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.