Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Sometimes you have to take a step back and let technology amaze you. We seem to have taken it for granted.

One of the more popular items for the holidays this year will be Apple's IPod Nano: four gigabytes of memory that's only a little bigger than a stick of gum. The Nano will hold upwards of 1000 songs in the MP3 format. We've left the vinyl era far behind. I don't think I ever owned a thousand albums, but the couple of hundred I did own were spread out over three or four plastic crates. It seemed like they weighed a ton!

Early in my career, while packing to move, I realized that while I didn't have a lot of stuff, the stuff I had was heavy stuff. Now, especially if you use any mass transit, you see folks of all ages with earbuds snaking out from a pocket somewhere, and they are able to carry around their "soundtrack" with no effort at all.

It's funny now to look back at having played records, then cartridges, and even CDs are starting to look cumbersome. OK, I'll admit it - I broke down a few weeks ago and bought an MP3 player.

When I'm not using it, I keep it on the shelf next to a vintage 1912 Edison cylinder Phonograph. It helps me keep things in perspective.

--Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


You may not know who Michael Spears was. If you listened or worked in Texas radio during the 1960s or 1970s, you do. My friend, Larry Shannon who publishes radiodailynews.com wrote the following piece and has given me permission to reprint it here. My prayers are with Michael's family and close friends.

We Were Invincible
(For Michael Spears and those he's left behind)

by Larry Shannon
Publisher, RadioDailyNews.com, TalkRadioDailyNews.com, RadioDailyNews.co.uk

October 25, 2005

It is on cool and clear autumn nights like this in Texas, in towns like Tyler and Odessa, Midland and Beaumont, Southlake and Lubbock that the young titans of Texas high school football clash, fans and parents cheer, goalposts get torn down and you'd swear you could hear the roar from an Earl Campbell touchdown cheer blasting through the Piney Woods and echoing in every corner of Palo Duro Canyon.

It was on nights like this in Texas in the now distant 60’s that young broadcast soldiers would gather to talk about where we’d hope to be some day. Some of us wanted to travel far and away, and out beyond the borders of the small Texas towns that tempered, tested and taught radio to us.
We grew up, earned our stripes and war medals on radio stations in small and unknown places in the middle of nowhere, as well as in the in-between somewheres; in towns like Corsicana and Cleburne, Brownwood and Brownsville, Greenville and Grand Prairie, Texarkana, Tyler and Terlingua, Lufkin and Longview, Marfa, McKinney and Midlothian.

We gathered in our wargame rooms to listen to radio stations, DJ’s and jingles that seemed to fall from the deep and black skies on nights like this in Texas. We knew nothing of Kiss’s, but we were unafraid of and grew friendly with giants named KILT and KLIF, KNUZ and KONO, KTSA, KEYS and KEEL, KLBK and KDOK, KFJZ and KXOL, KCLE and KTBB, KDNT and KTEM, KTON and WOAI, and WACO.

Armed only with transistor radios and Radio Shack reel to reels, we rendezvoused, reconnoitered and captured the audio magic from the kings and knights of radio who ruled on distant shores and in cities named Detroit and Chicago, Wheeling and Atlanta, Kansas City and Memphis, Denver and Cincinnati.

We were invincible -- and Michael Spears was one of our great warriors.

We were and are the men and women of Texas radio. We learned from our elders and masters and then forged our own brands of Texas radio. We seared our Texas brands in call letters in large and small towns from coast to coast, across the country and on other continents as well.

We pioneered music formats and broke new trails with talk radio and talent that would put to shame most of the entertainers who taunt and growl, and hide behind their mics and 5 year iron-clad contracts of today. We entertained and imagineered radio 24 hours a day, with no weekends off. Today’s prerecorded programs and 30 minute infomercials with slick salesmen selling snake oil medicine and margin calls would have been laughed at by us invincibles in those days.

