R.A.P. Interview: Yaman Coskun

JV: Then comes “Less Is More” and the Clear Channel Creative Services Group, which you were involved with. How did that come about?
Yaman: I would like to lead into it with my pre-exposure to it as a result of my work with Jim Cook. You have to understand something; after coming to Clear Channel in Washington D.C. there was something quite new in the imaging arena that was to me, in the beginning, very, very disturbing. And that was Jim Cook’s imaging site. I opposed it. I opposed the centralization of resources, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone would allow their pieces of art to just sit in the town center for people to just come and bastardize at their own leisure. I thought Jim Cook was the Anti-Christ. This is within the first 90 days of me taking the position here. But Jeff Wyatt, our Program Director of Hot 99.5 and the guy who hired me here, repeatedly asked me and encouraged me to utilize the site for work parts, and whenever possible, to contribute to it. So in the name of cooperation and keeping the peace and keeping my job, I reluctantly began to do that, and something quite fascinating happened as a result of doing it, an understanding of how it’s helping, and also the sense of fulfillment I got from contributing to it, which is all about paying it forward – the take a penny leave a penny concept. I began to really warm up to not only how it was benefiting my job, but the concept itself.

Then I had the pleasure of communicating with Jim Cook directly, and that was another fascinating revelation because it turned out that he was such a great guy. I’m new, kind of reentering the corporate world and I’m figuring, “Hey, if you’re in the corporate level you can’t possibly be a nice guy; you’re probably some mean bastard.” This guy turns out to be totally cool, totally down to earth, and a really nice guy. I thought, “Okay, fine, I will keep doing it.

To make a long story short, it turned into kind of a little partnership where Jim would, from time to time, get me involved in these big projects along with a team of other available talents from across Clear Channel and say, “Hey, here’s what we’re doing. Here’s a collective contest that’s coming up. Here’s blah, blah that’s coming up. Can you help us launch it, conceptualize it, and then divide it among yourselves as to who is going to do what?” So names like Eric Chase, Steve Sykes, myself and a few others would get on a conference call with Jim, and Jim would say, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do, here are the copy points.” We would brainstorm for about 10 or 15 minutes and then we’d say, “Okay, Yaman will do the two promos and two beds, and Steve will do this, and Eric Chase will write this,” and that’s what we started doing.

That went on until September of ’04. Jim and I were in New York at a function we were attending together. I went up to Jim and I said, “I need five minutes with you privately.” “Sure, what’s up?” I said, “Listen, I have entertained this thought for a long time and I wanted to do this for a long time, and a couple of times I really came close, but it didn’t happen. But now I feel I’m ready to push this agenda forward and I want you to look at it.” I handed him a small presentation package on making what I was doing for the HOT 99.5 sales department in Washington D.C. a concept for the entire company — a creative service that would serve the sales department of Clear Channel radio stations across the country.

He browsed at it quickly, and Jim has a very poignant smile when he’s struck by an interesting thought. He had this smirk on his face, and I’m looking at him puzzled going, “What?” He said, “Don’t do anything about it. Don’t talk to anyone about it. I will talk to you more about this in a week because this is already in the works, this is already underway.”

What I was oblivious to, which I later found out, was that right as I was handing him that package, within that 24 hour period Jim had spoken to John Hogan about the launch of Less is More, and his phase two of Less is More was to create a services group. So Jim, naturally, was already light years ahead of me on the concept and had already initiated it, and John and Jim were already getting ready to launch it. Talk about being at the right place at the right time.

And that’s how my involvement with Creative Services Group happened. A week later Jim called and unveiled what was going on. This was about a week or two before Less Is More was announced to the public. He said, “In two weeks, John is going to do this. This is all confidential. After that we’re going to start something.” At the time they were calling it the Creative Resources Group which we later changed to Creative Services Group. Jim said, “I’d like you to be my right-hand guy.” At this point; I can barely hold the phone. I’m like lying on the floor with excitement. I can’t believe this is happening. This is just 100% pure ecstasy and I couldn’t believe I was blessed enough to be chosen for such a project. I remember stuttering and trying to articulate myself just to be able to say thank you. About a month later, I was one of the four executives launching the Creative Services Group with Jim Cook as the National Creative Coordinator and Senior Producer.

