Q It Up: This month’s question is for radio’s commercial producers and copywriters, and comes from Rod Schwartz (March/April 2012 R.A.P. Interview), an Account Executive at KHTR-FM/KQQQ-AM in Pullman, Washington, and owner of Grace Broadcast Sales/Radio Sales Café: What would you like the salespeople you work with to know about your world?
Efrain Gonzalez <franko776[at]aol.com>, SoundWave Riders, www.soundwaveriders.com: I guess the answer is simple: “It’s not how I do what I do. It’s what I need from the salesperson to do what I do”.
Lots of salespeople forget about the client in the constant chase of a commission. They just grab a menu, or a business card, get the contract signed at 4pm and speed off back to the office because the client “needs” the spot for tomorrow morning.
First? The only reason a client would want a spot for “next day” to air, is because the salesperson, in their infinite pursuit of the $$$, threw you under the bus so he can cash in as quickly as possible. Example, I don’t know how long it takes to cut glass for 5 windows and the time it takes to install them. How does a glass shop owner know how long it takes to write and produce a spot?
Second? (And I hear this from old school salespeople.) Newer salespeople don’t connect with their clients, they behave more like snake oil salespeople than broadcast salespeople. They build the hype, sell the spot, and “see ya!” Thirteen weeks later they come back and ask for a renewal, and that’s that. Shouldn’t be that way. It makes the clients feel like all of a sudden the salesperson is just another bill collector. I know it can get competitive out there, but the relationships you build with your clients are very crucial, especially if you take the extra effort to show you do care about them and their success.
Third? If you don’t give me, the producer, the necessary information your, client will not have an effective spot, therefore they will not get results and in turn will NOT renew contracts. Yeah, sales guy can tell them the “oh, it takes more than 3 to 6 months of constant advertising for the spot to be effective” and string them along with that. But if that was the case, why would large companies (like the pizza places of the world) do monthly promotions or specials? Obviously, they are not targeting just the consumers that already know the brand, but new ones as well. In the end, those kind of tactics ruin the industry, because clients lose faith in the medium, it makes them feel cheated, like they got hit with a “con job”, and then they simply choose not to invest in advertising at all because of lack of results.
A radio producer’s job is crucial to the success of a profitable radio station, but salespeople have to understand that even though they are the ones that bring in the money, we are the ones in charge of creating the final product, and for that we need the right info and a proper amount of time to be able to create a compelling spot that will generate your client revenue. Otherwise? What you get is a client ticked off, a salesperson complaining to higher ups that the client didn’t renew the spot because he didn’t like it, and it all falls on you.
Sad part? In many cases, upper management will take the salesperson’s side, simply because they are the “money getters” and you are just a studio rat. So my best advice for any producer that has to deal with this type of salesperson (which are more and more frequent than we would like) would be to document everything in memos, emails, anything you can to show proof that you tried your best to advise the salesperson with regards to the client, and prove your intention was something else rather than produce a spot in 15 minutes that sounds like crap.
Andrew Frame <andrew[at]bafsoundworks.com>, BAFSoundWorks, Lehigh Acres, Florida: I don’t want reps to be concerned with what I do, or how I do it.
I want reps to focus on doing THEIR job - selling air time.
The best reps I worked alongside were concerned with nothing but selling.
They sold, I created, we did our part to fund Das Korporation.
And that’s what we were there for. Cha-ching.
Mitch Todd <Mitch.Todd[at]siriusxm.com>, Sirius XM: That if the salesperson wants results (vs. a one-time sale) they should build in time for the Commercial Writer/Producer to have at least a 15 minute discussion on their product or service and who their customers are.
Then if the Writer/Producer is good and has time, they have a much better chance of creating effective advertisements.
Craig Allen <craig.allen[at]cumulus.com>, Cumulus Media, Saginaw, Michigan: The money your client is spending doesn’t by extra time to create the commercial. A $25,000 buy and a $250 buy generate the same exact amount of extra time to write and produce a spot - Zero.
When your client says “I want something creative that grabs the listener’s attention”, stop them before they can say another word. “Creative” is a very abstract concept. “Effective sales message that results in more money in your pocket” is a much more concrete idea. Work on a script that tells the truth, solves the listener’s problem or eases their pain, and motivates them to buy from your client. If it’s creative, that’s a bonus. However, there have been plenty of “creative” commercials that failed because they didn’t make the cash register ring.
Even if you don’t know copywriting fundamentals, learn these two things: make the commercial about the listener, not the advertiser; and answer the question, “Why should I (the listener) give you (the advertiser) my money?”
Realize the resources that you have available. If you only have 7 people on staff to voice spots and they’re all men, don’t submit a script that calls for two young mothers and a 10-year old boy.
Your “small emergency” might take only 10 minutes to fix. But if the 14 other salespeople also have a “small emergency”, suddenly 2 1/2 hours of extra work has been added to my day.
