, in a timely and conscientious manner.

But that's just me. What's your take?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Painting Pictures, Growing Biz with Words and Music

A few years ago one of my seasonal clients asked for some help creating a jingle for the family landscaping and nursery business.

At the time there were perhaps 15-20 local advertisers using jingles, many from the same original provider. The singers were different, of course. But after awhile, one begins to notice similarities. We wanted something different, new and fresh.

My search led me to Ralph Plank in Springfield, MO (near Branson - a great place to find musical talent). Impressed with his demos and friendly, collaborative attitude, we decided to hire him.

We wanted it all - a catchy tune, lyrics that painted vivid pictures, a powerful hook with a call to action, all wrapped in a style that would wear well over time (as the Myers Auto Rebuild jingle has done).

The hook we'd settled on even before engaging Ralph's services was "Get Growing." (My company produces a syndicated series of gardening features for radio by the same name, so the phrase was already top-of-mind; applying it to the jingle project made sense.) It combined the all-encompassing idea of growing things with an exhortation to act - get going! get growing!

Donna, my client, provided examples of the kinds of pictures she wanted listeners to be able to see in their minds' eye: thriving plants, attractive landscaping, water features, etc.

I got hung up on her insistence that the full name of the business be used, S Y G Nursery and Landscaping. "S-Y-G, Nur-ser-y" had rhyme and rhythm; the "and Landscaping" was just cumbersome. I lobbied for leaving it out, but was outvoted by the client, who in the end pays the bill.

Surprisingly, Ralph didn't seem to think that singing the full name of the business would be a problem at all.

He was right. I was wrong.

When I heard the jingle for the first time, I immediately fell in love with it, no qualifications. It was perfect.

The jingle hit the airwaves and almost immediately the client started getting great feedback. Awareness went up, followed by increases in traffic and sales. Everything that's supposed to happen with a good ad campaign.

Today, after four years of steady airplay from spring to fall, this perky jingle still sounds fresh and inviting, in perfect harmony with the nature of the client's business.

When it comes to painting vivid, enduring images on the canvas of human imagination, Radio is unsurpassed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What Google Didn't Understand About Radio Advertising

Don't misunderstand. I like Google. I use it every day to search the Internet. Google provides the infrastructure for this blog. Google is a genuine American success story.

But Google was a fish out of water when it entered the broadcast radio business. Google spent millions to learn a lesson that almost any mom-and-pop radio station operator could have taught them over a cup of coffee: some things you just can't automate.

Radio advertising is about relationships, not widgets.

Successful radio ad campaigns are built over a period of time on a foundation of communication, collaboration and creativity, processes not reducible to automation.

I suspect most of the individuals or companies whose first experience in radio advertising was to gamble on Google were disappointed with the results.

The advertiser who insists on buying an advertising schedule on the basis primarily of rate or ratings sets himself up for disappointment. Almost invariably he'll conclude that "radio doesn't work."

Well, not that way, anyway.


Addendum Friday the 13th

Wall Street Journal observes: "Google devalues everything it touches" -

Monday, February 09, 2009

Clients as Spokesmen #4 - One of the best I've heard

A few years back the owner of a radio station in Missouri for whom I'd done some work asked me to evaluate a commercial he'd put together for a local restaurant using the cook's own voice and words.

Listening to Maxine's reminiscence was like sitting across from her at the kitchen table.

It was authentic, right up until the ANNOUNCER jumps in to provide the what-where-and-when information with all the finesse of a cold shower.

Yes, the name and location of the establishment should be included (most of the time). But I can't help wondering if there isn't a better way to convey this information, one that would preserve the "feel" and integrity of Maxine's story.

Press the Play button below to hear the commercial. How would YOU have ended it differently?

Friday, February 06, 2009


Advertising campaigns built on the achievements or reputations of celebrities can lose their sparkle (if not their focus) in the blink of an eye.

Michael Phelps' indiscretion with a bong is hardly unique in this context, but it is the latest example of what can go wrong.

Kellogg's did what it thought best to preserve its brand image.

Subway's response appears to be, let's stick with our plan and our man.

Presumably, both companies thought it worth the big bucks they had to shell out to associate their brands with Phelps' achievement, even though the benefit of that association may have a shorter shelf life than they anticipated.

Regardless of which company's action makes more sense to you, the recent phlap reminds us that celebrity campaigns have a vulnerable underbelly.

Clients as Spokesmen #3 - A Product Made for Radio

I was talking with a professional photographer in town recently about his proclivity for print advertising. As you would expect, he felt that since his product is visual, it belonged in a visual medium. I suggested that a well-written radio commercial can paint a picture in the prospect's mind that's every bit as "real" as the one he puts into print. Realizing that he's heard examples of this himself, he conceded that he might add radio to his mix.

He also said that in view of the economy (SFX - bells, whistles, explosions), he's going to have to INCREASE HIS MARKETING EFFORT!

OK - that's a bit of a digression from the subject of this post, but it provides a good segue.

Just as my friend the photographer is predisposed to using print, those of us who sell or create radio advertising most often think in terms of sound.

And every once in awhile, an opportunity drops into our laps like manna from heaven - a product made for selling on radio.

