R.A.P. Interview: Doug Harris

JV: Would the same apply to sales promotions?
Doug: Unquestionably. Too many times, the account executive or the client is starting with a budget figure in mind, and not thinking about what it’s going to take to move the consumer to action. Tomorrow is Saturday. We’re talking the day before a weekend, and tens of thousands of remote broadcasts will happen from car dealers and grocery stores tomorrow with a prize wheel and a tent, and we’ll wonder at the end of the day why nobody showed up. Well, it’s because there isn’t enough to get the listener excited. You need to do something that gets people worked up, and too many times we’ve got, “The client will never pay for that,” or “That’s too much money,” or “We could never get that prize package,” or whatever, and I found that just the opposite is true. If you get the client and say, “Here’s what it’s going to take to bring people out,” sometimes they’ll step up and pay the price.

JV: How do you deal with sales promotions where the client is calling the shots with their big schedule and says “Here… I’ve got 24 cases of this junk I want you to give away. Now make something out of it.” What are some of the key things to keep in mind when trying to create something from nothing?
Doug: I found very few prize packages that I couldn’t make exciting or at least humorous. We had a client one time that wanted to give away gallons of Bing cherries as a morning show prize. Now, this is in a small market, but still, who wants to win a gallon of Bing cherries? Well, the client was very insistent, and we wanted to get the buy, so what we gave away was your weight in Bing cherries. That’s the sort of whimsical thing that an air personality with any kind of skill, any kind of talent can have some fun with. They get on the phone and say, “I want all my big winners to call today, because I want to really give away a lot of cherries this morning.” There are things like that you can do.

I had another client that wanted to give away cans of propane gas for the picnic season. Well, again, not a very exciting or glamorous prize, but when you combine that with a gift certificate from the grocery store and the grill that is used with the propane and picnic supplies and things of that nature, suddenly you’ve got a package that’s brought to you by the propane guy, but the propane guy becomes incidental. He’s integral and he’s fundamental to the promotion, but he’s not the scope of the promotion, and that makes it more appealing. The weeks before a big picnic-style holiday like Memorial Day or Labor Day or July 4th, giving away the ultimate backyard barbecue or picnic package is pretty exciting. You can make something of that.

I think a lot of times, we get the prize package and we just roll our eyes and say, “Oh, my gosh, what are we going to do with this?” You just need a little imagination. Most of the time, by bundling or packaging with something else, or something thematically interesting, I think that most prize packages can be saved.

JV: We explore this next question in RAP all the time, and I’m sure you’ve heard it: Where does one go to get those ideas?
Doug: Well, if I’m on board, they come. They’re available with a phone call! But I think there are a lot of places where you can great ideas for promotions at low cost or no cost. The most valuable I’ve found is a website called www.lured.com. Make sure you type that in correctly or you’ll get some weird stuff on your computer screen. Lured.com is produced by a guy named Sammy Simpson, a Promotion Director who’s been at some huge radio stations around the country. It’s a free website that has listings of promotions by theme. For example, once you register, you can go in and type in ‘Mother’s Day,’ and it’ll spit out 50 Mother’s Day promotions all tested for radio. Of course, some of them are very fundamental and small market, and some of them are big and elaborate. You get everything, but it kind of helps you as sort of a stepping stone.

I think Chase’s Calendar of Annual Events, which is available at www.chases.com for about $50 U.S., is a spectacular resource. Sometimes it just takes a celebrity birthday to give you the fodder you need for a good nightclub promotion, or a space milestone, or something like that that you can get from Chase’s. It was Groundhog Day yesterday, I believe, and if you look up ‘Groundhog Day’ in Chase’s, you’ll find all kinds of information about things that can be done on or about the Groundhog Day celebration. Chase’s sits in the control room most the time, collecting dust, and every once in a while the morning show uses it as show prep. It’s a wonderful resource.

I’m also a big fan of www.trendcentral.com. Trendcentral.com produces a daily online newsletter. It’s about a one-minute read, and it’s all about hip, young, trendy things that are happening for teens and young adults. www.dailycandy.com is great resource if you’re working with a female audience, particularly at an AC or a Contemporary Christian station. Dailycandy.com is, again, a daily online newsletter. It’s about a 45-second to one-minute read — just an idea, a twist, something different. And there are dozens of these kinds of sites out there.

The “Green Book of Songs,” which is produced by Jeff Green of R&R, is a listing of 30,000 songs by theme. So if you’re looking for a hook or something that has to do with trucks, you look up ‘trucks’ in the Green Book of Songs. That’s at www.greenbookofsongs.com. There are just dozens of resources out there. The production person or creative person should not bear the burden of having to come up with the idea themselves all the time. It’s okay to look other places.

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