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Wizard of Ads

Radio Without Success Stories


It was a bizarre set of circumstances that caused me to succeed during my formative years as an account executive. None of the business owners on whom I made sales calls had the money to buy any advertising beyond the radio schedule I sold them on my tiny little station. If my ads worked, I got the credit. If they didnt work, I got the blame. I was never part of a media mix. Let me qualify tiny little station for you. We had a (12+) weekly cume of 18,000 in a market of a million people. Our average quarter hour hovered between 500 and 800 persons.

I proposed 52-week schedules exclusively.

My theory was that 18,000 people each week were enough to make a big difference. But I didnt pitch my audience as anyones perfect target. Id say, After a few months youll be a household word among 18,000 evangelists and ambassadors for your brand. And according to Joe Girard, the author of How to Sell Anything to Anybody, the average American has a realm of association of 250 friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members that know them well enough to call them by their first name. If we impress my audience deeply enough that each of them mentions you to just 10 percent of their friends, thats 450,000 people. Dont worry about who youre reaching. Just rock their world with a message thats absolutely worth repeating. Now what are we going to tell these 18,000 people that will rock their world?

That wasnt a sales pitch. I believed it with my whole heart.

The ads worked, my clients thrived, and I got famous.

So why do I never see stories not even in Radio Ink about the success of businesses that buy no media other than radio?

Ill suggest four possible answers to my own question, and you tell me if you agree:

1. Account executives are being taught to pitch their audience as the perfect target for the advertiser. When the pitch to an advertiser revolves around whether or not your audience is perfect, the pressure will be squarely on your station to deliver that perfect audience, regardless of how limp and pointless the advertisers message might be.

2. Few people have the courage to pitch 52-week schedules, so they take whatever handouts they can get. Most of these schedules will deliver sufficient shortterm frequency, but they fall short in critical ways: A) The product or service has a long selling cycle and the schedule isnt long enough. It delivers frequency without consistency. Consistency is the frequency of the frequency. There are many things that just cant be sold quickly, regardless of the advertisers argument that someone out there is looking for this product right now. B) Products with short selling cycles those things were always in the market for are being advertised in a way that is easily ignored. When is the last time an advertiser rocked your world?

3. Those AEs who are creating huge success stories are keeping them secret for the same reasons I rarely publish my own successes: They dont want their clients being hassled. A number of years ago, I published a sparkling success story about an advertiser who used radio to grow his modest business into a juggernaut, with more than a 30-fold increase in annual revenue. It took only a few years and we used radio exclusively. And my client was immediately swamped with phone calls from account executives across America asking him to help them pitch their clients. One of them went so far as to say to him, You owe it to radio. Look at what radio has done for you. Needless to say, I havent made that mistake again.

4. This one, I think, is the big one. Too few people in radio today can conjure great creative. Sadly, most of them dont think its their job. The selling of radio seems to have gotten caught up in the data frenzy created by the Internet. Conversations seem to revolve around targets and metrics instead of offers and copy.

In the February 25, 2014 online version of Harvard Business Review was an article by Jake Sorofman and Andrew Frank, What Data-Obsessed Marketers Dont Understand. These are the opening paragraphs:

Big data has become the X factor of modern marketing, the hero of every marketers story. But its a promise at risk of letting you down. You may be thinking that data will magically turn bush-league marketing into a winning Moneyball performance. But thats an artifact of our big data obsession. Data, alone, isnt what makes marketing move the needle for business.

Data can play a leading role in developing strategy and bringing precision to execution, but it does nothing absolutely nothing to stir motivation and create the desire that makes cash registers ring. Data is important, but its content that makes an emotional connection.

I think somebody needs to recruit Sorofman and Frank into radio. These guys would make themselves and their employers a blistering fortune, and help hundreds of businesses succeed that otherwise probably would not.

Their message: Its not about the numbers. Its about the advertisers offer.

Hallelujah, amen.

Roy H. Williams is president of Wizard of Ads Inc. E-mail:

(3/27/2014 5:08:59 PM)
The crime, Tim, is that your comments would also have been relevant 30 years ago.

- Ronald
(3/27/2014 2:37:08 PM)
Ronald, there are a few out there. But the problem outlined is indeed, the problem. Many Sales Managers and GMs do not value the creative. They ignore the creative need for time to craft, often piling on so much, creativity is sacrificed for volume. Writer/producers are often near the bottom of the pay scale even though they're the key to a lot of revenue. Desperation is not the environment in which to foster creative, effective copy.

- Tim
(3/24/2014 3:18:08 PM)
Mike makes the sincere assumption that "deals" and "calls to action" are necessary. They are not. In fact, those calls-to-action are elements that contribute to burning audiences down.
Anncr: "Make your best deal today!"
Audience member: "Eat my shorts!"

Meanwhile, "leo" calls for the creative types to pull it out and get on with generating some hi-calibre spots. My question: Are there any folks who can do that left wandering the halls or hammering out the hype...? At radio stations, I mean.

- Ronald
(3/24/2014 2:18:41 PM)
These comments are fightin' words! Radio AEs and producers across America, rise up to write "rock the world" copy and present all 52's.

- leo
(3/24/2014 1:06:48 PM)
Example of a limp and pointless message... A few years ago a local car dealer had a TV commercial that has to be one of the worst examples ever. No deals, no call to action. They did mention the dealers name a few times. Just a couple guys walking through a corn field, talking about having the lowest prices "at my stores". They didn't mention that they sell cars. If not watching the screen at the end of this boring spot, one might think they were talking about a grocery store.

- Mike

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