Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Almost anything you read about marketing to the 18-29 year old crowd will tell you that one thing is for sure: they detest hype. Now, it causes me to wonder - Is hype in the eye of the beholder?

One of the advertising buzzwords right now is viral marketing. Viral marketing is like starting a rumor. You judge your success by how much it spreads and how much excitement it causes. Viral marketing does not have a direct call to action. Several years ago, a group of independent film makers caused a stir with a website that purported to show a group of teens being chased and killed by an unknown entity. Turns out, it was pretty much the first viral marketing project, and it made The Blair Witch Project a lot of money.

Lately, with the increased interest in the MySpace and YouTube websites, a certain video journal has developed a following with folks now wondering - Is It Real? or Is It An Act? Could it be another viral marketing scheme, or a bright, creative someone who has discovered an attention-getting device beyond their wildest dreams? After all, there have already been a couple of YouTube videographers who have landed development deals with the networks.

Whichever way the internet cookie crumbles, I have to wonder if that age group feels disillusioned when these online discoveries turn out to be hype for a movie, website, product or whatever. Is all hype still hype? Or are we as marketers and advertisers crying wolf ?

--Thanks for reading

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I can fix some things around the house, but I'm not a handyman. I do love hardware stores, tho. I mean the old ones, where you can get lost in the shelves and shelves of every gadget, ratchet and wing nut known to man. Not only that, but the guy behind the counter had built everything in his lifetime, and could tell you about the inner workings of any number of gizmos. Those stores are fading away rapidly - I know there's at least one left in Little Rock, Arkansas - worth visiting if you're a doodad freak. Most are being overrun by the Building Supply Supercenters.

I was in one of those last weekend (I'm not a NASCAR fan, but I think they have a speedway somewhere) with a simple, or so I thought, question about my bathroom light fixture. I wanted to make sure I didn't break the fixture, or electrocute myself , and needed to ask someone what to do. The first "associate" stared at me blankly. " The second one wanted to play 20 questions asking me what I thought the problem was. If I had known the answer, I could have stayed home and fixed the problem. Neither employee was focused on solving the problem. I don't know if they had the knowledge to do that. But it kinda goes against everything this company brands themself as. Luckily, their direct competitor is right across the street. Not only did I find TWO employees who knew what they were doing - and what I NEEDED to do-, but everyone from one end of the store to the other was wanting to make sure that I'd had a satisfying experience, needed to find anything else, or required help in any way.

The successful business needs to understand that today's consumer will not tolerate poor or inattentive customer service. Today, marketing and branding is all about the experience. I plan to shop at store H instead of store L because of the help and attention I received. They made me, as a customer, feel valuable.

It costs a company more to get a new customer than to keep ten of their current customers. Some businesses are finally realizing that. Others still don't get it.

--Thanks For Reading

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Spell-checkers make it easy. Not too many of us would have been able to go the distance with the kid who recently won the National Spelling Bee.. Many Americans today can barely construct a fluent sentence. The following are those flashing neon errors that makes writers look unprofessional.
(1) LOOSE for LOSE: (loose is the opposite of tight) I always lose my keys.
(2) IT'S for ITS: (apostrophe means a contraction of two words. The other is a possesive)
It's my set of keys, vs My car has its own set of keys.
(3) THEY'RE for THERE or THEIR (see above)
Everyone put their keys on the table. That table over there. They're going to stay on the table until you leave.
(4) I.E. for E.G. : (ie means "that is", eg means "for example")
We have a device to start our car (i.e.,keys) vs I carry a lot in my pockets (e.g., keys, change)
(5) TO for TOO or TWO: I drive to the store. You can go too. Two of us are in the car.
(6) YOU'RE for YOUR (contraction of you are vs the posessive)
You're going to be late. You may lose your job.
(7) DIFFERENT THAN for DIFFERENT FROM: (comparative as opposed to greater-lesser)
This key is different from yours. Your car is better than mine.
(8) LAY for LIE: (lay is an action verb)
Just lay your keys on the table. He did not see that the keys lie on the table.

