by Sterling Tarrant
I'm glad that you could be here for this very special occasion. By the time you read this I will be exactly 400 months old. I mean, in all practicality, what does this translate to? I'm a paid off mortgage. In tax terms I've gone past depreciation to dust. In dog years I'm dead. Yet, I'm a fractoid of a dust speck in the universe of time. I think this is cause for a celebration, don't you?
So what will I be doing to celebrate this weekend? Refurbishing my lawn mower. Hey, when you get to be 400 months old, you're concerned about mowing. It's part of your awareness of the celebration of life. Grass grows, grass needs to be cut. Elton John would call it the circle of life. I'd rather call it the celebration of life 'cause I don't mow in a circle. It makes me long to be only 200 months old again, 'cause that was all Hakuna Matata.
Anyway, life being what it is, I'm looking forward to celebrating this occasion. For two reasons: one, because I have a yard to mow, and two, because I haven't reached my 800th month at which point I'll be wearing turtlenecks, Bermuda shorts, and black socks and shoes when I mow. By month 803 the guys in the white jackets will stop by, take me away, and once again I'll be back to Hakuna Matata. Such is the celebration of life.
In radio, we're always looking for any reason to celebrate. I love a business in which the person who holds their water the longest and can belch like Norm on Cheers wins a prize. It's wacky stuff, man. So this month's question addresses that: what's been your most favorite promotion?
Stu Schroeder, WKRZ-FM, Wilkes-Barre, PA: The one that seems to work real well for us is called "The Birthday Wheel" which we do every single day of the year. We spin the wheel, and if your birthday comes up and you're the ninth caller, you win a hundred dollars. At certain times of the year, especially during ratings, we'll increase the amount of money that a person can win, maybe a thousand dollars to ten thousand dollars. On our country station, we just finished giving away a lawn mower. People had to guess how much gas was in the tank and how long the mower would run. That was fun, it created a lot of interest.
So you see, I'm not the only one out there dinking around with lawn mowers.
John Nixon, KLSY/KIXI, Bellevue, WA: All we've ever done is give away trips and tickets 'cause we're not a big promotional station. But we're involved with the Teddy Bear Patrol where people drop off Teddy Bears at sponsors. They're then given to police and firemen who, in turn, give them to kids who have been in emergency situations. I was working in San Diego and "Jeff and Jer," the station's morning team, used to do a thing called the "Pay Phone Challenge." They'd send their producer out to a pay phone, and they'd wait for someone to walk by. Then they'd call the number and get the guy to do something crazy. One time they had a mobile service who would come to your car and put a new windshield in. He was standing by while they got a city employee to bust out the windshield of his city car with a sledgehammer. Another time they got a guy with a gas lawn mower to start it up, then walk it into a 7-11 and ask if they needed any yard work done.
Another lawn mower story! After all, it's springtime when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of, uh...mowing. Some radio stations though, you wonder where their thoughts come from.
Jimbo Powers, KLBJ-AM/FM, Austin, TX: I guess "Buried Alive" or "Frozen Alive" would be the top of the list. We're about to do that. The Promotions Director, Brian, is going to be Frozen Alive. They're going to put him in a big vacuum-sealed tube that you send through the Bank Teller machine and then put ice all over this, and he's going to be in this for like a day and a half.... (At this point, I interrupted Jimbo. "You're making this up!) "I'm dead serious!" he said. "We're gonna try to have fun with this. I mean, how do you produce a promo for that?" They're actually raising money for something. Someone's benefiting from this. They're hyping it up!
I must point out that Jimbo had just received preliminary info on this promotion. I'm sure other details will be forthcoming. He did promise to send the promo in for the RAP Cassette. Let's just hope Brian, the Promotions Director, stays away from lawn mowers.
Finally, Bob Holmcrans, WPGC-FM, Washington, DC: Several years ago we did a contest based on Michael Jackson's song "Smooth Criminal." We did a Smooth Criminal chase with an old detective scenario where Michael Jackson tickets were stolen. We produced spots with this hard-boiled cop who was on the chase, and the smooth criminal would give clues as to where the tickets were stashed. From a production aspect it was a lot of fun. On a more serious side, we've been involved in the whole "Stop the Violence" thing. We had Jesse Jackson do a prayer vigil one Thanksgiving. Then something we did last year that our Program Director came up with was the "Jammy" Awards. We put up a list of nominees, we got cooperation from the record companies to get acceptance speeches from the artists if they won, and we hired Lou Rawls to be the host. It was a lot of pre-production work, and then it was like a live show with a lot of producing and directing elements.
As you can see, radio stations can always find some reason to celebrate. Since this column was off last month, let me extend belated celebrations to all the RAP Award winners. Imitation being the highest form of flattery, I've already heard some of those spots reproduced here in Colorado Springs. Until month 401, Hakuna Matata!