We created theater of the mind every night and day, balanced on kilocycles and megacycles, while earning chuckles and laughs from listeners who didn’t need the paid pals, studio giggle girl or sidekick to boost our egos, and who would lie to make us believe and the boss think we were funny.

Although we fought on skywide battlefields, using buckshot from every brand of giveaways, we had respect for one another. We were gentlemen and ladies, not silly asses who sullied citizens and names and towns with foolish pranks and prattle like some do today. Even at 17, we were mature and meticulous, ready for battle and armed for bear.

We matured at a younger age and welcomed responsibility. The leaders in our communities respected us and called on us to use our skills and airtime to benefit, not belittle, the towns and cities that we defended, and, in turn, respected and served with news, talk, weather, sports and music.

Some invincibles among us would argue that radio’s become a sissies game today. Where are the bold and new ideas? Name the leaders among the corporate radio goliaths in the concrete canyons of New York and along the Riverwalk in San Antonio who have gathered their new road warriors and are waiting to unleash their talent on the digital and analog airwaves and satellite channels of this modern day?

Radio today seems generations old, all tuckered out and tired, and its cookie cutter concepts are dull. The ratings wars are calculated on computers, figured in fancy math languages instead of brave motions and moves, and the victories that are counted are not collected in cumes but in quarter hours and slender demographics that defy reason and responsibility to advertisers.

Somewhere out there, maybe under this night’s clear and classic night in Texas -- or maybe in Manhattan, Los Angeles or Philadelphia, Chicago or Seattle -- there stands a gallant man or lady who may, one day, lead radio out of its baffled bewilderment. Armed with counterpunches and jingles, slogans and slick moves, there surely are professionals who may come forward to champion the cause for intelligent and worthwhile listening that’s sorely needed these days.

Maybe. Somewhere. Perhaps. Surely. Certainly. We wait and we wonder. But, we and the listeners are not long fooled by gimmickry and the goliath's gobbledy-gook from Wall Street.

Somewhere out there, on the other side of this Texas night and stars, I’m sure that Michael’s probably pondering the future of a new format that he fidgeted with and fathered, and left alone in its infancy this afternoon when the last breath escaped from him in Dallas.

Those invincibles who are left behind will keep a watchful eye on it to see if it blossoms and prospers with George Gimarc’s careful cultivation. Maybe it will take root somewhere out there, in those far away places on distant shores and in cities that, when we were young, we only dreamed of traveling to on cool and clear autumn nights like this in Texas.

We’ll once again be gathering in November, the day after the Texas Radio Hall of Fame Celebration Dinner and Program, to honor and remember one of our brave and great invincible brothers, Michael Spears.

And we’ll most likely recall and remember those long ago days of the 60’s when our hearts were young, our goals were bigger than Texas, we dared to dream that nothing seemed impossible -- and we had the courage and commitment to go out and prove it to be so.

--Thanks for reading

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


"I'm not real crazy about this copy", she said. "Can you use the phrase, 'Discover furniture shopping the way it was meant to be.'?"

Of course. All you need to do is tell me: how IS it meant to be, and who sets those standards?

"But it's just for the spot," she said, "we're trying to create an ambiance."

But you're creating an ambiance for YOU. The buyer cares about what kind of ambiance SHE WILL create.

Time and time again, retailers think the commercial should be about them, when it's supposed to be about the customer. Furniture shopping is pretty much the same everywhere I go. A lot of product packed so tightly into the showroom that it's hard to walk. And every few yards, another sales person hovers. Is THAT the way it's supposed to be? Now, if walking into the showroom was like walking into someone's home, and you only saw a salesman when you needed one, that would be different. That is something the consumer would find compelling and worth visiting. Because that speaks to the customer's experience.

"We have a staff of friendly professionals"

You'd better. Because the alternative could run your business into the ground.

Time for a pop quiz.
This article is about (a) selling furniture (b) speaking directly to the consumer

If you said (a).....no, seriously, tell me you didn't

--Thanks for Reading

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I was called to "fix" a script the other day. Actually there was more than a fix involved, because the sales message consisted of a string of cliches, incomplete sentences and poor grammar. Basically, I started from scratch. The client was a large dealer of manufactured housing.

