Industry Views

The Power of Appealing to Aspiration

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, Sterling on Sunday

WABC - Bruce MorrowIt was a cruel trick. Hulu started streaming “For the People” from Shondaland Productions last month and I bit. It is a show about Manhattan, ambition and really well-tailored clothes. Then I looked at the more information tab and discovered that the show was cancelled… in 2018. Crushed. Two seasons on ABC. Cancelled.

Why have I fallen so hard for a show about the lawyers of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York? Two reasons: “For the People” is aspirational TV (at least to me) like, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” Every character in “For the People” has an enviable 20s-in-Manhattan lifestyle. It is easy for me to embrace the warm pool fantasy of a good job, cool sushi bars, easy sex. I also miss a character in the show named Kate Littlejohn played by Susannah Flood. She says what needs to be said and does not care what people think of her in the workplace! That’s my aspiration too!

“Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” is also aspirational (again, at least to me). The star, Guy Fieri, lives off the grid and off the menu. He eats any deep-fried dish he wants in the kitchen with the chef for free! I eat Lipitor. I aspire to be Guy Fieri, a man who has no negative consequences for his cardiac arrest diet.

When a show taps into your aspirations on any level, it becomes your show. Radio entertainment did that for you, that’s why you work in radio! You and I can do that for a listener. The founding Top 40 jocks tapped the aspirations of teens every day. Dewey Phillips on WHBQ, Alan Freed on 1010 WINS, Bruce Morrow on WABC and many more. What did they do? They said the names of their listeners for hours and hours, they formed an exclusive club of cool kids. These pioneers compelled their listener to buy the record, the ticket and come to the dance.

“Hey cousin, you’re captured.”  Bruce Morrow said that phrase MILLONS of times going into breaks. He captured the listener behind the velvet rope of coolness and that’s where they aspired to be and to remain.

The moment you share a story your listeners absolutely relate to, they will aspire to join your club. Say a listener’s name, and you instantly become a part of their personal history. Radio’s star making power is radio’s magic. Secretly, every listener wants to be a star, make their aspiration come true and you have a listener for life. Or, as the pedantic say… a P1!

Walter Sabo, consultant, can be contacted at Sabo Media: Direct phone: 646-678-1110.  Check out Meet Walter Sabo at TALKERS 2023 on June 2 at Hofstra University.