Friday, December 31, 2010

Attention: Direct Response Radio Advertisers

Dear Direct Response Radio Advertiser:

If your product or service truly serves a worthwhile purpose, and provides a valuable solution to a significant problem...

And if your commercial message immediately engages a prospective customer, speaks authentically to a felt need, and genuinely resonates with that person... will find it unnecessary, even counterproductive, to bludgeon listeners with endless, mindless repetition of your toll-free telephone number.


Because - surprise! - the person who really wants what you're selling will remember you and will make the effort to find you and do business with you.

Now, if your product or service is akin to putting lipstick on a pig - e.g., credit repair scams, nutritional nostrums, wealth-building schemes and the like - would you please take your marketing elsewhere and just stop polluting the airwaves?

Radio is such a great medium, such a powerful marketing tool, one hates to see its potential squandered by fast-buck shysters.

Radio advertising sales professionals: let's make a concerted effort in 2011 to woo and serve the best products, services, and businesses we can attract.

Let's create great advertising for great clients, and not settle for less.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What Child Is This? (Merry Christmas from Rod)

From the GBS archives...four :30-second audio features for Christmas:



Theophany: a pre-incarnate appearance of the manifest member of the triune God, frequently referred to in the Hebrew canon as "The Angel of the LORD;" also called "the annointed" (Messiah), the virgin-born "Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14), the Son (Ps. 2:12; Isa. 9:6), "My LORD" (Ps. 110:1), and "My servant" (Isa. 52:13 - 53:12).

He is the Child born...the Son given...the Prince of Peace.

"And you shall call His name JESUS; for He will save His people from their sins." - Matthew 1:21







Merry Christmas to All!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Last Dance with Darci (Radio Still Gets Results)

Generally when a business owner decides to call it quits, his choices are either to sell the business or shutter it. The former is preferable but not always possible. Such was the case for a client of mine recently, who for years had operated a healthy, profitable independent video rental store in town.

Carmel began to recognize the handwriting on the wall several years ago. Netflix was already siphoning customers away from her store; video streaming and other emerging technologies would eventually, inevitably, take even more of her market share. So, it was not entirely unexpected when she called me at the end of November to say that she was closing her store and wanted my help with the advertising for it.

Their goal was to sell their entire inventory of DVD's and VHS videos, plus all store fixtures, in as short a time as possible. My conservative recommendation was a two-day advertising blitz on our two Pullman stations, with commercials running heavily all day Friday (30x/station) and Saturday (20x/station). The store would be closed to the public on Friday - windows papered, sign on the reader board announcing the store closing - to allow them to prepare for the sale, which would begin at 6 a.m. sharp on Saturday and continue on Sunday with further reductions on any remaining inventory.

Carmel wanted me to work one last time with Darci (you may recall an earlier post about her), who had done such a fine job as the store's spokesman during the first few years of its rebranding and growth under Carmel's leadership.

I wrote the draft copy, Darci made some notes, and at the appointed time we met at the radio station and collaborated in front of a live microphone in the production studio for some 90 minutes, just as we'd done on so many occasions years earlier. This session provided the raw material which I brought back to my home studio to edit and mix. The result was three commercials, two to rotate on Friday and one to run on Saturday:




A prior commitment took me out of town Friday afternoon and all day Saturday, so I was unable to witness the results of the advertising first-hand, as I would like to have done. However, I was encouraged by a text message that I received at 7:48 a.m. Saturday from one of the owners of the radio station: "Holy Cow! The Video Quest parking lot is full."

On Monday and Tuesday of the following week nearly a dozen people I encountered during the workday made it a point to comment on how much they'd enjoyed the ads. Unsolicited responses like these are often a good indicator that a commercial or campaign has resonated with listeners. But "response" is not the same as "results." So, I was most appreciative when I received this message from the client:


I am so impressed with the radio campaign you put together for my store's liquidation sale. You (and Darci) exceeded my expectations beyond anything I could have imagined! People lined up at the doors and at 6:00 a.m. they flooded the store like I have never seen before. After about 15 minutes, two lines began to form at the checkouts and, within 30 minutes, long lines were queued around the perimeter of the store. In the first two hours we sold half of our inventory. I know that our success was the direct result of advertising with you because we only advertised that we were opening at 6:00 a.m. the day before the sale with your radio ads and on our readerboard.

