By Trent Rentsch
Where’s the love for the client? You would expect the answer would be from the Sales Rep. The Rep certainly has the most face time with the client. The cliché of Sales guzzling martinis after 18 holes with the owner of a business is accurate in some cases, but it doesn’t make the practice wrong. The Sales Rep exists to make a sale. They do not get paid without a sale. They MUST make a sale… by any means necessary.
I saw a perfect example of this some years ago. Mr. Bigcoinage had several restaurants in town. He utilized both of our stations to advertise those restaurants, and he and our Rep were great buddies. In fact, over cocktails one evening, Bigcoinage confessed that our company had the majority of his advertising dollars. When Bigcoinage decided to open a dance club, our Rep saw another boost to his draw check in the near future, but Mr. Murphy and his law had other plans.
Bigcoinage had a media grand opening for the place, inviting the Reps from all the media outlets he worked with. Under any other circumstances our Rep would’ve been the first in the door to press flesh with the owner. As it happened his Father passed away unexpectedly and he was, understandably, out of town. The tragic comedy of errors that followed was not his fault. He had left a voicemail message for the General Manager, asking that he go to the event instead. Turns out that a power surge erased all of the GM’s messages that afternoon. The Rep had taken the time to arrange for a huge congratulation bouquet of flowers to be sent, but a mix-up at the florist had the flowers showing up the 15th of the month rather than the 5th. He had even called Mr. Bigcoinage to personally explain, never knowing until it was too late, that the receptionist who took his message was a temp… a spacey temp… a temp who thought she could keep all the messages in her head. Turns out, she over-estimated her memory. So, zero visibility for our station at the event and no explanation why. When the Rep came back to work, he found that Mr. Bigcoinage had cancelled all of his advertising for that week. Unable to contact the client by phone, our Rep tracked him down at one of his restaurants. “Gonna take a break for a bit,” was all Bigcoinage had to say. It was a long break. By the time the Rep got back some of the Bigcoinage, it was pennies to the dollars it had been in the past.
After what I felt was a respectable time to cry in one’s beer, I talked to the Rep about it. “Man, I can’t believe that he would do that to you! I mean, you’re at your Dad’s funeral and he holds it against you! Cold! Really cold!” I was stunned by his response. “It’s just business,” he shrugged. “I just scored an account for some SERIOUS coinage. I would’ve been bumping his spots anyway.”
Nope, no love for the client coming from sales. They do cover the bases to make certain that the commercials run, and run correctly, but that’s just looking out for their commission. Many Reps would try to sneak in 60 seconds of cats in heat, if the client wanted it. Do they care about the client and his business, do they really give a rip whether the content of the ad is going to work for the client? I’ve worked with notable exceptions, but in many cases the answer is no. They don’t love the client; it’s only lust for how big a contract they can talk them into.
True love for the client nearly always comes from an often secret admirer. While it’s true that a radio Creative’s main objective is to be the advocate of the station’s sound between songs and DJ chatter, there is a component of that calling that most take on with nearly romantic fervor, and that is concocting effective commercials.
Look how the Creative yearns to know more about the client’s business, wondering always what EXACTLY the client desires in a spot. Read how they create poetic copy out of little more than a name, 18 price points, and a phone number that is repeated 3 times per the client. Witness the fury that is unleashed when the Creative battles to assure that Sales doesn’t put the client in copyright jeopardy… Hell hath no fury like it!
Annoying romantic analogies aside, the Creative often does become the one person in the radio transaction that can make or break the finished product. The importance of a well written, well produced commercial that intrigues the listeners to the point of turning the steering wheel in the direction of the client’s store cannot be ignored. If it entices enough listeners, a larger wheel begins to turn. The success proves to the client that his advertising dollars aren’t wasted. He returns to the station to spend more advertising dollars, not only because he can now afford more, but also because he knows it will get more customers in his store. And as the wheel spins full circle, there develops a long term relationship between the business and the station.
I suppose it’s easier to look at a spreadsheet and calculate the success of a radio station by what percentage over goal it was the previous month. Still, I’d like to believe that there is room for a relationship, a business partnership where the station airs what’s best for their client, and that the client in turn keeps coming back for what works. It all comes down to effective Creatives with the passion AND the tools to do their job right. Ah, there’s the love.