R.A.P. Interview: Roy H. Williams

JV: Are you doing a lot of seminars for radio?
Roy: Yeah. As a matter of fact we’ve got two a month scheduled for the next three years,  and we may be willing to take a third one each month. But we won’t take more than that. There are very, very, very few open slots left. We do have seminars in Austin about once a quarter, however. It’s an all-day seminar, and anybody who wants to come is free to come. There’s no charge. We built a movie theater upstairs, and it seats about forty people. Usually we announce in the Monday Morning Memo three or four weeks prior to the seminar that we have one coming up, and we have people come in from all over the country.

JV: Any plans for a video?
Roy: We probably won’t do that. A videotape series would be too much of a talking head kind of thing. In person I can keep it pretty well stimulating, but just sitting there watching it on a screen kind of scares me. But I do have an eight-hour audiotape series. We’ve sent out over five hundred of the audiotape series so far, and we’re sending those out in exchange for one hundred spots per station. We don’t care how big the station is. Our impact on that station is relative to their spot rate, so no matter how big or how small the stations are, we’ll send the eight-hour audiotape training series out for a hundred spots. They’re not available for cash. We won’t sell them at any price. And the hundred spots, obviously, are used to promote my book, The Wizard Of Ads. So, it’s kind of a win-win situation. The more books that sell in a marketplace, the more the local businesses in that city will buy radio or television advertising. The only thing we really bash is print, but radio and television both have the power of the spoken word. They have the power of sound. Echoic retention is another one of those psychological terms that is incredibly, incredibly important in television and radio, and nobody knows about it. But the difference between iconic retention and echoic retention is just staggering. The greatest lie ever told is that one picture is worth a thousand words. Psychologists have been laughing at that for decades. It’s simply not true.

JV: Give us an idea of what part two in your book is about, “Turning Strangers into Customers.”
Roy: “Turning Strangers into Customers” just talks about what we call “the world inside your door.” It’s about running your business. Advertising is the world outside your door, and then turning strangers into customers is the world inside your door, the business of running a business. Once advertising has done its job, you have to make this customer happy they came. You have to make the customer glad they’re doing business with you.

JV: Tell us about the third section, “Turning Dreams Into Realities.”
Roy: That section is about making sure that you are happy that you’re doing what you’re doing. One of the questions we ask in the book is, “How will you measure success? Do you love what you do?” As a matter of fact, section three is not much about business at all. Section three is just life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

JV: What’s one of your favorite chapters in this section?
Roy: I’d say it’s the chapter called, “Murphy Finally Figures It Out”, and just before that is the preview to that chapter called, “Celebrate the Ordinary.” Those are probably the two that I would suggest somebody would read back to back. We point out that Murphy’s Law is something every American knows: whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Then I take issue with that. I say, in reality, bad news is only reported by the media because it’s so rare. Good news is so abundant that it’s not even considered news at all. Good things happen relentlessly and continually in our lives, and for some reason we stay focused on the bad. Why is that? I basically feel sorry for Murphy for having such a negative outlook on everything.

In the sequel, “Murphy Finally Figures It Out,” I point out that if you do a little research, you’ll find that there really was a guy named Murphy. Most people don’t realize that his name was Edsel Murphy and that he actually had eleven different Murphy’s Laws. The one we know as “whatever can go wrong will go wrong” is actually Murphy’s Law number three, and it’s simply the best known. I think maybe his plan was to have an even ten laws, but in later years he had a revelation and wrote his insightful eleventh law. Law number eleven kind of indicates that maybe he got it all figured out, and that it’s not the creation around us that’s against us. For example, law number ten is “Mother Nature is a bitch.” These are very vitriolic laws. He’s raging at the cosmos in ten laws, but number eleven is just fascinating. It says, “it is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.” He figured out that the problem isn’t the universe. The problem is people. The problem is us, and we’re the ones who keep screwing things up. So, by just pointing out those kinds of things, I want to give people new information, but I also want to give them a new perspective.

JV: How’s the book selling?
Roy: According to my publisher, Ray Bard, this week we should make the Wall Street Journal best seller list, the Business Week best seller list, and the USA Today best seller list. He said last week’s sales figures indicated to him that we should have a lock on those three best seller lists. The book is currently in its third printing. Oddly enough, the average business book in America only sells five thousand copies in its entire life. The Wizard Of Ads already has sixty thousand copies in print. We’re about to have to go into our fourth printing because the sixty thousand are almost all sold out.

JV: A talented Creative Director of a radio station called me recently, inquiring about what I thought of his potential for success should he should leave the radio station and open up an ad agency. A lot of people in radio want to do this. What answer and advice would you give him?
Roy: I’m asked this question often, and my real questions are about commitment and staying power. How much does it take for this person to get by every month? Do they have staying power? Because I can promise them at least a year of real hell, working way harder than they’re being paid for. And if people think they’re going to be treated fairly and right and that everything is going to be good and fun, they’re simply out of their minds, and they need to keep taking a paycheck from an employer. But if a person is willing to pay the price in blood, and they’re willing to work far too many hours for far too little money for at least a year or two or maybe even three, then yeah, the world is your oyster. You can get ridiculously rich in this business if you’re good. The question is, is he good, or does he just think he’s good?

And just as importantly, if he has talent, that doesn’t really mean crap. You have to explain to all the morons why your thing will work. If they like it, that doesn’t matter. The client likes bad stuff. The client likes an ad though it doesn’t work. You may go out there and say, “This is good. Do you like it?” And the guy says, “Yeah, I like it.” If you think you’ve done your job, you’re in a fool’s paradise because when it doesn’t pay off and sales don’t increase, you’d have been a whole lot better off with a spot the client hated but made him rich.

So, to know what you’re talking about, to be able to prove that you know what you’re talking about, and to be able to explain in detail why your ad will work and the other ad won’t, that’s when you start making money. Can this guy do that?

A lot of people are creative, funny, and witty. There are people who contact us here continually who want to explain to us how much talent they have for writing funny ads. Gee, I’m not Jerry Seinfeld. I don’t care whether it’s funny or not. Does it sell products? Will it cause people to take an action they were not going to take otherwise? Show me a track record. Show me the people you’ve made rich.

JV: I take it you don’t do a lot of funny commercials.
Roy: No. Actually, humor is a lot like music. I believe in jingles. I believe in humor. I believe both of them are incredibly powerful, and they’re also extremely dangerous. Because they are powerful, they have the potential to blow up in your face. It’s like nitroglycerin. Used correctly, it’s a powerful tool. Humor and music, either one, if used incorrectly, you blow sky high.   

JV: Why aren’t you afraid that all the ad agencies out there are going to grab your book, learn all your secrets, and take business away from you?
Roy: It doesn’t matter. By the time we got our new office building built, we’d already outgrown it. We moved in March and wished we had built it twice as big. So I’ve just drawn a line in the sand and said, I’m not going to make this company much bigger than what it is right now. And we’re anxious to teach other people how to do what we’re doing.

JV: What can people get off your website at www.mondaymemo.com?
Roy: It’s the archive of all the Monday Memos that are not in The Wizard Of Ads. The Wizard Of Ads is a hundred and one chapters that you won’t find on the website, but all of the chapters that aren’t in the book are at mondaymemo.com. And you can also subscribe to the Monday Memo on the website, and you’ll start getting one each week by e-mail.

JV: Well, get ready for a bunch of new subscriptions to that.
Roy: Sure.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Your post will be moderated. Your email address will not be shown or linked. (If you have an account, log in for real time posting and other options.)
0 Characters
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location