I want to especially thank you for reviving the old 'Rod and Darci' routine so that we could go out of business in the style we came into it. I think it gave our customers a reminiscent smile and reluctant farewell to the end of not just our video store, but to the end of an era where Friday nights were spent with our neighbors roaming the isles of Video Quest looking for a good movie and visiting about the kids.

Thank you!


Response: people enjoyed listening to the commercials.

Result: "In the first two hours we sold half our inventory."

I've been selling and creating radio advertising for nearly all my working life, almost four decades now. In that time, I've written or produced thousands of radio commercials for hundreds of radio advertising clients. And to this day I still get a kick, as though for the very first time, every time I receive feedback like this, or hear about about a radio commercial or campaign that has worked for an advertiser, my client or anyone else's, anywhere in the world.

I love seeing radio get results.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Building Relationships on Fundamentals - Advice to a New General Manager

The newly appointed radio station General Manager posted a request for advice at Radio Sales Café. She said, "My biggest problem is finding quality sales staff and keeping them."

Everyone has his own take on the responsibilities, priorities and pitfalls of middle management, and the perennial problem of how to find and retain good people. My response was limited to just a few points, but I consider each of them fundamental to the long-term success of both the salesperson and the manager:

1. CARE about your new hires. Treat them as you would want to be treated, even better. (Read Proverbs 3:27-28 and you'll see what I mean.)

2. PROVIDE the training and support they need in order to help their advertisers and the station grow their businesses.

You'll find a wealth of good information, resources, and people here at RSC; plenty of gold for a determined miner.

Be sure they get training in ADVERTISING as well as SALES. Invest in a library of time-tested marketing and advertising works by the masters: David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins, John Caples, Al Ries and Jack Trout, Jay Conrad Levinson, etc. Chris Lytle's "The Accidental Salesperson" will be most helpful to you as well as your salespeople. Pick up Roy Williams' "Wizard of Ads" trilogy - on CD, preferably; hearing his stuff beats reading it. Michael Corbett's "33 Ruthless Rules of Advertising" will help your sales staff see the world through the eyes of their prospective clients.

3. BE TOLERANT of their mistakes. We all make them. The trick is to learn from them and grow, not to perpetuate them.

4. ENCOURAGE RISK-TAKING. Nothing significant in life is accomplished without calculated risk.

5. BE TRANSPARENT. Make sure they know what you expect of them and how you, in turn, will provide support for them.

6. BE CONSISTENT. They're out there in the field busting their butts for you. Don't confuse or undermine their efforts by, for instance, having double-standards with regard to rates (lower rates for people you like) or access to resources.

7. SEE #1 ABOVE. It's really that important.
Reviewing the list later, it occurred to me that with a little tweaking these same principles also apply to the relationship of a seller to his clients.

Caring, concern, communication, confidence, consistency...all contribute to the quality of our relationships with employers, employees, customers, and suppliers.

* * * * * * *
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in the power of your hand to do so.
Do not say to your neighbor,
"Go, and come back,
And tomorrow I will give it,"
When you have it with you.
-Proverbs 3:27-28

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Attributes of a Great Radio Advertising Client

The email arrived out of the blue on Thursday a week ago, from someone I'd never met. It contained two questions about radio advertising - more precisely, about radio advertisers - that I've never been asked nor consciously considered before now. I'll let you read them for yourself, exactly as I received them:

Dear Mr. Schwartz,

A thank you from a fledgling radio entrepreneur. I've gotten a lot out of your postings and enjoy your writing style. Your 'Darci' find is delightful-- what a great voice. Quirky but friendly. And she 'being her' has a great pull.

I'm assuming that you wrote the copy -- good work.

Can I ask a radio sales question? How do you target the best prospects for radio advertising? What are the characteristics or demographics of the businesses that become great radio advertising clients? [emphasis mine-RS]

I am working on a business plan to purchase a local AM radio station and need to develop some realistic numbers for our business consultant.

Thanks for all you've shared, Mr. Schwartz. I'm getting quite an education!

