Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"Let's continue to be known as an agency which spends more time trying to improve its theories rather than to defend them." Leo Burnett

The great Leo came to mind this morning as I read the well written piece by one of broadcasting's best, Jerry Lee.

The "obsession to buy cheap" is leading media buyers to make bad decisions, ones that may be working against effectiveness. He makes a strong case.

"In the U.K. , paying Creative Agencies based on the success of the campaign has now reached critical mass (56%). Can you envision one of these agencies sitting still for buying the wrong audience? I don't think so."

Thanks to Inside Radio you may read Jerry's writing via PDF here

Bravo Jerry! Good job. Cheers and kudos to Tom Taylor and Inside Radio for sharing.

Let me please add to the discussion. Media buyers have an advantage here, assisted by professional partners in their crimes, willing accomplices, creative highly trained co-conspirators. As the noted philosopher and sage Pogo once said "We have met the enemy and he is us!" Media sales people and their leadership are also a part of the problem. In the drive to grab share, to get on an order no-matter-what, the pressure to make the month because we must - without excuse, to improve pacing, to tighten rank spread in Miller-Kaplan...insert your reasons here...our sellers and their managers are putting clients into no-win or less than efficacious situations more often than any of us would like to admit. It is the avail turned blood sport.

Jerry is spot-on about frequency. However, in my experience, we more often sanction too little frequency rather than too much.

Too little (wrong) reach + too little (too much) frequency + weak (wrong) creative = chocolate mess (e.g., "yeah, we tried radio once, it didn't work").

More than is fair, good or right we fail to invest the attention, time, hard work and care required to breathe life into the right creative approach. In too many cases station creative, especially local direct, is just not our best work. Once the bullet points of the print or yellow pages ad are packed into the copy it's time to write up the production order ("jocks have fun with this"). Radio sellers and copywriters should deeply understand and agree with Dan O'Day's suggestion that "Radio is a highly visual medium" (sellers not able to make this case convincingly to advertisers require intervention - the sales managers involved need to be read Miranda and put on double secret probation). This holds especially true in that ubiquitous closing tool of choice - the value add.

Why are stations doing promotions for goods/services their audience has little or no interest in? We continue to ask one question in promotion meetings. If we offered this product/service free of charge to our staff would we end up with a fight on our hands because everyone would want it? (Do they know someone they are close to that would kill to have it - their wife, husband, significant other, child, parent?) If not, why should we expect our audience to want it? But wait...there's more. Not satisfied with promoting the exactly wrong product/service to their audience, too many station teams insist on going the extra mile. The end result - feature the client's unwanted product/service in a sweepstakes or giveaway. Entry requirements and procedures, by arcane design, will be demanding. So demanding that the team, and all other living persons known to them, would never consider their own participation in any such event, not even in a less than sober lets-have-a-few-beers-and-talk-shop moment. Hey, they're professionals after all, not, uh, contest players. Perhaps their professional skill sets in this specific area might be put to better use in the design of complex, daunting hoops of fire obstacle courses that entertain by daring the most fit and eager to please circus dogs.

"Look for our Miller Brothers Toyota van at the retailer you've never heard of between 4 and 4:40 today and stop by, register to win, then listen tomorrow morning, when you hear your name you'll have ten minutes to call and when you do, you'll automatically win the 20% off discount coupon, our cool summer t and be qualified to win in our big Friday afternoon drawing...and remember...keep asking everyone you see 'Are you the Z100 Pepsi-Chase Bank-Bow Wow Pet Center Mystery Dog Groomer'" Expecting listeners to do things that you would never do to win a prize you could care less about?

"I could heartily wish this had not befallen; but since it is as it is, mend it for your own good" so wrote Shakespeare. I appreciate and respect the daily press of affairs to get the business. It is the lack of imagination and creativity that is abhorrent. There are some really clever, effective, creative and successful promotions being executed by electronic media, it happens when the process gets the attention it deserves. The agenda should the product/service a good fit? Is the creative right? Is the message one that will print with our audience? Have we given them reasons to be interested, engaged, entertained or even care? Stop creating clutter, quit sending spam to your listeners and viewers, find a truly creative approach that works for the client, one that creatively engages your audience. Try it, it's fun (endless thanks to the gifted professionals I am blessed to work with).

Kevin Sweeney, my sales mentor, once told me about the pitch and the promotion he created to get his Los Angeles beautiful music station on an 18-34 buy, the product was an entry level motorcycle. Kevin's usual creative elan went to work in his thoughtful pitch. "You need to compliment the youth stations with the station reaching grandparents. We have the influence to tell grandparents that your fine bikes make excellent graduation, birthday and christmas gifts. Some will put this suggestion to use when selecting a gift for their grand children. At the same time, we can reach the parents of your buyers to let them know your bikes are safe and a smart investment compared to the ongoing operating costs related to a car purchase. We can get the grandparents to help suggest and sell the bikes while also providing the approval (and cash contribution) some of their children may need to justify (make) such a purchase." Of course, he was right, and...the promotion and the flight on his station was a major success. FYI - Kevin also insisted that he be allowed to craft a special message to his audience rather than using the same brilliant commercial created for the "youth market." The 18-34 stations not on the buy never understood what happened, could not imagine how Kevin had taken their money, that lost business report was probably among the best creative writing of their careers.

A long ago Saturday afternoon in one of his now famous copy and pitch writing classes Kevin assigned me funeral services, the Chicago yellow pages packed with page after page of the category. When I told him our audience had no interest in the subject matter, they just would not respond and besides the whole idea was a negative, a downer - he offered one of his typical brutally candid responses. "Dave, trust me, you will not purchase your own coffin, you ain't gonna make your own funeral arrangements pal." It was an important lesson in relevance. Relevance and creativity are a very powerful combination. THINK. Get on the listener side of the radio, the viewer side of the screen.

Which reminds me of two more classic Leo's and one vintage Burnbach...

"If you can't turn yourself into your customer, you probably shouldn't be in the ad writing business at all."

"I have learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one."

And Bill Burnbach..."Good advertising makes a bad product fail faster."


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, love your blog. Longtime reader first time commenter. Buyers want cheap rates. Sellers want orders. What you have missed in this circus is the ring leader - corporate. Check with MMs/GMs. The line we get is "make your numbers or we'll find someone who will". Chalk this up to Wall street's pressure to perform. What was once one guy bringing in the market is now all of us diving for dollars. Why? To keep our jobs. Rate integrity is history. Bottom line - we need better regional and hq staff.

Anonymous said...

Being a seller is not easy. We are constantly being told to get out there and get the order. Our ratings are down but our budgets are up. We need 1) better ratings, our programming sucks and no one seems to care 2) better support from management. Have I written some ugly orders? Yes but no more than any others. Thank you for putting the responsibility where it belongs, the guys who APPROVE my orders. The guys who push us to get the order turn around and beat us up because WE are hurting AUR. Excuse me??? Having it both ways is management's dirty little secret.