by Joel Moss
Three times a year at WEBN, the GARMENT DISTRICT SUBDIVISION gets cranked up to flood the Cincinnati market with outerwear: sweat shirts in the fall, a short-sleeved, three-button collarless model for spring, and the traditional fashion statement for summer, the Toyota-WEBN Fireworks 'T' (shirt), each offering features unique, colorful graphics created by one of several free-lance artists, and the entire process is overseen by one person: David Ritter, or "Garmento," as he is occasionally referred to. From the evolution of the artwork to the manufacturing and distribution, Dave's the man that keeps the shirts moving through the pipeline.
Several weeks before the garments hit area retailers (distribution network), David will show me the artwork to stimulate ideas for the extensive two-month campaign that I'll create to market the "outerwear with an attitude." I'll produce up to twenty pieces; some short sweepers, thirty-five to forty seconds, and the rest full sixties. The longer spots occupy the first element in stop sets, and the sweepers occur between music selections. Depending on available inventory, I'll produce more sixties if there are avails and more sweepers if the log is jammed (as has been the case in recent years). The tease phase of the campaign usually begins about ten days out: "coming soon to a garment district location near you...," then "coming Friday...," etc. Our goals are primarily two fold: (1) SELL SHIRTS, and (2) SELL ATTITUDE. Or maybe it's attitude first, then shirts.
Anyway, ideally I'll try to tie in the shirt campaign with other current advertising that the radio station is doing, such as TV and/or billboards. It can all begin with something as simple as a phrase, i.e. "WEBN STRIKES AGAIN!!" This was the tag line for a TV campaign created in September 1988 by 'EBN Program Director Tom Owens. Basically, we visually interrupted well-known TV spots for local retailers with "pirate messages" from WEBN. These "messages" were ostensibly positioning statements, like "standby for atmospheric discharge" and "objects on your TV screen appear closer than they are...." These were printed lines, not audio. The commercials chosen were video tape spots for car dealers, audio stores, a carpet warehouse outlet, etc. -- again, all very well-known ads -- and when the WEBN pirate interruptions occurred, complete with rolling frames and "snow," the results were very effective. (Believe it or not, some TV stations reported viewers so confused as to thinking there was some actual signal interference; sad, eh?)
Garmento then developed the artwork to tie-in with the TV. What he came up with was The Frog (WEBN mascot) bursting through the front of the sweat shirt, revealing call letters on a flesh-colored background with "WEBN STRIKES AGAIN" written below. The radio campaign followed the same format. We got permission (as with the TV campaign) from eight advertisers to use portions of actual radio commercials which we would interrupt with quick cuts to sell the shirts. I used white noise and a transitional stab (sampled Led Zep thing) to go back and forth from the real spots to the shirt promo. It turned out to be a very successful campaign and sounded great. We even went as far as interrupting music selections for the sweeper position promos, eventually playing the full song after the "pirate garment message."
Other campaigns have been developed by taking voice tracks (and other audio) from 'EBN TV spots and reworking those lines into radio promos. This was the basis for many of the spots created for our recent Fall Sweat Shirt. And of course there are song parodies, take-offs on current film/tv campaigns, and playing off some current topical event. In this regard Oliver North's testimony during the Iran-Contra hearings several years ago provided some wonderful material for that summer's fireworks tee-shirt, as did Pete Rose's appearance on the Cable Value Network (hawking auto-graphed baseballs, bats, jerseys...jock straps) the night before he was banned from baseball!! That appearance spawned the Garment Value Network, which remains a viable concept.
When the Stones played Cincinnati in September 1989, I took the audio from their press conference announcing the Steel Wheels tour and perverted it for our own misuse. The questions were re-written and Mick ended up not only promoting the tee-shirts, but our fireworks show as well. (Thanks Mick, the check's in the mail...!)
WEBN garments traditionally sell very well. 'EBN remains the only AOR player in the market, with a twenty-plus year heritage, and excellent ratings achievement. Another key element in the success of the shirts is The Frog. He's hip. He's the Tall Cool One. He's the original party-animal (or in this case party-amphibian). The graphic art characterization of The Frog is always terrific, and listeners appear anxious to display "His Hipness," whether on window-stickers or tee-shirts.
While most conservative clients continually erect boundaries that tie hands and obstruct creativity, producing campaigns for the WEBN GARMENT DISTRICT presents a real opportunity to cut loose. I try to make the most of it.