All the best from Delaware,


I didn't have a ready answer, and that bothered me. Usually I'm able to address radio advertising/sales questions quickly and confidently, off the top of my head, but this was not one of those times. Steve's questions demanded deeper delving into thirty-eight years' worth of accumulated experiences and education in the business, to try to identify the traits common to my best and most successful clients over the years.

After pondering these things for several days, I replied late Monday night as follows:


Thanks for your kind words - much appreciated. Your questions, while beguilingly simple on the surface, have substantial depth, and I wish I had the time to answer them in as much detail as they deserve.

Setting aside such obvious considerations as the prospect having both the desire to grow his business and the financial capacity to fund that growth through effective advertising, one looks for a number of things. I'll give you 7, in no particular order:

1) someone who runs a good business well, and who has above-average growth potential in the market. (The Wizard would say, someone who's great at running his business but who stinks at advertising it.)

2) someone who is genuinely open to new ideas and willing to embrace a calculated risk, looking at the advertising campaign as a long-term investment in the future of his business;

3) someone who recognizes that results take time, and is willing to give a new campaign several months minimum to gain traction before judging its merits. (Roy Williams has written extensively on this; it's the approach of the farmer, as opposed to that of the hunter. Suggest you go to, find the DVD called "The Most Common Mistakes in Advertising" and watch it at least several times. You'll thank me for the suggestion.)

4) someone who has a compelling story and is willing to entrust you with its uncovery and telling, one installment at a time;

5) someone who impresses YOU to such an extent that you are unwilling to pull your punches or cut corners; rather, you are committed to investing as much time and effort as it takes to get his message and schedule right, and who, in turn, respects your time and talent and is prepared to compensate you fairly for your investment of same in his behalf;

6) someone who isn't likely to be moved by petty criticisms, peer pressure, or the snipes of your competitors, but who will remain committed to the course come hell or high water;

7) someone who can accept occasional setbacks as part of the learning process, and who is willing to move past them. Great advertising is more of a process than an act. It involves testing messages (not your radio station!) and refining them as time goes on. Beware the prospect who is easily distracted by novelty or who will leave you for someone willing to give him a lower price.

Steve, may I invite you to join Radio Sales Cafe - our online network for radio advertising sales professionals? It's free to join, and I think you'd really enjoy the wealth of information, ideas, and experiences members share with one another on a regular basis. I'd be willing to use your questions as the basis of a Friday Poll (you can see what this is about at the site), and let other members weigh in with their thoughts. The information could be priceless - and it won't cost you a dime.

Thanks again for reaching out.



Steve's reply was waiting in my Inbox the following morning:

Wow, wow, WOW.
You know, having only been on the periphery of radio (Traffic Director, 3 yrs; Broadcast Engineer, 6 years -- never an owner, airstaff, salesman, PD, or GM) I am constantly amazed at the kindness being shown to me, by the generous amount of time that strangers, really, are willing to give in order to help someone come into their world. Thank you very much, Rod. I hope you can repurpose your extensive reply. Yes -- I think it's a great idea for Radio Sales Cafe. (Can't remember if I found your blog through Grace or Radio Sales Cafe first.) It is very scary to think that I am moving towards the radio world (as a business, away from what I do now so I'm moving slowly. With guidance from sound business minds - the 'Peter Drucker of Delaware' - and professionals and friends like yourself. Thanks again. I'll see you at the Radio Sales Cafe. All the best from Delaware, Steve

Did you smile when you read his observations on the reception he's had from people in the radio industry: "I am constantly amazed at the kindness being shown to me, by the generous amount of time that strangers, really, are willing to give in order to help someone come into their world." This is something I observed very early in my radio advertising sales career, the open doors and open hearts of station owners and managers, willing to help a newbie succeed in the business. I'd often tell new hires that one of the best things about our industry was that there would always be a job available anywhere in the country for someone who enjoyed radio advertising sales and became good at it. I believed it then, and I believe it today.

Given his attitude, perspicacity, and focus, I predict that Steve will succeed in spades when he launches his station. I hope he is able quickly to find good employees and cultivate great client relationships.

And I hope that he, in turn, will pass along to others what he learns in the process.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Difference

Of all the lines made famous by Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" Callahan, perhaps my favorite comes from the second movie in the series:

"A man's got to know his limitations."


Those of us who are used to having many irons in the fire are continually confronted by our limitations. We wish to do it all, we think we can do it all...but we can't.