Oh, you mean -- mobile homes-- ?

No, I don't and neither do they. But that phrase was included in the original copy.

However, when I surfed to the company's website, I found out "mobile home" is a term that only applies to housing manufactured before 1976. Unfortunately, the original copywriter never bothered to read the company's website.

This mistake is more common than you realize. If you watched any of The Apprentice over the past couple of seasons, you would have seen one team or the other called to task for not doing any research on the client before starting the project. I don't get it. It seems simple. Ask, "What are your problems?" before you offer any kind of solution.

Do your homework, so you AND your client will succeed.

--Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Here's something that's worth keeping around:

> 98% of dissatisfied customers never complain, they just leave.
> 85% of dissatisfied customers tell nine people about their poor experience. 13% tell 20 people.
> A satisfied customer tells just five people.
> Over five years, a typical company loses 80% of its customers; 65% because of a negative experience with the company.
> 75% of the reasons a customer leaves has nothing to do with the product.
> Retain just 5% of your customers, and profits will increase from 25% to 55%.
> The top five businesses in any industry have over 90% customer retention. Most businesses average 80%.
> For every 1% improvement in customer rate sustained over five years, there is a 20% improvement in operating income.

and finally,

The number one reason why customers switch companies is that they don't feel appreciated.

--Thanks for reading

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Planning to advertise on radio or TV? Most advertisers blow it before they even get on the air. Yep, before that money ever changes hands, it's wasted. You see, it all starts with the copy.

Try it. Write a commercial about yourself. What does your finished product say? Is it a list of everything you have to offer? an inventory of all your fine attributes? That's a menu, and menus are for restaurants.

Listen to most commercials: "We have (product) and we're number one in sales and service..." Have you ever been to a party where you've encountered someone who just talks about themselves? You steer clear of that person, don't you? Viewers and listeners do the same thing. They could care less about your new mayonaise milkshake. UNLESS you give them a reason why it might impact their life.

Tell a story. That's what good copy does. And good copy sells.

--Thanks for reading

Friday, July 29, 2005


Take a look at the title. You think that's only important in real estate? How about in your advertising? If you're off the beaten path, then you need to make it SOUND easy to get to. Use landmarks, major cross streets, major retailers and tell your customers where you are in relation to them.

I had a large shopping center client who had their parking lot given a street name by the city, so all their addresses would be Shopping Center Way. The problem was, they were a new center, and customers still did not know their name. But as soon as they started including the name of the major artery that ran in front of their property, their advertising effectiveness increased dramatically.

Everyplace is easy to get to if you give good directions. If you really are totally hidden, then that should be the message of your advertising. -- I'll tell THAT story another time.

Don't make your customers jump thru hoops to find you. Be as user friendly as you can for whatever medium you're using.

--Thanks for reading

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Have you ever sat around with a group of close friends talking and laughing? Better still, have you ever found yourself in a group of new friends, and felt accepted and included from the start? Maybe you've just sat at a restaurant a few tables away from a group who you couldn't help listening to...evesdropping on someone's life. That's pretty much what drives the wave of so-called reality TV shows, and it's the same with podcasting.

A few podcasts are for showcasing music, but many more are just people having a conversation (albeit with a few production elements) and letting you in on the jokes. And others - one of my favorites- replays old radio shows from the medium's golden days. In one recently, I listened to an eyewitness account of the Invasion of Normandy on D-Day.

The internet, which has made the world smaller by making information quickly accessable, and moving thoughts and ideas quickly around the world, has now squeezed us even closer together, so hundreds and listen in to your musings.

Through a special rate I set up exclusively for podcasters a few months ago, I'm proud now to be associated with some of the top 100 podcasts listed in iTunes.

This narrowcasting will have a bearing on mass communications and marketing. The effect is very slight now, but watch for the avalanche within the next 12 to 18 months.

--Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Radio listeners just don't like all those commercials.


No, not really.

A study conducted with Edison Media says that poor creativity is as much a turn-off to listeners as are too many commercials.


Radio stations spend thousands of dollars testing their music to make sure listeners like and accept the songs, but they'll let a ton of bad commercials on the air three or four times an hour.

Doesn't quite make sense, does it?

-- Thanks for reading

Thursday, July 14, 2005


The morning of the London subway bombings, one of the stations that I produce imaging for there e-mailed me for a rush news update liner. Fortunately, I was able to get that out to him within 20 minutes.

Since then, I've been thinking about a particular place in London that I don't see written about anymore. Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park has been the place where anyone could rant or rail or spout off about any subject that comes to mind. But ever since the Internet became a communication tool, I don't hear too much about it. You could say that Speaker's Corner is the first true blog... if not that, then at least the grandaddy of all podcasting.

Wouldn't it be interesting if the TV and cable networks would do a piece from Speaker's Corner? I'd like to know what the un-wired are saying.

--Thanks for reading

Thursday, July 07, 2005


If you're reading this, you are at least familiar with Podcasting. In one of the podcasting message boards recently, someone was decrying the possible use of advertising on podcasts by saying that advertising is the reason why people are turning their radios off. But that's only partly true. It's not advertising, but rather the bad commercials that people are turning off.

We are bombarded by more sales messages in every format, and in every forum than we ever have been. With all of that, how does any message get thru? Are consumers still being influenced by advertising? Whether they like it or not, they are.

You cut thru the clutter by having a compelling sales message. Yes, consumers will listen when you are addressing a specific need. My previous post about the General Motors campaign is proof: GM just extended their discount program. Ford and Chrysler have also joined in. Auto sales are up, and that's due to advertising.

Consumers are more savvy now than they ever have been. They've been exposed to enough hype over the past few years that their BS detectors are on 'high'. That makes an advertising investment even more necessary, and a targeted compelling sales message mandatory.

--Thanks for reading

Thursday, June 30, 2005


My wife surprised me when she bought her most recent car. She played the tough negotiator in the deal. I'm one of those who, like most Americans, would rather have root canal surgery than have to wrangle a car deal. And it looks like someone at GM finally got wise.

GM has done a very good job of advertising their Employee Discount promotion, and it is paying off. Sales are up by as much as 30%. Chrysler is said to be readying their pitch. At the heart of the promotion - no rebates, sales incentives, or other drivel. It's as close to a pay-one-price as you can get. And the consumers are responding. Hmmmmm... wonder if the airlines are watching this.

--Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Ventriliquist Paul Winchell died last week at 82. The headlines remembered him as the voice of Tigger in the Winnie The Pooh movies. But for many of us baby boomers, Paul Winchell was synonomous with ventriliquism. His wise-cracking dummy Jerry Mahoney was one of my first intros to show business.

TV Guide published a short routine of Paul and Jerry. and I adapted it for a second grade talent show. I don't know if I was a good ventriliquist, but I won the ten dollar first prize.

Ventriliquism was also called "throwing your voice" Kind of ironic in the sense that these days, I'm throwing my voice around the world for all sorts of client projects.

Thanks, Mr. Winchell, for helping me to get out there on that stage so many years ago.

--Thanks for reading

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Did you hear about the latest Shoneys ad? By the way, Shoneys is the franchise name of "Big Boy" in the South. Other places in the U.S. may know it as Bob's or Frisch's or something different. Anyway, Their ad agency in Louisville created a radio ad for their breakfast buffet. In it, A driver ticks off middle America towns with odd-sounding names -- Two Egg, Fla., Weiner, Ark., and Sweet Lips, Tenn. -- noting there are Shoney's along the way.

"Pretty soon down the road when you're passing Gas, you'll be glad you stopped," the announcer says before a brief pause. "What? Gas, Kansas, you sicko. I can't believe you went there."