If 10 years ago someone predicted that the world’s leading radio company would put the “creative” on the front burner and launch a division like The CSG, I’d say “keep on dreamin’.” Now, I’m living the dream! All because of a couple of smart guys like John Hogan and Jim Cook. Together, they are curing the creative cancer radio was about to die of.

JV: What were some of your duties with the Creative Services Group?
Yaman: Upon launching the Creative Services Group with Jim we started traveling the country pretty much immediately, preaching the word, if you will, to radio stations because the Creative Services Group’s primary mission was to educate and empower our radio stations with the knowledge of effective creative and how to do it. I’m not going to go into the details of it because you’ve already conducted an interview with Jim Cook and your readers are probably aware of the primary missions of the group. But my role as the National Creative Coordinator was to be the liaison between the Creative Services Group and all Clear Channel radio producers. Part of what I did every day was to reach out to at least five or six or more producers, not by email or some generic approach, but by phone. I’d say, “Hey man, I’m Yaman, blah, blah, how’s it going? What are your challenges? How can we help? Here’s what I’m doing, can you help?” That part of the Creative Services Group, it being a cyber entity with a website that everyone was utilizing, was Spot Share, something that our Clear Channel radio producers were encouraged to submit spots to, exemplifying effective 15s and 30s with audio and script. So I would also solicit their assistance in submitting to Spot Share. That was one phase that I was doing. The other phase was to assist Jim Cook and his team with necessary production of sample campaigns as well as to design custom campaigns for specific accounts assigned to me by the Creative Services Group.

JV: What have you learned about meeting the challenge of Less Is More with regards to commercials, 15s and 30s? You’ve won lots of awards in the past with 60 second commercials; are you able to do that with 30s and 15s?
Yaman: The answer is a resounding yes, and not only is it a yes, but I can do it better. Most importantly, Creative Services Group did not just come on as this bunch of radio guys working in radio, talking about radio and saying, “Hey, we can do this better and let’s do it in 30s.” We did independent research that proved that shorter is better, and we also hired some incredible names with great marquee value to help us accomplish that. Roy Williams, Jack Trout, Dick Orkin and his Radio Ranch. These people showed us that anything we can do in a 60 we can do better in a 30 or even a 15, and they showed us how.

Everything that I have told you up until this point in terms of what I have done and how I have done it, after what I have learned through my adventure with the Creative Services Group and as a result of the exposure I had to these great names, I only knew half. What I am doing now, I am doing with so much more knowledge and with such a sound strategy that I am able to effectively write 30s and 15s and even 5s that have a single strategy that is engaging, because that’s what we have to do, and they’re working. And this is not my opinion or Jim Cook’s opinion or John Hogan’s opinion, this is most importantly consumers’ opinion.

JV: Give me an example of a five second spot that works.
Yaman: Creative Services Group recently put together a five second spot as an example for Afrin. You hear the guy say, in a strained, nose plugged-up sounding voice, “Afrin.” And then you hear two sprays from the bottle. And then you heard him breathe in and out clearly and go, “Ahh… Afrin.” In five seconds this unit was able to establish the problem, explain the dosage, show the resolution, and say its name, all in five seconds. Clearly, a 60, as Roy Williams says so eloquently, “is an infomercial.”