At our best, we are finite, fallible, dependent human beings.

Martin Luther is said to have cultivated the habit of spending two or three hours a day in prayer, rising early in the morning for this purpose. Now there was a man who recognized his limitations, and to compensate for them became a regular visitor at the throne of grace, where he knew he could obtain the help he so desperately needed.

Several years ago, I ran into a poem that impressed me deeply. In fact, a copy of it stands at arm's length on the shelf to my right, an ever-present reminder of one of the secrets to success in life. May I share it with you?

I got up early one morning
and rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish,
I didn't have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me,
and heavier came each task.
Why doesn't God help me? I wondered,
He answered, "You didn't ask."

I wanted to see joy and beauty,
but the day toiled on, gray and bleak.
I wondered why God didn't show me,
He said, "But you didn't seek."

I tried to come into God's presence,
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
"My child, you didn't knock."

I woke up early this morning,
and paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.

(The Difference, by Grace L. Naessens)

It's worth noting that the author has seen fit to place this poem in the public domain (asking only that proper attribution be given), so that anyone is free to pass it along and share it with others.

That would make it a gift of Grace, wouldn't it?

Have a great week!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Politically Correct Advertising - Update

"One year from now, you'll have a chance to evaluate my performance and either hire me for a full 4-year term or send me packing." - Susan Fagan, candidate for Washington State Representative, from a 11/2009 radio commercial.

November 1, 2010 - I caught a break this election season. State Representative Susan Fagan did such an outstanding job of serving her constituents during her first (one-year) term of office, that she is running unopposed for a full four-year term in tomorrow's election.

The fact that nobody from either party filed to run against Susan is a testimony to the effectiveness of her efforts as a state legislator, including her fine use of emails and social media to interact with her constituents on a frequent basis before, during, and after a difficult and frustrating (for a minority party representative) legislative session.

Though she was fighting a bad cold last week, Susan came to the studio last week to record a message encouraging citizens to vote. (Listen to the spot here.) She'd been given a campaign donation for this election cycle, and this is how she chose to use it.

During our brief visit, Susan shared with me her belief, shared by her campaign strategists, that it was her radio advertising, more than any other single factor, that helped clinch the election for her.

The result? Susan Fagan won a chance to prove herself.

And because she's kept her campaign promises, she continues to win the hearts and minds of her constituents.

Truth is better than creativity, David Ogilvy famously said. So, Susan's story may contain a valuable lesson for any advertiser, not only those aspiring to public office:

Effective advertising goes only so far. At best, it gives the advertiser (business, product, or service) an opportunity to win or lose a customer.

Whether you will seize or squander that opportunity ultimately depends on how you (your business, product, or service) come through for your customer!

Cabela's, Customer-focused and Classy to the Core

I often advise my advertising clients to look for opportunities to "surprise and delight" their customers. This advice is as much the product of experience as it is of education and training.

Recently I received a letter and package from Cabela's. The letter read, in part: "Thank you! This is your 10-year anniversary as a Cabela's CLUB Visa member, and we feel fortunate to have you as a customer. ... As a token of our appreciation for your loyalty, we'd like to give you the enclosed Cabela's Folding Lockback Knife commemorating our partnership..."

Accompanying the letter was an attractively boxed wood-handled pocket knife.

This little gesture on their part is the most recent illustration of how Cabela's has consistently, unfailingly impressed me with their customer-focused approach to business.

It's an approach that has taken them from a couple of brothers tying flies at the kitchen table and selling them via classified ads in OUTDOOR LIFE to their current undisputed reign as "The World's Foremost Outfitter."

What are you doing to surprise and delight your customers?

When News and Advertising Collide

The unfortunate juxtaposition of antithetical messages can and does happen in all media, of course.

Still, one wonders how this one got past the page editor.

More to the point, did the advertiser notice?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Wal-Mart Is Paying Me to Shop Their New Store - Update

Pullman's new Wal-Mart Supercenter seems to be doing SUPER business.

I took half an hour this afternoon to drop by the new store to try to gauge community response to our newest business neighbor on its opening day.

There was a steady stream of cars entering and leaving the parking lot. At the entrance I used, it was a bumper-to-bumper crawl, like an ant colony marching in columns to and from a feeding frenzy.

