I've got an interesting addendum to Mark Margulies' article about sales folk and copy. [Way Off The Mark, Oct. '94 RAP] The fact is, while duopolies have reduced staff and caused some stations to double up on jobs for people, salespeople writing copy is nothing new. In fact, many of the oldest radio stations on the planet always have, from day one, and always will have their sales folk not only writing copy, but, in many cases, voicing the copy as well.
Which stations you ask? Would you believe WGN, the number one billing radio station in Chicago and, possibly, the entire United States does not have a copywriter or Production Director? I know this because a good friend of mine used to work there as an engineer (a board-op engineer, not a technical engineer). I had asked him about the possibility of getting some production work there, and he told me to forget it. "The sales staff writes and voices all of the production unless the client specifically pays for an air talent voice."
"You're kidding", I exclaimed!
"It's true", he said. "They've always done it that way." The reason given was that AFTRA (the union) stipulates that if an AFTRA member air talent or production person voices a commercial, then they must be paid extra for that work. So, right from the very beginning, WGN has always assigned writing and voicing spots to the members of the sales staff, who don't get paid extra, unless the client requests air talent and agrees to pay the AFTRA rate. But the sales staff still writes all the copy for spots to be produced in house. You'll also discover that two-thirds or more of all the spots on WGN are agency produced. Wonder why?
Most radio stations started out that way in the early days. That's probably why there never was a "GOLDEN AGE OF RADIO ADVERTISING." Whether or not the AFTRA rules have changed on this matter makes no difference to the folks at WGN. They bill over $40 MILLION DOLLARS on average each year. So why beat a dead horse (aside from the sheer pleasure of it)?
I'll go one better than this for the close. Paul Harvey not only writes the commercials for his broadcasts, he also sells them. He is the only sales rep for his broadcasts. He does the news, contracts the news to ABC, sells the news, and does the commercials. Yes friends, you can make money on Roach Prufe four different ways. GOOD DAY!
John Pellegrini, Production Director
WKLQ-FM, Grand Rapids, MI