JV: Paul, you mentioned the influence of Roy Williams earlier. Is this something he taught you guys?
Paul: A lot of what Roy Williams talked about focused on the principles of human behavior and how human brains work and how messages are interpreted, received, allowed to get in, etc. And so one of his fundamental principles is if you can get in once, then burrow your way in and quit trying to change it every week because you’re getting bored with it.
JV: And that would apply to station promos as well, wouldn’t you agree?
Paul: Absolutely. But the difference is, you can create different ads within the same campaign which are basically saying the same thing. If they are comedy, you can change those things up more frequently, but the general thrust of the message should not change.
In other words, we had clients in the past who this week want to do something that’s comedy based, and then the next week they want to do something different. So they get furious and then the next week they want to do something different with a jingle, and then the next week they want to do this and that, etc.
Steve: I think that’s why our rationale is so critical to the process, because most of the commercials can change but the focus and direction of what we’re saying and the position that the client is occupying in the market doesn’t change.
JV: It seems that Canadian stations tend to have a lot of writers on staff as compared to U.S. stations in similar markets.
Paul: Not as many as you think. Our ownership allowed me to experiment with adding a fourth writer. We had two when I got here. We added Steve as the third, and now we’ve added a very seasoned writer as the fourth. And some CHUM stations are doing that as well, but the bulk of the industry still has a limited number of writers on staff. My brother is a Creative Director in Toronto, and there’s him and one other person. So it’s not that Canadian phenomenon as much as it’s a matter of, those that want to invest in the message… do it. Those that are selling spots and dots and schedules and BBM runs or Arbitron runs… don’t. I know in the States, there are a lot of salespeople writing their own creative. Is that true?
JV: Yes it is.
Paul: And some may be writing stuff that’ll never work on behalf of their customers. And if it doesn’t work, they look bad. But so does our medium.
If Roy Williams did nothing else, what he said, to anybody who wants to listen is, “the ear is the side door to the brain. It intrudes. Sound is what can make a permanent impression in the brain, and you guys that own radio stations have the key to the side door of the brain. You just happen to deal in the realm of audio.” Roy Williams does not sell radio as an entity. He just sees it as a vehicle that uses sound to get in the brain.
JV: You mentioned taking a couple of busloads of clients to see Roy Williams. How did they come out of those seminars?
Paul: They come out energized. For once somebody explained to them how advertising works and what mistakes people make with advertising. He has a very elaborate and well-focused presentation that is very compelling and very demystifying.
JV: Back to your writers for a moment. You said the fourth one was a pretty seasoned pro. Are all your writers fairly seasoned or do you bring some rookies in and train them?
Paul: Well Steve hasn’t allowed me to train anybody because he keeps getting great writers. They’re all 20-plus-year pros.
Steve: Yeah, we don’t have a junior writer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We’re just fortunate to have seasoned people.
JV: That’s great. Steve, with the amount of work your team is doing there, it would seem that meeting deadlines is probably one of your major challenges. Would you agree?
Steve: No, and I think because we’re looking so far out at the horizon that the deadline issue becomes less and less of a problem. Our clients are looking farther out. We’re looking farther out. You’re far more organized.
Paul: There’s probably more work at the front end, but as we get down the road a bit, it actually streamlines itself out.
Steve: It’s really an interesting environment in the department because our writers and producers are really satisfied at the end of the day. And I know it sounds corny, but we’re doing a good job and we’re doing the right thing. Instinctively, you know you’re doing the right thing. This process has allowed us to really do the right thing for our clients and generate sales for them. That’s the ultimate goal, and it’s really, really empowering and really, really exciting for the people that come in everyday. It’s a great environment to be in. It doesn’t seem like work, and the deadlines become less of a stress.
Paul: Let me put it this way. When I was on the programming side, my mandate and my time horizon was to build something that would last. It’s not about a quick hit to get a quick spike in one rating book as much as build the kind of product that will deliver the target audience over the long term. So programming is very much a long-term view. I don’t want the sucker to go in the toilet a year from now.
What I discovered on the sales side was that they have monthly budgets, quarterly budgets, annual budgets, and the whole system is designed with a short-term horizon. And what I discovered with our clients’ businesses is that they’re not on a short-term horizon. Sure, they want to make the till ring, but they want to be in business three years and five years and ten years from now. And so what we try to do is work with them and partner with them to look at how to develop their business over the long term rather than spike it this week with the sale, because a lot of them are still doing that.
JV: Are there things other than a trip to see Roy Williams that you do for your clients along this line?
Paul: Sure. Those that weren’t fortunate enough to get on the bus, we present them with copies of the book if they like to read. We have this videotape library. In other words, education of our clients is central to what we do. I myself have done presentations for clients that are a kind of a short, down and dirty version of it. If you don’t have time to read and if you don’t have time to sit, give me twenty minutes and we’ll go over the fundamentals of it.