The gigantic parking lot was full.

Based on what I saw and heard during my short visit, Wal-Mart's Pullman store will likely exceed the $300K they'd projected for their first day in business. All nineteen front-end registers were at least 4-5 customers deep at 4:15 pm and showed no sign of slowing. I went to the Jewelry department to purchase a replacement for a watchband that broke yesterday; three or four co-eds were ahead of me at the register, checking out purchases from departments other than Jewelry, hoping to shave a few minutes off their visit.

Undoubtedly, it was "baptism of fire" day for more than a few Wal-Mart associates, but they were handling the pressure with grace and smiles on both sides of the cash registers.

When it comes to combining capitalism and consumerism, Wal-Mart is the world's 800-pound gorilla.

Welcome to our new zoo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Wal-Mart Is Paying Me to Shop Their New Store

The day after tomorrow, our long-awaited $14 million Wal-Mart Supercenter opens its doors.


It's been six years since Wal-Mart announced their intention to build a new store here in Pullman, Washington.

Most folks in town - consumers, business owners, civic leaders, etc. - welcomed Wal-Mart's announcement, anticipating a much-needed boost to our local economy directly and indirectly, as new businesses open nearby, seeking to benefit from all the new traffic brought in by the behemoth.

Predictably, a vocal minority of Wal-Mart haters - university profs and poseurs proposing to tell me where I should and should not spend my own money - mustered their troops and managed to delay the inevitable by a few years. Their polarizing antics cost our fair city several years' worth of tax revenues from Wal-Mart, estimated by some to be as much as $500,000 per year.

But that's all behind us now. Today, local residents received in the mail a five-dollar Wal-Mart gift card. No strings attached. Just activate your card, then come in and spend it like cash.

Can you think of a surer way to get people to come in and sample the store?

In 1923, Claude Hopkins - considered by many to be the father of modern advertising - wrote that "(t)he product itself should be its own best salesman. Not the product alone, but the product plus a mental impression, and atmosphere, which you place around it. That being so, samples are of prime importance. However expensive, they usually form the cheapest selling method."

So, Wal-Mart is tapping a tried-and-true technique to introduce local shoppers to their new Supercenter. What will happen? Customers by the thousands will enter the new store for the first time and redeem their $5.00 gift cards. One suspects that more than a few members of the anti-Wal-Mart crowd, despite their posturing, will be among them (though undoubtedly they'll limit their purchases to five bucks, just to give 'em what-for.)

Wal-Mart will measure the effectiveness of their "sampling" program by the tens, more likely hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional purchases made by these same customers this week, and in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Wal-Mart's associates have received extensive training to ensure that they make each customer feel welcome, even special. Wal-Mart's consumer researchers and merchandise buyers have seen to it that their shelves are stocked with stuff people want to buy, at prices they're willing to pay.

To the extent that their customers' expectations are met or exceeded, the new Wal-Mart Supercenter will thrive. Call it capitalism, free enterprise, or laissez faire with a dash of caveat emptor, I wouldn't trade ours for any other system on earth.

Friday, October 15, 2010


The Friday Poll Question for members of Radio Sales Café was a two-parter:

1) What percentage of your advertisers voice their own ads?

2) What are your thoughts on having clients doing their own voicework?

Some stations said "zero." Others reported that 15-20% or more of their clients did their own ads. My answer was decidedly, and perhaps remarkably, on the high end: two-thirds of my top local clients voice all or most of their own commercials!

Of these, most read from scripts. They have been doing this for so many years that they're for the most part quite comfortable at the microphone.

Admittedly, I'm a fairly driven coach; I've been called a "harsh taskmaster" by more than one client in this regard. I have no problem requiring repeated readings or "takes," until I have sufficient material to piece together an effective spot.

Former Los Angeles radio production whiz Blaine Parker, who now operates a boutique advertising agency/creative services company atop a mountain in Park City, UT, is adamant about the conditions under which he allows his clients to get near a mic. He says:

We're a general agency, and at the moment, we have two clients on radio. One of those clients is voicing his own commercials. The other client has testimonials. Both campaigns were produced exactly the same way: non-professional voice talent sitting behind a microphone, answering relevant questions about the business and what it means to be a customer. Then, those extemporaneous recordings are cherry picked and massaged to create glowing sound bites. When we know what the performer is saying via the magic of non-linear digital editing, we write announcer wraparounds.

