Too Cool For School


In the past couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to consult three radio stations in the nation’s two largest markets.  The companies asked if I would listen extensively to their stations and make recommendations.  All three suffered stagnant ratings.  Naturally…why else would they seek my help?

Although each station was formatted differently, all had one thing in common: inferior promotion. It was relatively easy to spot.  None of the stations were staged to give the listener any sense of anticipation or excitement.  I thought my recommendations would be quickly accepted (I wasn’t criticizing programming procedures), easily remedied (every PD wants bigger promotion budgets) and fun to implement.

Was I ever wrong.

All three PDs objected to increased promotion because “the audience won’t like it.”  Wouldn’t like it?  Their audiences were barely listening.  No one was screaming that any of these stations were their favorites.  But the PDs felt promotion “wasn’t cool” and the audience would tune them out.

I wanted to puke.

I shared my feeling of nausea with Guy Zapoleon.  He agreed.  Many of today’s PDs don’t know how to program.  I have written about how imperative it is to make what is between the records as important as the music.  Most PDs pay little attention to promotion because they don’t know how to promote.  Many believe they can’t put on promotions because their audience will tune out. Many think promotions aren’t “cool.”

Believing you’re too cool for the room will make it come to pass.  And when you’re too cool for the room, someone will turn on the heat and smoke you!

Your audience won’t like promotions because promotions aren’t cool?  Give me a break.  Maybe you need to take a closer look at your audience.  Your listeners aren’t cool.  If they were, they wouldn’t be listening to your station…they would be too busy with their lives.  But they have none.  Capitalize on this fact.  Kevin Weatherly, Steve Kingston and Brian Philips run three of the “coolest” stations in the world.  All are built on image.  All are heavily promoted.

If you don’t do promotions…I mean bigger-than-life, heart-stopping, lifestyle promotions…just admit that you are too stupid to know how.  Don’t try to convince me that your audience wouldn’t like them.

Too many programmers depend on promotion directors to come up with sales promotions.  You want sales off your backs?  Come up with your own hip promotions and make it the sales manager’s responsibility to sell them to clients.  If you’re drawing a blank, give me a call.  I’ve got a promotion that is guaranteed to boost your TSL and your bottom line.

Many PDs spend too much time on everything except what is important.  How many hours do you spend listening to music, going over air checks with your staff and planning promotions?

Are you too busy?  Too lazy?  Or are you just not very good?

This isn’t a new phenomenon.  Great programmers will always beat mediocre programmers.  In 1976, Paul Drew, then VP Programming for RKO, wrote a memo to the general managers in the radio chain about promotion and the lack thereof.  What he said then is still true today.  I would like to share a few excerpts with you.

“The television season past has been somewhat different than several before it.  The Paul Drew programming philosophy has always been to “take an interest in what the audience is interested in and the audience will be interested in you.”  The teens and young adults this past season were into welcome Back, Kotter, The Six Million Dollar Man, Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley.

Last year, almost every RKO station did a contest for Happy Days and/or The Six Million Dollar Man.  I’m sorry to say that I had to call your PDs’ attention to these show.  They should have told me about them weeks before.

Not long ago, Paul McCartney was appearing in concert for the first time since The Beatles had broken up 10 years before.  Tickets were almost impossible to come by.  Everyone was tying to find a way to get in.  McCartney is in town and the station is doing a Doobie Brothers weekend.  I would like to program against that program director.

I’d like you and I to see what’s planned for contests and promotions in advance…so each can be developed and done in-depth, the best possible way.  With the pressures of day-to-day competition, you can’t leave major promotions to the last minute. If you do, they’re superficial, phony, just mechanical.  Sure, there are “at the moment” inspirations that can be put on the air immediately…quickly…but not every week.  I saw one promotion calendar a few days ago that listed for Labor Day Weekend a “Labor Day Weekend” promotion.  Who is the PD trying to kid?  I’ll tell you…himself, you, the station, the jocks and the audience! I saw just one promotion calendar made out in advance that had a promotion listed for the three-day Columbus Day weekend.  The others ignored the weekend.

This memo and its tone is what it is because I want you and your PD to win.  I wanted you to know what a 22-year radio veteran and VP programming had on his mind.  Let me help you be #1.

I enjoy helping you get talent for shows and/or parties, but I have a passion for programming.”

How about you?  Do you have a passion for programming?  Are you doing everything it takes to win?  Are you dedicated to implementing all your programming tools?

Or were you too busy being coo/?

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