Nearly 50% of my workload occurs on Friday for a Monday start. Stop turning in all your prod orders on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. Turn them in on Tuesday and Wednesday when possible so I can spread the workload among the staff. If you do, you will hear fewer profanity-laced rants coming from my office on Friday.
And finally, believe it or not, I might occasionally know what I’m talking about. It does happen from time to time. So a little respect goes a long way.
John Pellegrini <pellegrinijohn[at]gmail.com>: If there is one thing I wish salespeople would know, it’s that getting your client to sign the contract isn’t the end of all the work... It’s merely the beginning. Far too often, hard working sales reps view putting together a traffic schedule and getting the money as the only important part of their job.
What separates great salespeople who have long successful careers in radio and any other media from the ones who never get anywhere is the knowledge that success depends entirely on the strength of the message in the advertising. For any campaign to be successful, the advertising created MUST GENERATE SALES FOR THE CLIENT. There are thousands of ways for businesses to advertise their products and services, and radio is not at the top of that list any more.
The reason a business choses to advertise on your station is that you assure them that you’re station delivers results. But results depend more on effective advertising messages than they depend on effective traffic placement. Without a good message you throw away most of the ability to get the results your client expects. So make sure you work as hard and carefully with your production team as you do with your client to ensure that your client will remain your client.
Jeff Ogden <jeffo[at]gpimonline.com>, Fargo, North Dakota: That my world is “Relational” in a mostly “Transactional” sales world.
Since the commercials we create are mostly made for the “Buyers Point of View,” salespeople need to know that what we created for them is less about delivery of audience and price and more about what it takes to get a listener to become a buyer. What good is it really if a rep inks a large deal based on audience and price if the commercial doesn’t work? My proof is simple. Take a small deal with a great commercial that produced a lot of store traffic. Think you’ll get a second deal? Yes!
This begs the question of every salesperson: are YOU Transactional or Relational? Do you even know? If you’re a transactional, you love the deal, the numbers, schedules, ratings and data. Can you really, really, relate well to the client the Concept, Creativity and Production Value of the commercial we created? It’s a fair question because IF, IF, you CAN’T well defend the commercial, creative, sales psychology and how it generates store traffic because you’re a transactional, you lose a very large percentage of your close because in our business, delivery only is never, never, enough from the client’s point of view. This kind of thinking has killed our industry, that we have massive audience so a rip ‘n read commercial will do.
This begs a second question, “Is your CLIENT a Transactional or a Relational?” God forbid you’re a transactional rep with a relational client -- as you lose them in the conversation with massive data of Demos, Day Parts and Shares, they get that glossy eyed look, and you DON’T HAVE the relational ability to sell them what THEY NEEDED as a relational ( this great commercial) to make the price ok to expense? Transactional Reps need to get to producers for help in selling a relational client on the merits of the marketing. Bring us along. Brainstorm with us about where we are going in the AD. Let us show you why the listener will respond to the commercial. Remember, “AUDIENCE WILL NEVER EVER KNOW THE DELIVERY, PRICE OR THE DEAL.” They will only hear the commercial, and only that will generate store traffic to sales. Mark your client list for every kind of client you have, and know what they are before you go on the call. Get to us on every Transactional client.
Now, you reps who are ultra-Relational; we love you to bits because you CAN transfer the passion and the concept and sell what we create for you from the buyer’s point of view. Now if you’re a relational rep having trouble with transactional sales, can’t help you… see your sales managers. Know you, know your clients and meet with us so you can relate our world to you and your client. Life will be easier and your closing ratio higher..
Kyle Whitford <kyleprod[at]gmail.com>, www.KyleWhitford.com, Charlotte, North Carolina: That working in a radio station production room is like working in a hospital emergency room. It is truly an impossible job - with moronic deadlines, yelling egos, “I’m great and you’re not” attitudes, drunken, drugged fools showing up in a desperate state due to their own acts of mind numbing stupidity, and moments of pure joy when something wonderful happens. It is set up to be impossible by managers who should not have jobs in management.
Those who can find the strength to do the production job have the ability to hold the space for rampant idiocy while being simultaneously dedicated to an art and craft so heartfelt, so deeply embedded in the psyche that it begs for expression, and when it is finally framed up, is misunderstood by most.
I understand that you are under pressure. That your child is home sick, one of your parents just died, and you don’t even know if you want the job you have. I know that you are trying to make a living selling radio and the competition is ridiculous both from other stations and from your own co-workers who often pose as friends.
I know you have frustrations that few people understand and that you don’t even bother to try to express. I know that you have years of momentum built up and that the moron GM just took a good client away from you to make some other salesperson happy or keep them from quitting.
I know you don’t really like putting me under pressure and that you would prefer to give me three weeks to work on a spot, but this business is not set up to function that way.
I want you to know that I really do care about our success, and I want to do my sincere part as a team member to make things work. I celebrate our successes in my own way, even though I might not go for drinks because I have to finish some work then deal with my own family.
