by Dennis Daniel
In last month's issue, I wrote glowingly about how wonderful it is to be working at a radio station as opposed to an ad agency. The inspiration for that article was a recent meeting that took place at one of my favorite (and most satisfied) outside accounts, the Garden City Hotel.
First, a bit of a set up:
Brian Rosenberg is the gentleman in charge of the promotions connected with the hotel's dance club (Called G Club and Friday Night Jukebox respectively). Brian is also the head of the food and beverage department, which means he's responsible for the quality of food served at the hotel's four star restaurant. In the grand scheme of things, he's a pretty busy guy.
Brian first heard about my work through Ed Moore, a local time buying agent. Ed always comes to me when he has a club that needs production, and I usually refuse the offer! (After all these years, I've decided that they just aren't worth the hassle.)
(Phone Ring/Pick Up)
"Hi Den, it's Ed Moore. Listen, I have a club that's...."
"Forget it, Ed! I hate club owners!"
"But, this guy is...."
"Ed, I appreciate you looking out for me, but club owners suck dead dog farts! You know it and I know it! They never pay on time; they call with last minute changes; they haven't got a creative bone in their bodies! I have enough of them to deal with for WDRE. I don't need any of my own. Thanks, but no thanks."
"But Dennis... this is the Garden City Hotel."
(Let me just clue you in here: The Garden City Hotel is the most prestigious hotel on Long Island. A true 4 star hotel with an award winning head chef, the classiest rooms and surroundings you've ever seen, and an excellent reputation in the community. How Ed got it, God only knows!)
"Okay Ed, what's the deal?"
"Brian Rosenberg knows all about your work and would love to have you do his radio ads. Besides, it could be a steady account."
And so, my association with Brian began. From the beginning, we hit it off. Brian has a long history of working for all kinds of clubs, so he was more than familiar with the many elements of club ownership that I despised. He told me that the hotel business was very different and (this is the most important point) that he trusted my years in the business and promised not to hassle me.
To let Brian learn a bit more about my approach to creating commercials, I gave him copies of all my "Tales Of The Tape" columns. They seemed to really impress him. He genuinely made me feel like he respected my opinion and was more than willing to take creative chances.
I know. This all sounds too good to be true.
Days pass by. They turn into months. The pages on the calendar swirl by. Clocks spin like mad.
It is now March, 1991. I have been working with Brian with nary a hitch for over six months. It is bliss. It is wonderfulness. I receive a call:
"Den, I'd like you to come down to the hotel for a meeting. This guy that does my print ads has an idea for a radio spot and I want your opinion."
"Okay, no problem."
He wants my opinion. Nothing wrong with that. It didn't even bother me that he was thinking of using someone else for a spot. As I said, we had a terrific relationship and I just figured he wanted to try a different approach. That's cool.
So, I go to the meeting and I meet... HIM (whom we shall now refer to as Mr. Dick). Let me paint you a picture: A tall guy, kinda dorky looking. Balding head. $500.00 dollar suit with high pant legs (the kind that make you want to inquire, "When was the flood?") Expensive gold watch. His own "beeper." $300.00 cowboy boots. Large nose. Fake smile. Nervous twitch. And a potpourri of hackneyed, clichéd phrases. In other words... Da-Da-Da-Daaaa... MR. AD AGENCY! (aka Mr. Dick)
Thank you God. Thank you for not making me him. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Brian has set up the classic confrontation. The radio guy versus the ad agency guy. The radio guy being the one who lives, breathes, eats and defecates radio, and the ad agency guy who is the quintessential jack of all trades and master of none. Brian, smart ass that he is, wanted to get us both together to watch the sparks fly. The S.O.B. KNOWS I won't lie to the guy if I think his idea blows.
Mr. Dick proceeds to read me his commercial for The Polo Room (the hotel's piano bar). He spreads his arms out wide and says with a smile, "Now picture this... we hear the sounds of people mingling. On the piano, 'As Time Goes By' plays softly." Good Lord, here it comes. I closed my eyes to listen. It is riddled with overused ideas. He has decided to take the "Casablanca" approach. (If I had a dollar for every Bogart spot I've been asked to do.) Phrases like, "The Polo Room... because the fundamental things apply." (Hack! Cough! Ekk!) "The perfect place, as time goes by." (Wheez! Vomit! Retch!) Two people clink glasses together, and the man says to the woman, "Here's looking at you, kid." (Choke! Gack! Umph!)
Finally, it is over. I open my eyes. As I stare straight ahead, Mr. Dick looks at me waiting for me to tell him it's the most original, wonderful concept I've ever heard.
You KNOW what I told him.
Just as he was about to wholeheartedly disagree with me, his "beeper" goes off. He excuses himself.
"Brian, you jerk! You set me up! You KNEW I would gasp at this guy's stuff. All these ad agency guys think they've created a new phoenix rising from the ashes! What's he do, mostly print, right? I've heard and created more radio ads than this guy will see or hear in his lifetime!"
Brian is laughing. In a minute, so am I.
"I hate that @%#!-ing guy," says he.
He then proceeds to tell me how this guy almost ruined his life by getting print ads to him late, and they turned out to be the wrong ones. He just wanted to see me tear into him.
Needless to say, Mr. Dick's spot was never used. He even went into a studio, at his expense, to produce specs that Brian said, "were awful!"
You see, Brian knew that because I work at a radio station, and have a steady paycheck, I don't have to kiss anybody's behind (like most ad agency guys I know) to make a living. He wanted to see how this guy would handle criticism from someone he felt knew what radio was really all about.
My production brethren, this is the power that we wield. We know radio commercials like no one else. We write them, produce them, voice them, create them. We also hear what everyone else out there is doing. I feel pretty strong... how about you?