Say hello to the Gurgle Pot.

This ad, voiced by the proprietor of a gift shop, has sold a TON of Gurgle Pots. (And not just on radio. She has the ad on her cell phone and loves to play it for people.)

You're not given a clue as to what it looks like...what colors it comes big it is....or anything else. But you do know what it sounds like when you pour from it, ...and that's the whole point. It's a hoot. An ice-breaker. A conversation starter. Something fun to bring out when you have company over, to get the party started.

How many of your advertising prospects offer items that have sounds of their own...sounds that you can incorporate into an effective radio commercial?

Now that it's on your radar, have fun with it!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

What Are YOU Spreading Around?

Jay Mitchell's Radio Rants: Spreading the News

My friend and publisher of the Small Market Radio Newsletter cautions us against stepping across the line that separates factual reporting from hype, and buying into that negative mindset that so many in the news media seem to love. The article he cites (from yesterday's Christian Science Monitor) is worth a read. Let's not make this thing any worse than it has to be. In fact, let's do everything we can as individuals in our own communities to make things better!

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Client Whose Ad Copy Never Gets Changed

Consistency is a great virtue in advertising, all other factors being equal.

Most of my advertising clients have annual contracts that call for being on the air every day. This degree of exposure usually requires regular changes of copy, to maintain a healthy balance between repetition and freshness.

But I have one client, a mom-and-pop automotive body shop and towing service, that's been running the same ad every week, every month, every year...for well over a decade.

Yes, from a servicing standpoint it's almost an embarrassment.

We laugh about it from time to time.

All the way to the bank.

Because Myers Auto Rebuild and Towing also happens to occupy the enviable Top Rung of their category ladder. By a mile.

A dozen years ago, Steve and Theresa Myers met with a jingle company rep we'd brought into town and decided they'd move forward on a custom "musical image" for their shop.

If you've ever worked with jingle salespeople, you know that they often follow an interview format not unlike the RAB's "client needs analysis." They meet for 30-45 minutes with each prospect, asking lots of questions in an effort to document the advertiser's niche, his USP, or at least what HE thinks are his strong selling points. Then they turn these answers over to a lyricist, who presumably will distill from these notes the poetry that will woo buyers out of the WOOdwork.

It has been my experience that many of these well-meaning efforts end rather poorly. in an attempt to feed back to the client in one 30-second song, everything about the business that came up in the interview, the result is an unfocused exercise in musical chest-thumping.

In the Myers' case, the first draft was faxed to them for approval within a week of their interview. Theresa called me, a tone of concern in her voice, to ask if I would stop by to review what the jingle writer had come up with. My response merely confirmed what their gut had already told them.

It was a mess.

The tune was catchy. The singer was perfect. But the message was deficient, to put it kindly.

I quickly offered to rewrite the lyrics.

We checked with the singer to see if he had any objection to this. He didn't; he just wanted to sing something and get paid.

I've always enjoyed writing rhyming copy. The challenge here was to keep the narrative straightforward and focused, to convey when and why someone would call Myers Auto Rebuild, and what they could expect as a result. The completed story meshed nicely with the music, resulting in a :30-second full-sing jingle that has enjoyed remarkable longevity.

When a few weeks after the jingle first hit the airwaves Steve and Theresa received a telephone call from the owner of a competitor's body shop, complaining that his kids were singing their jingle, they knew they had a winner.

And they haven't been inclined to change their copy ever since.

Radical? You decide.

Another "Snow" Spot

Dan O'Day's Radio Commercial Smackdown today reminded me of an ad I did a few years ago, at the request of a young man who wanted to rent snowmobiles at his cabins up in Elk River. It was late season (March) and the snow wasn't going to be around for much longer. Being 60 miles away and having no website, we had to include his phone number in the commercial - a practice generally to be discouraged unless absolutely necessary. Here's the produced spot.

And here's the script:

(SFX: Winter wind)

A giant cedar tree towers above you – it is 18 feet in diameter, 177 feet tall, and 3000 years old.

In the distance, Hemlock Butte….Elk Butte…. Grandad Bridge overlooking an ice-covered Dworshak Reservoir.

And today…it is all yours.

At the front door of this wilderness adventure you’ll find Elk Butte Recreation. You walk in, hop on one of their powerful snowmobiles, and an unforgettable adventure is about to begin.

While there’s still snow on the ground, why not do a little exploring on a big sled? Half-day and full-day snowmobile rentals are available now at Elk Butte Recreation.

Call to reserve yours now. 208-826-3632. That’s 208-826-3632.

Happy Ground Hog Day....

Tried to locate an ad I recorded 15 or so years ago, featuring one of the co-owners of a family grocery store, the fellow who ran the meat department. He used to have a one-day sale every February 2nd, built around a special price on ground hog. (Ben's delivery was the key to making the spot funny and memorable: "Not GROUND hog. Ground HOG! Pork sausage.)" I'll upload the ad if and when I find it. In any case, you might want to make a note on your January 2010 calendar to pitch the idea to a grocer or butcher shop in your market. It's corny. It's fun. It can sell some groceries and meats, too.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Watch all the Superbowl ads online

Advertising Age is making available all the Superbowl TV spots HERE.