I understand that the GM is in his position because he got lucky but that he is such a damn fool even God is wincing. That his *Tribal Leadership (* Dave Logan) level three is something he will probably never be aware of and is likely too shallow to care. That he is riddled with cogs caused by his own emotional underdevelopment and that it even surprises him to be caught in a puppet position where the strings of corporate life-support-habit hold his job in place way more than personal accomplishment. That if he ever read a Jim Collins book like “Good to Great” he would put it back on the shelf marked fiction and then his knees would buckle from a subconscious undertow of lack so strong it is a force in its own right. A force that will likely dog him for decades.
Jeff Berlin <rapmag[at]jberlin.com>, former Copywriter /Production Director /Creative Services Director, Kiss 108, Boston: What I want salespeople to know is that my goal is that your client gets results from their radio spot. I want that spot to stand out, to resonate with the listener, and to motivate the listener to respond. I want your client to be shocked at how effective radio can be, and for them to allocate more of their marketing dollars to your station and radio in general. I want the relationship with your client to be a long term partnership.
The odds are long. Listeners see and hear thousands of advertising messages daily. The chances of them retaining the information, and actually responding to your spot are so remote it’s almost miraculous when they do. Yet it happens every day, so we need to maximize the potential for that to happen.
To do this, I need your help. I need the time to create a compelling spot. I need accurate information. You can’t give me too much information because you never know what the strongest possible “sell” may hinge upon. Please triple check any dates, venues, sponsors, slug lines, etc. - a 1 second error on your part could constitute hours on my part to fix. If you’ll work with me on this, everyone can win. You’ll win loyalty and dollars from your client; the client wins with a strong response to their marketing effort; listeners win by being treated to higher quality commercial content; and our station wins with stronger billing - maybe even higher ratings if our creative output is consistently excellent (imagine: spot breaks listeners don’t tune out).
Bear in mind, big advertising agencies may have full time copywriters, researchers, creative directors, casting directors, producers and engineers all working over the course of several weeks to produce a single radio spot - along with a 5 to 6 figure budget to get that spot produced. I’ll be doing the work of ALL those people, and may serve as the voice actor as well. I’ll have a fraction of an agency’s resources, a fraction of the time, and I’ll be working simultaneously on many other commercial campaigns along with yours. Yet my work will be measured directly against theirs - so please work with me to do the very best I can on behalf of your client.
Yaman Coskun <yaman[at]yamanair.com>: I think it is more critical today for the production folks to know about the sellers’ world.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. :)
Jim Van Dusen <jvandusen[at]astral.com>: Before our salespeople start at our stations, they have to spend time with each department and learn how it works. This is an awesome thing! However, it wasn’t always this way, and here’s a quick five list from my Prod past.
5. No, sorry, the morning guy is not still around at 4:45p to re-voice the middle line of that spot.
4. We don’t have a group of child actors kicking around to talk about the benefits of your client for tomorrow.
3. It might not be possible to change the phone number in that supplied spot… because it’s sung by a choir.
2. No, our announcer doesn’t sound exactly like that movie trailer guy, because Don Lafontaine was a very unique talent… and no we can’t get him to do it because… well, because he’s dead.
1. It sounds like they’re reading because the client and his daughter aren’t professional actors and because no one actually says the things the client wrote in his script.
Dale McCubbins <dale[at]christianfamilyradio.com>, WCVK/WJVK, Bowling Green, Kentucky: Wow, what a question.... I’ve lurked on the email answers for a couple of years so I HAVE to jump in this one.
I just celebrated 26 years in my job here at Christian Family Radio (non-com radio - no salespeople, but I’ve known and worked with a few in the past. Our “underwriting developer” usually understands my question, but even he sometimes....) Prior to this I worked around 10 years in commercial TV, AND I work part time at another non-com, an NPR station as a non-speaking board op (yeah, I’m a workaholic who loves radio!).
I also do some voice overs for local TV stations; and invariably...
I still get some :30 spot scripts with 35 - 45 seconds (or more!) of content. I guess my question isn’t really a question as much as a soap box rant.
Do salespeople not know how to count? Or is getting the sale THAT important?
I understand the concept -- the client wants as much info as they can cram into 30 seconds so they don’t have to pay for a 60 spot or a multiple spot run, but still, info overload doesn’t work on commercials!!!
I guess I have to ask a side question as well: How guilty am I? Is it partly my fault for being good enough to give them what they want?
I can’t make major changes on poorly written spots, other than spelling or some noun verb agreement; I can drop a few words here and there, and make some breathing changes, but I TRY to give them the script in 30 seconds... after all I want to keep doing the voice overs. Only once did I return a script with “I’m sorry this is impossible to do in 30 seconds... can you please drop any or all of the info that’s going to be visually on screen anyway?” They did, but it was a long time before I got another script.
And another question: Another Screamer spot?? Really??? :-P :-D
Thanks for letting me shout out....