Industry Views

Monday Memo: The Irresistible Offer

By Holland Cooke

imHaving written thousands of commercials and promos, I’ve become a copy connoisseur. And, admittedly, a tough grader when it comes to delivery. Sell me and you’re good.

So, all four flight attendants caught my ear as I flew to/from a radio conference in Hawaii. The pitch came toward the end of 10+ hours each way nonstop Boston/Honolulu; and aboard the quick hops to/from Kauai.

They sounded neither sing-songy, as though they were reading; nor falsely enthusiastic. That alone impressed me. Thirty years ago, I scripted such announcements – and coached flight attendants – when I programmed 3 live USA Today Sky Radio channels aboard Delta, United, and Northwest Airlines. Back to the future…

They were hawking the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard, which, already having a wallet full of plastic, I didn’t need. Each dollar spent earns a Hawaiian Mile (double miles for restaurant purchases), which would be tempting if I wanted to visit again. But I wasn’t sold… yet. I had been to Hawaii once before, on vacation, and only went this second time for business. Travelogue here recently explains that we East Coasters have quicker paths to paradise.


Typically, these affinity cards come with a signing bonus. Another one I have awarded 20,000 points if I used it to make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. So, I smiled when these flight attendants emphasized that – using the promo code on applications they were handing out – I could quickly earn 80,000 miles, a bonus “you won’t see if you sign-up online.”

And as an announcement aficionado, I noted how all four recited this line verbatim: Unlike other cards that ask $1,000 or more purchases to qualify, “Just buy a cup of coffee or a pack of gum, and you’ve got 80,000 Hawaiian Miles.”

And they explained that 80K was enough for a free round trip from Boston or New York to Honolulu, or TWO round trips from a West Coast airport… DARN tempting… if I ever want to go back to Hawaii. Still not sold.

The clincher? I can also use those miles on JetBlue, which services my home airport, Providence, and flies to the Bahamas. SOLD. And my first purchase was indeed for a cup of coffee, and I did get the 80,000 miles. So, this is my restaurant card now.

Every time I’ve told this story in a client station sales meeting, at least one rep says, “Spell that all out again?” and starts writing. Successful sellers anticipate and address objections as well as that inflight announcement. Ditto commercial copy you craft for local retailers. Welcome aboard.

Holland Cooke ( is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of The Local Radio Advantage: Your 4-Week Tune-In Tune-Up,” and “Close Like Crazy: Local Direct Leads, Pitches & Specs That Earned the Benjamins” and “Confidential: Negotiation Checklist for Weekend Talk Radio.” Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke and connect on LinkedIn