by Mark Margulies

The music plays in the background. The majority of the ad is spent telling the story of a senior citizen and how nervous he is about his first day of work at McDonald's. In fact, if not for an establishing shot some thirty-five seconds into the TV ad of the place itself and its trademark golden arches, you'd never know who they were talking about. But then you see the golden arches, the uniform, and the logo and you know. And you feel good. And you want a McDonald's burger, even if they never mentioned their food once in the ad. It's the beauty and power of image advertising, something your local clients can't possibly appreciate. But it's something that, with your help, they can achieve for themselves.

Clients would cringe if you proposed the above ad to them. A local fast food place would never approve a commercial that offered no mention of food, no mention of "freshest and finest," no mention of free parking or how long they've been in business. And that's the point. Your clients think that because McDonald's spends millions and they only have a few hundred in an advertising budget, they can't waste time on that nonsense. But they're wrong, and you can show them how.

Imagine again that, instead of McDonald's, you had to build an ad for a similar local fast food place. The Account Executive's information sheet would include most, if not all, of the following: You'd have to mention the freshest and finest food. You'd have to mention the friendly staff who's ready to serve you. You'd have to say this is the best hamburger in the area. You'd have to mention the one hundred percent highest quality beef. Could you work the owner's name in there somewhere...? You'd mention the fact that they have hamburgers, shakes, cold drinks, French fries, hot apple pie, fish sandwiches, and special meal deals for the kids, beginning at just $1.79. You'd mention that they're open Monday through Thursday from eleven a.m. to ten p.m., and stay open late Friday and Saturday till midnight. Don't forget to mention they serve lunch. You'd mention what a friendly, family ambiance it is. You'd mention the phone number twice.

Welcome to radio hell. Your client couldn't care less about image. The idea is, "Just sell my product." Now, that's a misconception that's the basis for a whole new article, so for now, let's stick with image.

Image radio is about more than selling image. Image SELLS product, image MOVES inventory because IMAGE is just part of the equation. In creating our company, we studied the methods and techniques of the industry giant to create a better synthesis between sales, production, and creative copy. What we found in listening to the best of the best was that they identify four basic elements that a radio ad should contain to be successful: 1. It should create a position for your client. 2. It should create an image. 3. It should inform. 4. It should entertain.

You see no mention of "freshest and finest." You see no mention of laundry lists or the "and don't forget..." syndrome. You see no mention of ideas like "pack it as full of information as you can...." What you see is simplicity in action. It's the first step to understanding that image will work for your client.

Now, of course, the minute you try to explain all this to them, they will yell and bluster (because they've been ripped from the womb of their "comfort zone" or the "way it has always been done") and tell you image ads are fine for McDonald's but they have millions to spend on advertisers. To which you remind them, that's true. So they're not going to WASTE millions every year on something that doesn't work! Why does McDonald's spend so much on ads? You think there's someone on the planet who has a pulse that hasn't heard of McDonald's? Of course not. So why spend the money? Simple. Rules number one and two from above--position and imaging. When you think "I'm hungry" and you then think "I want fast food" you get this warm feeling and think "McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's," or "McDonald's, Arby's, KFC." McDonald's is always first, while the rest don't matter. And if you think Wendy's, Burger King, Arby's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the rest of them aren't spending money to unseat McDonald's from that perch, think again. It's all position and image.

So your client may repeat, "I just don't have the budget." And they may be right--partially. Because before, when they've shotgunned money into schedules on your station, they may have wasted a lot of money in trying to achieve results. Now, with an image ad and a schedule that's right for them (determined by your AE), their success will alter their thoughts on the matter. Remember too, image ads aren't for clients buying twenty-four ads at a time. They're for clients who want a presence but are having trouble creating one. They know they're going to be advertising, but they do it in spurts because they see roller coaster results. With image advertising, you stabilize the ride.

So how do we start to create an image for your client? By unloading the garbage from their spots. And here's the place to start: with your AE (let's see your Account Execs read this without thinking we're total idiots). Never have an AE spend more than five minutes with your client taking down spot information. (Are they laughing yet? Have they used the term like "Morons" and said something like, "Man, what a rag. These guys are bozos who don't know what they're talking about?") We'll say it again, five minutes. Tops. Any longer, and they're wasting their time and, ultimately, yours. Any more than five minutes and you have the reason why they're frustrating you. Because they're so busy pleasing the client and copying all that precious information down, they have no concept of what the client is ACTUALLY expecting them to deliver or accomplish.

Five minutes. It's called focus. Teach it to them. Teach them that sentences like, "So tell me a little about your business," don't belong in their vocabulary. Teach them how to get a focus by asking a client, "How would you like people to perceive you?" or "What's one thing you want people to say about your dealership/fast food place/hardware store?" The answer is the beginning of image success.

So say a car dealer answers, "I'd like people to think of me as the price leader." Boom. There. It's done. The image has been handed to you on a silver platter. And most times it will be because clients know what they want to look like to their prospective buyers. You now have a great starting point to build an image campaign based on an idea.

And what will the campaign consist of? Well, how about a spot dealing with someone getting their first car (for new car buyers)? How about someone who didn't think they could afford a second car (Used Cars)? How about a spot dealing solely with someone totally surprised by their repair bill (the service department and how it's different)? All these different ideas built inside the theme that X MOTORS is the price leader because in each case they prove it. Now you're building image. Now, choose the right music and use it through each ad. Keep consistent voices, too. Suddenly, X MOTORS spots have a theme. They're focused. They're targeting a market within your market. And as long as the AE keeps the client on a short leash (none of this "but I want to mention my phone number and the fact that my dad founded this company and what about directions on where to find us..."), you'll be able to build a workable, successful campaign, a la McDonald's. After all, busy Production Director, you know image spots work. So here's a little help to get more of them working for you. Because you deserve a break today.