Way-Off-The-Mark-Logo-2By Mark Margulies

I’ve been in this business almost 20 years, and yet, I am still constantly amazed at the complete disdain for what we write and produce as professionals. The prevailing thought is, it’s an expensive luxury that can be done by others just as well, if not better.

In fact, many stations PREFER their salespeople write the copy. The idea is, of course, they have the day-to-day contact with the client. They’re in the trenches. They’re asking the questions. They’re listening to the client’s wants, needs, likes and dislikes. They should be the ones best suited to draft the message the public hears because they understand it best. Thus, all they need to do is gather information, come up with an idea, and make it intriguing enough to create interest at the audience level. The audience will then listen, be motivated, and will respond (assuming frequency, placement and all other sales-oriented issues are in place). Policies like that are rooted in a deep misunderstanding of what this business is, and contribute greatly to why no one can create a formula for success. And, because sales is THE dominant aspect of the radio equation (“Don’t forget—I help pay your salary,” I was once told by an A.E.), and because almost all upper management positions are filled by products of the sales system, it’s a self-perpetuating fallacy.

Kind of makes me wonder what other industries would be like if they took radio’s mentality and applied to their fields.


New York—McDonald’s announced today they have turned their multi-million dollar advertising account over to Timothy Burnett, a second grader at Spike Jones Elementary School in Prescott, Minnesota. Timothy was chosen after McDonalds executives studied the models used in the radio industry to develop and produce creative products. A McDonald’s spokesman explained:

“We saw Timothy in McDonald’s every day, talking with the staff, eating the food. We feel he has a real flair for the product because he’s so connected to it. It’s not possible that a creative team in a corporate office, removed from the actual interaction between customers and product, can possibly communicate to people what Timothy can. ”

Timothy‘s mother was delighted with the opportunity but hoped the burden wouldn’t be to great for her soon to be 7-year old to handle. “After all, he still has homework to do,” she said.


Chicago—United Airlines, taking a cue from the wildly successful financial model created by radio conglomerates in the ‘90s, has announced that, as of January 1, it is releasing its pilots from the remainder of their contracts. In their place, United will assign gate agents to now handle both responsibilities. A United spokesman tried to clear the air.

“We studied the radio model carefully, then thought about how we could apply its lesson to our industry. The answer seemed as clear to us.”

Next, he addressed the issue of why the pilots.

“It constituted a huge waste of time and energy to have people employed solely for one purpose—flying. After all, gate agents understand the industry so much better. Most have flown as passengers, so they know the airplane inside and out. And because they work directly with the passengers, they’re better prepared to serve their needs while in the air, offering them a smoother, better flights. In fact, we’re encouraging involvement from the passengers as well. If some are interested in piloting their own flights, we could probably create a way for them to do that.”

But what about keeping customers satisfied?

“Look, we promise to get them from point A to point B for the lowest price possible. If they’re not satisfied with the result, they can try another airline. We’ll just find more passengers to take their place.“


New York—In an unprecedented move, CBS has informed David Letterman they have released his writing and production staff, turning the job over instead to the CBS sales department.

“These people are the true fans, the ones who watch Dave every single night. They’re the people he’s trying to reach—so who better to write the material that eventually, they’ll be hearing,” one network source was quoted as saying.

“I’m really excited about the challenge,” Steve in the sales department told us. “I watch a lot of television, and I’ve been told I’m funny when I’m at parties. So I figure, I can’t do any worse than the guys we’re replacing. “

The network source continued. “Writing is highly overrated. After all, David has a huge following, and it’s all about him, and the delivery. This way, we save a fortune on the bottom line, which makes the stockholders happy. And, if people don’t respond, well, we’ll just have the salespeople market more aggressively, and replace those people we lose with others. The fact is, if they’re good salespeople, they should be able to do that easily. If not, we’ll just get salespeople who can”

Interesting, isn’t it? And after all, radio’s set such a sterling example. Why shouldn’t other industries copy their lead?