by Von Coffman

As a Production Director for many years, I found one day as I ventured forth out of my digital cubical, there really is a world out there. What makes it tick? Well, at the time, being a production dude at the local signal in town, most of the clients we dealt with were Joe retailer, so I took a good look at Joe.

Joe opens a business. Joe needs to let everybody know that the business is open. How does Joe do that? Advertise. But wait, Joe’s checkbook cowers in terror with the thought of more money being spent. How does Joe do it? Usually, all the Joe’s that open there doors for the first time think, “I’ll put an ad in the paper! How about a flyer? Maybe a television ad on the nightly news...yeah!,” thinks Joe. “Everybody watches the news” (ouch...too spendy). Then this really snappy dresser opens Joe’s brand new door, waltzes right in and say’s, “Hey Joe, how would ya’ like to advertise on the radio? We can put Joe’s on for bla bla dollars, bla bla times a day, and really get the customers in here.” Now Joe’s a thinkin’ man. He looks at his check book. It does its best to crawl out of sight, but Joe takes the hook. The snappy dresser from the radio station gets a commercial made from the not so snappy dressing, always over worked (with the exception of January) and usually underpaid guy in a little room with all the cool lights and knobs. Joe hears it on the radio. He likes it. His ego jumps through his ass as he sits and waits for his phone to ring and his doors to swing. Yes? No? Maybe?

 Back in the late ’70s, I was Joe, or a reasonable facsimile, and I owned a neat it a head shop store in Virginia. This snappy dresser, with great legs I might add, came in and asked if I...well, you know the drill. We--being my partner and I--over several adult beverages and an exhale, decided it was time to advertise. So we spent $468 we didn’t have, on eight, count ‘em, eight spots to run on one day, a Saturday. Now, being the advertising gurus that we were not, we lucked out, and were on a real hip album rocker which catered to the demographic we sold to at the time. At the prodding of my partner, I was the one who voiced the spot--the dreaded client voice session--which by the way is how I got into this silly business. The spot was done a week in advance, and we played the waiting game dusting off this and re-arraigning that, getting ready for the big sale--did I mention sweating bullets? The big day finally came, and the advertising paid off, almost ten fold. Ahhhh, the angels wept.

But what if it didn’t work? You go in over your head to advertise, and it doesn’t work. How do you feel? Depending on the business you’re in, the budgetary rule of thumb for advertising is 6% to sometimes 15% and more of your gross revenue. You can be a multimillion dollar corporation or a small mom and pop shop on the corner and, relatively speaking, it can be a hell of a lot of money. Picture yourself sitting in that really cool room with all the lights and knobs, spending 6% to 15% or more of your sometimes sparse but meaningful paycheck convincing the snappy dressers in the front office, and their clients, that they need to use your talents to do their spots for your station. Do ya suddenly find it a little hard breathing?

As I sit with check book in hand, slowly paying on my advertising bill for my current adventure, and sweating bullets, I often wonder if I did my best with the countless production orders that flew across my desk.