Two New Orleans radio stations, WLMG and WTKL refused to run the ad. The Agency's PR director says, "We thought the ad was a little cute, but we didn't think it would get banned," he said. "Especially in New Orleans, which is not the most conservative of places."

Having lived in New Orleans, I can attest that is true, but he forgot one thing. The stations that refused to run the ad: WTKL is 60s and 70s oldies. WLMG is Lite Rock. One of the core "branding beliefs" in both of those formats is that it must be "Family Friendly" That means not airing things that you'd be embarrased for your eight year old daughter to hear.

It happens a lot that agency folks think they've got a great ad, but forgot that radio is a targeted medium. They would have been much better off to have created another version or a different message altogether for stations like WTKL and WLMG. I've heard a very bold "Club Mix"-type urban spot for Pine Sol running on a country station, and country-oriented jingles running on Urban stations. I think it's just lazyness.

If you're talking to me, talk to me in MY language. Have the respect for your potential consumers to create a message for them. Advertising is not a one-size fits all industry.

And speaking of cities that should or should not be conservative places...guess which U.S. city has the highest number of churches per capita. It's Las Vegas.

--Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Oh My! Very rarely am I at a loss for words, but let me tell you what happened today. I have begun to work with a company on their advertising. I have not yet visited this company in person, but nevertheless, I was asked to create a compelling piece of copy for an event they were planning.
“So, tell me what’s going to happen during this event. I said
“Well, whatever you put in the commercial, just let us know, and that’s what we’ll do.” The business owner replied.

It was 24 hours away from the start of the event, and the only thing he had settled on was a name. We could give away money, we could have free food…maybe we could even get The Rolling Stones to play. Except none of that was in the budget.

This company’s product is not unique. The only things that trigger a buying decision in the consumer for their product is either 1. packaging or 2. service. I had no idea if this company could out-perform on either one. If I made a compelling statement about one, and it wasn’t true for the consumer, then the company would lose a lot more than a customer. I would also lose its credibility.

Be specific with your goals and how you want your advertising to perform. Those who believe that writing or producing advertising is pure hype are destined to failure. Advertising is about speaking to the needs of the consumer, and addressing a past product failure with a new or different innovation in a way that causes an emotional reaction in the consumer.

In other words, show your customer how your product can help him do something easier, better or faster.

Some believe it takes extraordinary means to justify the ends. But it’s actually simple to be a success. It’s just advertising.

-- Thanks for reading

Sunday, June 19, 2005


About a month ago my wife and I decided we wanted a second cat. We went looking at all the pet shops to find the right kitten. After a couple of weeks, we fell in love with a face. I had doubts about how our five year old Calico would handle the adjustment, so it was not on an impulse that we decided to adopt Gizmo. Still, that moment of making the decision would affect so many lives.

If we hadn’t, the kitten would surely have been adopted by some other loving family. And maybe we would have found another somewhere. But we did, and that set into play an entirely different set of actions, feelings, and emotions. I suppose it’s like The Butterfly Effect. You can apply that principle to almost everything in your everyday life. It’s not something that one would obsess over, but It does pose interesting questions.

What if a consumer made a different choice than your product? What if a number of them did? How can you sway those opinions? Can you directly sway the opinions of the consumers who matter most to your business, or do you take a shotgun approach? I see so many businesses who decide to take the latter approach, and then later fault the process rather than the decision for their failure.

We have a plan for integrating the new kitten into the family. And we are planning to consult a professional. I believe that we’ll be successful.

How do you insure that your message will reach the right consumers? Do you have a plan? Will you consult with someone who specializes in relating your message to the right customers for your business? Or will you go it alone?


OK, I give up. After reading a number of other blogs, I have succum to the blogging world. Actually, it might be fun. I'm always planning to write more articles for my website, and this might be a way to leave ideas without actually going through the long process of self-editing. I have a lot of ideas, so if I can get up to speed on this blogger site, I'll post them as quickly as I can.