JV: You’re not part of the Creative Services Group at this point, which brings us to today. What are you doing now?
Yaman: As a result of the Creative Services Group being formed and what I did for the group, they came up with sort of a pilot program, a beta position that they decided to test in the Washington D.C./Baltimore region. They asked me if I would be interested in being the Creative Director for Sales. So, my umbilical cord, as is every Clear Channel radio producer’s umbilical cord in this company, is attached to the Creative Services Group, but my position is now exclusively for the Washington D.C./Baltimore area as the Creative Director of Sales. I’m sort of like a mini CSG for Clear Channel radio Washington D.C. I’m responsible for eight of the Clear Channel stations here. This position is being used as a template based on its success rate with the desire to roll it out to other markets. And I have been very lucky to be surrounded by a team of talented and dedicated producers in this market. That becomes critical when you are enforcing the protection of our product’s creative integrity with clients, sales and agencies. I thank daily my partners Darrin Marshall, Bernie Lucas, Jim McKenna, Shock, Mike Kelly and Keith MacDonald for upholding and embracing the importance of quality creative regardless of the amount of revenue attached to it.

JV: Part of what you do in this new position is train salespeople. What do salespeople need to learn that you teach them?
Yaman: Well, Einstein said, “The great ideas are often met with violent opposition from mediocre minds.” What’s happening is that sales, especially older school sales along with their older clients who have been doing 60s in their own way for a number of years, naturally and inevitably oppose change, just like I opposed change going from the razorblade to Pro Tools as well as coming to Clear Channel and seeing this imaging site where I thought Cook was the Anti-Christ. It’s inevitable that no matter how progressive we think we are, we resist change. So what I am able to do here with weekly workshops is take what the CSG does in its workshops nationally, abbreviate it into a three-hour workshop, and localize it for them to understand and participate in a healthy and effective manner, explaining to them ultimately that they are marketing partners, and the most important thing that they are selling is not cost per points or ratings or other sales related, number related stuff that I don’t even get, but it’s the message. The message is the most important thing that they provide for their clients. And for them to be able to do that they have to be able to have authority. And authority comes with knowledge. And when you transfer that knowledge to your client, you’re transferring confidence. And the only way they can do that is if they become the perfect waiter. What I mean by that is the perfect waiter is the one who knows exactly who is home in the kitchen, explains the specials of the day with incredible passion, and gives the customer the impression that wow, is this the waiter or is this the chef? I can’t tell. It sounds like he can go ahead and cook.

So, we’re not asking salespeople to become cooks or chefs, we just want them to know exactly what goes on in the kitchen so they can speak with great confidence to their clients. The more confidence you have, the less interference you will get, creatively speaking, from the client, and the more effectively we can do our jobs to provide a client with great, effective, creative campaigns that will get results.

In fact, we have website that I designed at www.WBTAradio.com/DC that reflects openly and explains clearly what I have been doing here, because other than training and consulting our sales staff, I am also assigned a number of accounts based on their financial priorities to help them improve their creative and get results. We can talk about how important creative is, but if the creative is not translating into revenue, then we are just artists, and we can’t just be artists. That’s not good enough. We have to be persuaders. That’s who we are. In the past I was proud of the fact that I was a great producer who would also write. Now I have to be proud of the fact that I’m a great writer who can also produce. That’s mainly what I am doing here. I am working to ensure that the creative I do translates to revenue, that I am writing effectively, cleverly, and not just writing for the sake of being creative, but rather I’m an effective persuader who takes the clients marketing objective and turns it into an engaging, emotional, selling proposition for the consumer.

JV: Any advice for inspiring creatives who want to take their work to the next level?
Yaman: Learn how to write effectively. If they are working for Clear Channel they don’t have to worry about anything because everything is here. If they are not, I would send them to the Wizard Academy. I can’t think of anyone who is more knowledgeable or more effective in his teachings than Roy. It’s just phenomenal, and he is on the money with everything.

JV: What’s down the road for you?
Yaman: Well, if I enter into another state of delirium and recapture the passion of my nine-year-old self, I may resurrect Yamanair, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon because up to date the most exciting, the most fulfilling project I have ever taken on, the one that I am the most passionate for, is the one I am doing now. When I am able to hold these workshops and watch the salespeople convert, and when I see these clients eyes light up as they see the creative, or more importantly see the results from that creative, that is just an outrageous incredible reward for me. And I’m loving it. This is a long-term commitment I have made. This is a task I have taken on, and I have no intentions of turning my back on it or leaving it half-assed until it is fully and effectively complete.

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