That is just about the ONLY way we ever let clients voice their own commercials.

When you hand them a script and crack the mic, most clients' voiceover sound like exactly what it is: amateur product. Sometimes, that can be endearing and work in their favor. Too often, it just sounds bad. If it must be done that way, there are simple tricks to directing them that make them sound much better. But overall, I try to never make a client read a script or carry the entire weight of the voiceover on his shoulders. Whenever possible, I record him extemporaneously and pull out the nuggets. It's more real than anything we could ever write, and it presents the client in the best, most flattering light possible.

I would tend to agree with Blaine's approach: record conversations and extract the gold. It's a time-consuming and painstaking process, a labor of love that typically results in an exceptional and effective commercial. This is the only technique I employ when creating testimonial campaigns, and it's a great way for an advertiser to tell his story, one nugget at a time.

Do my clients have the training and polish of voice actors? Of course not. Nor is it important that they do.

In the context of a local market where they are known by many, what's important is that they come across as who-they-are, doing what-they-do, that they sound authentic and credible, and that the content of their communication meets their customers' needs. When all these factors line up, the results speak for themselves*.

Now, I don't disagree with Blaine's analysis for the most part, based on the fact that too many client-voiced commercials one hears seem to have been done hastily and without critical analysis. Whether due to a lack of education or training, a lack of time or effort, or a lack of concern, there's no good reason to settle for second-rate work. But the salesperson, producer and client must be of the same mind on this, each willing and able to invest the time and effort to persist until it's right.

Either do it well or don't do it at all.

It's interesting how attitudes toward client-voiced ads have changed over the past couple of decades. Today the practice is widely accepted. When I first started pushing for clients appearing in their own commercials back in the late 1970's, most radio programming and production people resented it as an incursion onto their sacred turf. Their attitude was not unlike what we encountered from the education establishment when the home-schooling movement began to gain some momentum in the late 1980's. These days, the accumulation of success stories has demonstrated the merit of both ideas.

*Here are three examples from campaigns currently on the air in our small market. One is relatively new, having started this past summer. Two have been on the air for over a decade. Are they "airworthy?" Listen, then decide.




Sales trainer Jim Williams used to say that the real proof a campaign is working is that the advertiser continues to pay his monthly bill, year after year. Folksy, perhaps, but true nonetheless.

Which clients are doing their own commercials successfully on your station? (Comments at RSC here.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Even Though I'm Not a 2010 Radio-Mercury Awards Finalist...

...I'm thrilled to see that the Radio Station-Produced category is back in the money this year, with seven local radio commercials competing for the $10,000 prize.

I entered several spots (posted below) into this year's RMA competition, just as I have done faithfully each year since 2004, when my sole submission ended up winning the category prize, whetting my appetite for more. (In 2005, one of my entries was chosen as a finalist, but not the winner. From 2006 to 2010, none of the spots I've entered has prevailed in the competition, though I'm not embarrassed to be associated with any of them; they served their advertisers' purposes well.)

We've invited members of Radio Sales Cafe to vote for their favorite of the radio-produced finalists - please feel free to weigh in, too. I'm eager to compare the outcome of our voting as radio advertising sales professionals, to that of the Mercury judges.

Naturally, I'm disappointed that none of my entries made it into the finals this year. But I'm already saving potential entries for next year's competition. I believe this competition, along with its counterparts in the UK and Australia, is good for our industry and for us as individual practitioners of the art of radio advertising.


Here are my humble entries this year. The two spots for Howard Hughes were part of a five-spot campaign we created to run heavily on all stations in the market for just one day. It was very well received, and the client plans on expanding the effort next year. The spot for j&h Printing won a regional award in Seattle for "Best Radio Copywriting" this summer, providing encouragement for me to enter it into the national competition. Listen! Listen!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Audioboo - a powerful new tool for radio stations and advertisers

Imagine your restaurant client talking into his iPhone or Android: "Hey, everybody. For the next two hours, buy any burger, fries and soft drink at regular price and get a second burger FREE! That's just for our Facebook friends and only until 2 pm today at Burger Barn."

