Industry Views

Sabo Sez: Make More Money Selling Emotion

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imIt seems every hour Nielsen and Pierre Bouvard of Cumulus fame (formerly of Westwood One) put out a release stating that radio is just fine, thank you. Radio is more persuasive than TV, direct mail, streaming and print. Radio is a proven success for over 100 years. Most of the buildings housing Procter & Gamble were built on radio – not TV – advertising success. Happily, P&G realized radio’s clout and is now a dominant radio advertiser – again!

Audience data, facts, do little, if any, good. Based on the facts, radio should be the number one local advertising medium. It’s not, direct mail wins. Value Pack.

Every year radio’s revenue goes down. Many stations deliver consistent ratings and consistent product – yet they are going down in billing. Selling hard numbers, provable numbers, is not growing the industry.

Why do you buy stuff? Quantitative numbers are not driving revenue. What’s an option? Why do you buy… anything? If you’re buying an essential item like milk, the purchase is price driven. But radio is not an essential ad buy, yet the sales challenge is met by lowering spot rates. That hasn’t solved anything. Lower spot rates make overall revenue worse by lowering perceived value.

Your non-essential purchases are determined by price and emotion. Do you need that? No, but you want it. What does radio provide to a listener? EMOTION. Music and talk radio elicit emotional responses. Profound, deep, emotional responses. Why do clients cancel talk radio? Because they are offendedembarrassed or angry. Why do clients cancel a music station? Because they hatecan’t stand or are offended by the songs. Media buyer emotions drive capricious, rapid ad campaign cancellations. (Why do you get fired even though your numbers are just fine? Because you offended somebody.)

If numbers don’t maintain a buy, what would compel a buy?

Tangibles plus on-air emotion. Tell you a secret. Most TV media buys are for shows, not audience. Right. Math-driven media buying services buy TV shows they like.

Suggest we look to move off the spreadsheet, the programmatic, and enter the warmth of emotional selling, selling to a buyer’s personal likes. (Jingle Ball – genius!) Personal likes. The numbers aren’t serving the need for revenue growth. Soft drivers: Concert tickets, prize winners, food, free tracks, buyer names on air, parties, gift for kids. Old school? No. Proven school. New school isn’t working. Turn radio’s air into tangible, shiny objects. Radio elicits emotional responses, let’s sell to them. That’s powerful! More powerful than time spent listening.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers. HITVIEWS clients included Pepsi, FOX TV, Timberland, Microsoft, and CBS Television. He can be reached at and “Sterling On Sunday,” from Talk Media Network airs 10:00 pm-1:00 ET, now in its 10th year of success.