Communicate what you mean to say. Careless writing means you just don't care.

--Thanks for reading

Friday, April 07, 2006


You have a new product, service, idea, show or whatever it is you do. How do you get people to try it? You can ask. You can scream and shout. You can print flyers, buy advertising, hand out samples, or offer a money back guarantee. But you cant create what you need most - buzz.

Buzz is difficult to describe and impossible to manufacture. What was the factor that made TV's "Desperate Housewives" the show to watch? Was it the attractive actresses and actors on the show, or maybe the Monday Night Football intro that caused a little controversy. It's probably a combination of many factors, but I'm betting the controversy helped.

People like conflict. They are voyeurs to other folk's problems. I'm reminded of that almost everyday - whenever there is an accident or broken down vehicle on the side of the road, it causes a slowdown so everyone can crane their necks and look. It's the same phenomonon that causes reality TV to generate the ratings it does. Otherwise, why would anyone be interested in the plight of a group of folks playing games on an island? Even the Miss America pageant, whose ratings had fallen in recent years, and has switched to a cable-only outlet is planning a reality-based show next year in which the public for the first time gets to vote contestants off. Now THAT will most likely cause some buzz.

Think about the first time you became aware of something. Chances are good that there was some controversy that brought it to your attention. More folks know who the Dixie Chicks are than have heard their music because of the controversy surrounding a quote from one of the group's members.

If you are "buzz-worthy" you may get someone to try you initally, but you will have to deliver the promised benefit everytime for the buzz to turn you into a phenomonon.

--Thanks for reading

Monday, April 03, 2006


Some of you reading this will not remember a time when folks came together to listen or watch the news of the day. As a matter of fact, I recently spoke to a graduating class of Broadcasting students and told them I hoped they would aim for the integrity of a Walter Cronkite. But I don't think many of them knew who I was talking about.

A recent survey showed that Americans are increasingly relying on online sources to get their knowledge of news events. So it stands to reason that blogs, podcasts, and opinionated websites are becoming more of a factor in the way people think. The unnerving part is I don't think those individuals realize what the difference is between broadcast or print journalism and what is being published online.

There are ethical standards in truth, and maintaining credible sources for the broadcast and print worlds. Not so much online. Maybe the next generation of browsers and newsreaders should come with a built-in salt cellar, dispensing it one grain at a time.

--Thanks for reading

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tell Me A Story

One of the hardest things to master is writing a :60 commercial. Try it. Write a commercial about yourself. Sell yourself to a prospective client. What would it sound like? Would you start by listing your credentials, or the other jobs you've held? Would it be an audio resume?

Are you sure?

I got the best response from a prospective client when I asked him about HIS product. There was something just a little off about it. I asked him if that bothered him. It did. He just wasn't aware that anyone else noticed the flaw. That's what got me in the door and a chance to present what I could do.

I started this entry with a commercial, but it wasn't about me, the product, it was about him, the consumer. I got the business because I asked questions about him, and wanted to know his product.

That's how you tell a story in a :60 commercial: aim for the heart of the consumer.

Have you heard the latest advertising from Sunkist? It also asks questions: "When you hear the words -juicy- , -yummy-, -mmmm-, do you think about the smell when you first rip into the peel, the juice exploding into your mouth with that first bite?" By the end of the "story" you are actively thinking about oranges, and you want one. Because the commercial just told you all the reasons you love oranges. NOT the reasons that Sunkist WANTS you to love oranges.
That's what radio advertising does.

--Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 24, 2006


If you can force yourself to listen to the worst sales messages on radio- and believe me there are a lot of them- you might hear the client's business advertised as "THE place to be."

To be WHAT?? To be parted from your money? To be arrested? To be welcomed and pampered? We don't know, because the client has not told us. They assume the listener will know; but we all know what assumptions lead to.