Sixty seconds later, his audio "coupon" appears on his Facebook page. All his Facebook friends have to do is click PLAY and they get to hear his message, just as he recorded it.

Welcome to Audioboo, a new service from the U.K. that is about to explode all over the Internet.

Did I mention it's FREE?

You need to open an Audioboo account now. Trust me.

You need to introduce your advertisers to Audioboo. Show them how to integrate their on-air and online radio advertising with their social media. Show them how to make Audioboo coupons. They're going to learn this eventually anyway, might as well be now - and from you!

This is positively HUGE for radio stations, radio producers, anyone who uses audio, whether for business, socializing, or just for fun.

Audio content (in a variety of standard formats) can be uploaded via iPhone or Android, or from any Internet-connected personal computer with a microphone and sound card, and you can upload pre-recorded material as well.

Want to share your latest radio commercials with the world? Audioboo them.

Want to extend your clients' radio buys on social networks? Audioboo them.

Want to sing "Happy Birthday" to a Facebook friend. Yup.

Honestly, the implications are staggering - at least to this 38-year radio ad guy.

Man, Tony Schwartz should have lived to see this day!

Go get your Audioboo account now. You'll thank me for suggesting it. All I ask in return is that you come back and share how you're using it, OK?

Here's the link:

Thanks to my friend Doug Zanger for turning me on to Audioboo. (And for bringing my Whispering Hills radio spots to life with his great interpretative skills and voice!)


Monday, August 09, 2010

Who's Your Darci?

Darci the bank teller caught me off guard.

"I want to do a radio commercial. I want to be on the radio," she said.

"Really." I replied.

"Yeah, I want to do a spot for our new CD. I'd be good at it!"

In the short time Darci had been working at the bank she'd become a favorite with her customers, myself included. Her quirky repartee was equally amusing and endearing; people rarely left her window without smiling or chuckling.

Why not? I thought. The bank manager was a good client, and I knew he wouldn't object to the experiment. If it worked, he'd be glad to put it on the air. If not...well, no harm done.

"OK, sure. Let's give it a try." Darci was genuinely excited and said she had some ideas for the commercial. We scheduled a recording session, allowing ourselves plenty of time for improvisation. The result was this:


The bank manager liked it, authorized it for airplay, and for several weeks Darci became the new voice of the bank.

Fast forward a few years. Darci is now working full-time for the school district and I haven't seen her in ages. One day I get a call from my CPA, for whom I've done some advertising during tax season. She tells me that she's purchasing a local video store, a mom-and-pop operation that's been a steady advertising client of mine for years, under a couple of different owners, and she wants to relaunch the store with an advertising blitz featuring a new spokesman—Darci!

Turns out Darci is her neighbor and friend. And she thinks Darci's unique personality and voice are perfect for the new campaign.

So, once again Darci and I are collaborating together in the recording studio, playing with different ideas and angles. Before long, this spot has more or less written itself:


From Day One it generates comments from listeners and customers who think Darci's a hoot. And we have the makings of a brand new schtick for the client. A few weeks later, a second spot follows. Then a third. And a fourth. Over the next several years, Darci records at least thirteen different commercials, including this one, a finalist in the 2005 Radio-Mercury Awards competition:


Since then, Darci has done other work for me. I've hired her to voice some of our syndicated features for GBS, and I've had clients hire her to do their commercials. Although she's had no formal training as either an actress or producer, she's proven capable of doing terrific work.

So, I consider myself fortunate to have been standing in line at the bank the day Darci had the itch to "be on the radio." And I sometimes wonder, who else might be out there — waiting tables, running a cash register, answering phones or reading to kids at the public library — waiting to be discovered and recruited for radio advertising work.

Might there not be someone in your market, too - someone with whom you interact regularly, just waiting to become your Darci?

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Best of (YOUR Community)" Revisited - Updated August 23, 2010

"The Best of the Palouse" is an online enterprise just now getting started and attempting to gain traction in our local marketplace. I know nothing about the fellow who's launching it, other than what I might infer from poking around the site, which as a template seems robust and well thought out. Whether the effort sizzles or fizzles will depend entirely on his ability to market the site effectively, and as a 37-year veteran in the advertising and marketing arena I can tell you this is easier said than done.

