R.A.P. Interview: Rich Boerner, Ronn Lipkin, Rob Frazier

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JV: What’s the typical procedure to handle a client who wants you guys to do a commercial for them? Are all of you involved in a creative meeting? Do you visit the client’s place of business? How much time are you given to turn spots around? Is the creative done first, then the buy placed, or are you on constant deadlines?
Rob: It’s pretty fluid in that it depends on the situation. Sometimes all of us are involved in a spot, sometimes two, sometimes just one of us is involved. Clients that we have worked with in the past may already have a creative relationship established with one or more members of the team. New advertisers may meet with all three of us at first. I have on occasion gone on calls with salespeople, and it is always helpful to meet with the client on his or her own turf, but it is the exception more than the rule. As far as spot turnaround, we’re no different than the other production departments in that we get anywhere from a week to 12-hours notice. As for which comes first, the creative or the buy, sometimes the creative is what closes the deal, which is somewhat rewarding.

Ronn: We all sit down on Wednesday mornings for our creative meeting, which is designed to help new clients get off the ground with their spots, or to help existing clients freshen their campaigns. AEs sign up for the meeting in advance, and then they either bring in their clients in person or we do a conference call.

The AE’s and the sales managers have a good grasp of how long it takes to come up with something effective for their clients, so we usually have deadlines that range from 72 hours to a week to turn something around. Except, of course when they need it yesterday.

JV: To what to you most attribute the success KLSX has had with the direct advertising, with regards to what your doing with the commercials? Is it a Roy Williams approach you’re taking with the clients? Is it more about creating “entertaining” spots? Why are the commercials working for the client?
Rob: We make better commercials because we care about making better commercials. Some people think “Less is More;” I think better is, well, better.

Rich: In a perfect world, it would be creating spots and promos that I think are cool and funny. But we all know that’s not how it works. For promos, I pretty much have complete creative freedom. The only restraints are FCC and time. Because we run the syndicated Tom Leykis show in PM drive, I try to keep all promos 35 seconds or less. Commercials are a different animal. It really depends on the AE and the client. Our experienced AE’s know what a creative tool we are and sell us as such, which gives us a little more power when dealing with clients. No matter, we will always try to explain to clients what we think will work best for them on KLSX.

Ronn: Sometimes we go cinematically crazy, and sometimes we’re just real. I think that the best campaigns we’ve done are free of “ad speak” and meaningless, clichéd jargon. If a client has something worth selling, we try to get the word out by [gasp!] actually speaking like a person to our listeners. Also, since we have a lot of mortgage clients who like to voice their own spots, one thing that’s been successful is to make the clients feel comfortable during their recording session. And it’s not just getting them coffee — I make the AE do that, come on — it’s helping the client/spokesman to relax, to speak in words that he normally uses, and to convey the enthusiasm that helped him succeed in business in his spot. We’ve built some big business doing that.

JV: Are there other things that you would attribute the direct sales success to? For example, are there more salespeople selling direct than the average station might have? The station is ranked 15th in the market, but it’s a top biller. What else does the station do, if anything, outside of what you three do, to make this happen?
Rob: For starters, I think there is more direct selling in talk radio simply because there is more inventory to sell. Having “controversial” personalities like Howard Stern and Tom Leykis on the roster also adds to the importance of local direct advertising in that many national clients have specific orders that their spots not run in “controversial” programming. These shows however have huge, devout followings that any advertiser would benefit from reaching, and our local direct advertisers do just that. Many well-known local businesses got to be well known from branding themselves on KLSX. The station is also a solid performer in the 25-54 demo, consistently in the top 5.

JV: Do you all work together on promos and imaging as well? How does that work?
Rich: Promos and imaging are primarily my domain. I work with Ronn on the most complex ones, because we’ve been doing that for 8 years, plus he’s a Pro Tools magician. During the past year, I’ve been able to get Rob more involved in the promo process too. Both those guys are delightfully twisted in different ways.

Ronn: I enjoy working with Rich when he’s constructing imaging and promos. Sometimes I’m there as engineer, sometimes as a voice guy screaming and laughing hysterically — why am I so good at that? — and sometimes I’m just the admiring spectator to the creative madness.

Rob: Ronn and Rich still do most of the promo work, but I am getting more involved with the promos and enjoying every minute of it.

JV: You have a unique arrangement of 3 full time production people, and a part-timer as well, all working for just one radio station. Is it the in-house agency thing alone that requires the extra bodies? Is the Talk format itself more production intensive than a music station? Perhaps it’s a combination of both?
Rich: It’s definitely the combo. As an FM Talk station we basically have morning shows 24 hours a day. Plus 18 spots an hour, promos, and live paid programming weekend shows. There is a LOT of production involved in just maintaining a product like that. But we try to do more than maintain. We strive to improve a little bit every day. We want to have the feel of the upper end of KROQ. We have high energy, sarcastic promos, alt-rock “97.1” jingles that totally rock, and spots which attempt to entertain and sell effectively.

Ronn: Our GM, Bob Moore, realized a long time ago the value of producing spots in-house, and with the inherent extra inventory in Talk, there are plenty of opportunities to create campaigns.

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