Maybe fifty years ago, emphasising the article was considered chic and fashionable, as in "Dahling, you must call him, he is simple THE decorator to have!!" Meaning, I suppose, the Definative..the person whose work defined the standard for every other in that category. That's quite a large boast. It comes with the understanding that the listener considers himself to be a sheep, and if everyone else is using said product or service, then I will too, or else I shall be out of touch.

Apart from a 14 year old girl, do you know anyone who really thinks that way? Then to WHOM is the advertiser talking? The verb "to be" is an irregular verb anyway. It needs another idea attached to it. To be is simply to exist. Do you want to be known as the place to simply exist? Using that kind of lazy writing in your sales messages will cause your story to be un-memorable. Too much of that, and your business will cease to be.

--Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Everything that is purchased has both a price and a percieved value. Price is the actual monetary cost of an item. Percieved value is how you feel about that price in relation to the to the item. If the percieved value is higher than the price, you have what is known as a good deal. However, when you deal in what is for all intents and purposes an intangible product - voice and production- the lines of percieved value can become blurred.

This is an interesting business in that everyone thinks he or she can be successful at it with minimal effort. And so they have a home computer with some software they downloaded and a microphone they picked up in the music store's closeout bin, they plug them together and market themselves as a voice for hire. They may have a low price, but they can be heavily lacking in value. Here's why:

The closeout microphone may be great for some musical instruments, but the human voice has a very specific range. Pro audio equipment is made specifically to capture those nuances.
Recording software varies greatly. Professional Digital Audio programs, like the Nuendo we use, has the ability to edit down to the whisp of a breath. It can enhance each track with the kind of tools - normalization, equalization, compression and digital effects - that just a few years ago used to fill racks of equipment in a studio. And while having all that is great, you also have to know how to use it. We have over 30 years experience in producing quality audio.

The final product, too, can leave a lot to be desired. So many clients now want MP3 files. Did you know that some MP3s can sound cleaner than others? MP3s are not CD quality, because the files are compressed and some data is lost. However if you're not specifying a sample rate for your MP3s, you're not getting all you bargained for. 128k is ok for an answering machine, but if you're playing your corporate image, or your sales message over anything bigger than a four inch speaker, you want 256k audio.. or a .wav file...........OR a CD. We can provide that. It's as easy as your asking for it.

We don't work only every few days, we work everyday. And we follow up with clients and make sure everything went smoothly with their audio. It has even followed us when we're out of town. A client called with a pressing deadline, and we found an available studio in a strange city and completed the project in just hours.

Ask yourself to imagine the cost versus the percieved value the next time you purchase something. I think you'll agree that service and experience stand up well.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I suppose the term "podcasting" will stick. Maybe a better one would be "personal broadcasting". Literally anyone with audio software and a little knowledge to pick up RSS coding can develop an audience with their unique brand of music, humor, or just talk. In the coming months, the process of putting a podcast together will become even easier.

By 2008, it's predicted that 25 million persons will be listening to podcasts, and by 2010 that number will reach 50 million.

I've been working with a number of podcasters for the past year. I just finished a project for the Society of Civil Engineers, and one of the podcasts I work with regularly, American Cliche, was recently named one of the most influencial programs by Ad Age. One of the first shows I worked with, AirFerg, even claims to be the first podcaster - before IPods were invented.

As a way of making information or entertainment available to an audience worldwide, podcasting is going to boom in the next 12 months. If you have a podcast or are planning one, we need to talk.

--Thanks for reading

Monday, March 13, 2006


Any number of comics have used that line - it's an old joke: Doc, It hurts when I do that..and the doctor said, "Well, then, don't DO that!"

Have you ever heard of someone going to the doctor saying, "Gimme some more of that cough syrup, Doc, that'll do the trick." "But, you don't have a cough, you need your gall bladder removed." "Well," you say, " Let me have the cough syrup. That's what I've always used. Who's the customer here anyway!"