I understand that this individual has entered into some sort of partnership with the local newspaper, which is a good choice, but not the best choice. He first should have explored working with the local radio stations (or our esteemed competitors across the border), based solely on the pervasiveness and intrusiveness of radio, as opposed to the inherently passive nature of print. In my opinion, working in partnership with the radio stations would give this new site a better chance of making a big splash and sustaining it.

A year ago, I blogged about why radio stations should pick up the ball and spearhead a "Best of _____" promotion in their communities. The article was later picked up by Radio World. As I explained in that article, the idea has been around a long time and, in my experience, has most often been the province of a print medium. Up in Spokane, the hugely successful regional alternative newspaper, The Pacific Northwest INLANDER, just completed their annual readers' poll. You can bet they'll be picking up new advertising dollars and enjoying a great deal of free publicity themselves as a consequence.

I share this with you now in the hope that, if such an opportunity exists in your market and you are inclined to jump on it, you're able to seize the moment before a competitor does.

If you do, please come back and share your story.


Since this was posted in late March, radio station reps had the opportunity to meet with Mr. BOTP. At first, he expressed an interest in partnering with the stations, though subsequent events made it appear that this meeting simply provided him with ammunition to go back to the newspaper and negotiate a more favorable deal with them.

In the intervening months, BOTP contests have included an ugliest BBQ grill, cutest pet, most attractive yard, biggest local university sports fan, etc. These have given the newspaper the opportunity to bring in new/incremental advertising dollars, while presumably Mr. BOTP gets paid to do some work for them.

From my perspective, the sublime irony in this teapot tempest is that our friends at the newspaper began using (surprise!) their traded radio airtime to promote these BOTP contests!

Lessons learned: 1) Know with whom you're dealing. 2) Get it in writing. 3) Be prepared for surprises. 4) Keep your options open.

Life goes on.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Myth of Multi-tasking

March 20, 2010

My last post here was at Christmas time. Today is the first day of Spring. Nearly three months have come and gone since I last sat down to write here.

A blog is simply one form of self-expression. I make my living as a writer of advertising and radio features -- a seller of ideas -- and even though writing well is a painstaking and time-consuming enterprise, I enjoy it immensely. This humble blog furnishes an opportunity to pursue writing for my own edification.

So why has it taken me three months to come back here? Surely, I could have carved out some time between commitments and projects, if only to scribble a few lines.

The fact is, I've lost a great deal of time in the pursuit of an illusory productivity. I've become a victim of the myth of multi-tasking.

For instance, I carry two cell phones -- one provided by the radio station and my own personal/business phone -- a tangible manifestation of the dilemma I face, having more professional interests than the time to pursue them, more irons in the fire than I can effectively handle, too many conflicting deadlines and obligations.

Yes, I have only myself to blame. I've always found it easier to say "Yes" to people, when I should be saying "No, I can't. Sorry." Whether it boils down to a lack of self-discipline or a fertile imagination, take your pick. Both apply.

I'm reminded of an article I read a couple years ago, written by a Hayden, Idaho pastor whose columns appear in the Spokane newspaper. He wrote, in part:

Christian friend, are you struggling with a lifestyle of busyness? Don’t despair. Christ points us to many off-ramps; we’ve just got to stop speeding past them.

In Luke’s Gospel, we’re given an account of Jesus having a meal at the home of two sisters. One sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’ feet and listened. The other sister, Martha, worked herself frantic trying to get the meal ready for a crowd of people.

Given our own lifestyles, many of us empathize with Martha when she complains: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” (Luke 11:40 – NKJV)

But consider Jesus’ reply: “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42-43 – NLT)

I really believe we find a few cures for a lifestyle of busyness in Mary’s example:

First, we can choose to say no. Most of the decisions we make that lead to busyness don’t involve a choice between right and wrong. They’re usually choices between good things. Helping Martha would have been a good thing to do, but better still was sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Let’s exercise the freedom to say “no” to good things; save “yes” for the best things.

For years, I've viewed multi-tasking as a way of making the most of a given quantity of time. Fortunately, I've been blessed with an amazing wife who sees things differently; to her, multi-tasking is just a nice way of saying "unfocused."

And she's absolutely right. It's time to refocus.