by Andy Capp
I don't mean to be an alarmist, but our industry is in the midst of a crisis which, gone unchecked, could destroy the business of radio as we know it.
It's a problem that the industry has worked hard to avoid for years, yet, despite the best efforts of the greatest management minds in our field, it's become a plague that is growing and spreading across the country. If you haven't already guessed the nature of this threat, let me tell you that it has to do with relations between departments. To be blunt, they are...improving!
The danger signs have been flashing at us for some time. A salesperson might accidentally mutter, "Good job" to a DJ after a five-hour (unpaid) remote. An engineer could blunder and take a moment from his coffee break to find out why the on-air right channel has suddenly vanished, but ignoring these warning signals has sent out the message that it's okay to work together, allowing the attitude to grow like a cancer.
Nowhere has the epidemic been more lethal than between the Production and Sales Departments. There have been cooperative meetings, deadlines have been established and met, it's even been rumored that some salespeople take production staffers out to lunch as a THANK YOU?!
On the surface this all seems like nonsense, but in this age of increased competition, such actions puts us in a dangerous position. For years we've been content to focus on getting the sale, worrying less about whether the advertising was effective for the client and more on where the next contract was coming from. This cooperative working environment will encourage wasting time on creative spots, perhaps even entire campaigns in some misguided attempt to make the client a "happy and consistent advertiser." Of course, such notions are hogwash--why struggle in a war in which we can't possibly compete against all the flashy multimedia advertising options out there, when we can win the little battles that make the payroll and the corporate time share condo in Bermuda?
There is still time to circumvent this crisis and repair the damage already done. The following suggestions are designed to reestablish the strained relations between the production and sales departments, although with some modifications they could be used to make the entire staff bitter enemies.
1. Abolish all deadlines. Make it clear to the sales staff that they can hand in a production order any time of the day or night, perhaps investing in a pager for the Production Director so they can react to those orders that might happen on Friday night at eleven when the rep is entertaining a client who wants new spots on Saturday morning.
2. Discourage completely filling our production orders. Make the writers and producers guess a little. This assures misinformation, mispronunciations and recuts. One enterprising manager we know has even gotten rid of production orders entirely, asking the sales reps to scribble their notes for production on post-its, napkins, whatever's handy, in "an effort to save paper." Bravo!
3. Make sure that the sales staff consistently makes the "immediacy of radio" their main selling point. As far as your station is concerned, anything can be finished and on the air in half an hour, from a quick voice only ad for sump pumps during a flood, to an entire image campaign complete with an original jingle for a new client who's buying "on spec." What does it matter that all advertisers are accustomed to waiting for effective creative from every other medium on the planet, that sometimes it takes a small amount of time and thought to put an effective radio campaign together? We're talking about adding stress and discontent to our employees!
4. Offer misdirected perks. A good example of this would be presenting a bonus to the sales rep when a spec ad makes the sale. Wanna really turn the heat up? Try only getting tickets for the salespeople the next time you're up for some Addy awards. (Oh, and don't forget to send the rep to that Bermuda hideaway if you win one!)
5. Always back unreasonable demands. If the sales rep wants dubs of an ad for eighty-seven stations plus one for the agency who's doing the TV ad, even though the client isn't buying your station ("...Yet!"), with no talent fees for the producer, agree to it. It may be using up some station supplies, but what's a little tape compared to all that lovely animosity between the rep and the producer? (Besides, using up supplies can add some frustration when the producer whines that they are almost out and you get to say no!)
I realize that you are probably familiar with these techniques, but the key is to use them consistently for maximum results. While you're stoking the fires, never forget the value of other standards such as rumors, taking sides and good old-fashioned public humiliation for no good reason.
Remember, we're not trying to reinvent the business here, just maintain the status quo.