An unlikely scenerio, but it happens in advertising all the time. Mr. Black's business may be sick. The copywriter knows how to present your message in such a way that customers will want to visit your business. Yet, Mr. Black demands the same tired cliches and dull copy that he's always used.

If you must make your advertising a list of the products or services you sell, do it in the Yellow Pages. But make your broadcast fun (notice I didn't say FUNNY), compelling, listener-oriented, emotional, and effective.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Thank you.
For the past two weeks, I've received a ton of comments about a commercial we produced about five months ago. If folks are talking about the message, then surely they should be using the product. Well, they are. Their Marketing Director tells me it is the best producing message they have ever had.

He can take most of the credit. It can be unnerving to place your trust in someone to direct your investment of advertising dollars. You don't know what your creative team will come up with, and when you finally see the finished product, you might feel let down. Is That IT?

Simple. Emotional. Tell the customer how they will feel using the product. Yes, that's IT.
It works.

Thanks for listening!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I hope that headline got your attention. It's meant in jest... well, sort of.

Recently, I produced a TV spot for a new client. He was on the phone directing the session, and within a half hour, I had the audio track produced and sent off to his e-mailbox. After awhile he called to inform me that it had not showed up. Stuck somewhere in cyberspace. So, while I had him on the phone, I called up my web host and upoaded the spot to a private directory, gave him the password and stayed on the phone while he downloaded it on his end.

See, it's not about how much you pay. It's not about how well-known you are. It's about going beyond the expectations. Some folks just call it Customer Service.

Ask the folks for whom I've produced imaging for their podcast. They get an ultra-low rate, but the same attention I give to national agencies, or multi-national corporations. Why? Because it's MY product.

My sympathies go out to the client of one particular agency. It seems the agency wrote horrible copy. It was trite, it was not compelling, and worst of all, it did not address the major problem for the client's business. When asked to revise the copy, the agency instead added a four word phrase. Their attitude - "It's only radio." That sound you heard was the agency shooting themselves in the foot.

--- Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I almost forgot. The Miss America Pageant is this weekend. Remember, last year the show was dropped by the networks, and it since has moved to Las Vegas and to TNN. I was reminded of the pageant, even the date and time, by TNN's direct competition: Great American Country. GAC is running a radio campaign touting their counter-programming to Miss America. They even go so far as to say that if you're a country music fan, something is wrong if you have any interest in the Miss America Pageant.

To some, I suppose pageants are passe', but I think Miss America is one of those constants that we look for, especially in uncertain times. After all, Miss America was actually the first Reality TV show. Basically, 50 contestants vie to become famous for one year. Oh, and there's a college scholorship thrown in too - but that's no small potatoes, have you checked the price of tuition lately? And despite it's critics, Miss America is not as blatent as "Are You Hot Or Not", "The Swan", or even "Extreme Makeover".

So is it wise to mention your competitors in your commercials? I would advise against it. Use your time and energy to tell the benefits of YOUR product. The only exception is Coke and Pepsi, whose consumers are so loyal and so divided, they can play "war" with each other and may the best spot win.

So, thanks, GAC. I'll make a mental note to watch TNN this Saturday.

--Thanks for reading
Ron Harper

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I got caught up in the spin. I noticed the headline, "Kelly Clarkson Won't Let Idol Use Songs", and I went for it.

In case you're not familiar with American Idol, Kelly Clarkson was the first winner in 2002. Yeah, I watch the show. It's fun to see them progress through the experience. Besides, the audition segments are like passing an accident scene: you can't help but look.

Anyway, the facts are that Kelly is not licensing her songs to ANYONE. But THAT wouldn't be a story. Unfortunately, many folks can't see past the spin. Now, for anyone who reads the story, Kelly will probably have a prima donna image in their mind whether or not that's true.

Where does the emphasis lie? Beware of the spin.

Sometimes people get elected to high office that way.

--Thanks for reading
Ron Harper

(update: Kelly said she will license her songs for this season's Idol...It still doesn't change the spin)