By Walter Sabo
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Surprisingly, my company Sabo Media has bought commercial time on radio stations. It’s a surprise because brands have come to us because the word “media” is in the name. Some brands think Sabo Media is a media buying company. Hysterical.
Here’s what I learned placing buys for real clients onto big radio stations. (Note, at no time did I remind/tell any station that I was a radio guy).
RADIO IS HARD TO BUY. For years we’ve heard from advertising agencies that radio is hard to buy. It is. Top line of my adventures in buying:
First, I had to reach somebody, anybody at the stations. Challenge number one. Look at your website. Where is “selling” information to inspire a local retailer to buy your station? There is none. How can a potential advertiser contact you? FILL OUT A FORM. What? No information on who gets the form or when they will call back.
Solution: No forms. Put an AE’s direct phone number, cell number and real email on the site under CONTACT. Put a picture of the AE so local retailers can make a visual connection. What do real estate sellers do? You should do that.
The buys we made were for books and cat litter. As a radio guy, I knew the secret knowledge we share of how to get the best results for the clients; i.e. which dayparts and copy would work. For the book campaign I asked the talent to read a portion of the book on the air and share their feelings about the book. I did not negotiate price or ask for any bonus spots. The goal was superior service from the station!
At one San Francisco station, I was never connected to an actual account executive. Instead, I only got their assistant. Imagine, new client, top of the rate card and no AE! Radio is hard to buy.
Solution: All new business should be sent to the sales manager. Letters of thanks from the on-air talent and the market president should go to the new client. Thank you letters work. Add direct phone numbers on those letters. One of the “gifts” of consolidation is the elimination of a main number and operator. Yes, stations make it really hard to reach anybody in a station.
I placed a morning drive order in Chicago. Top of the rate card, live read, talent encouraged to adlib and have a good time. I got the strangest response from the general manager. He called me and berated me, demanding to know why I thought “his” audience would want to purchase this book! I still don’t understand his anger but the buy ran.
Solution: When your station gets a top of the rate card, live read, just say, thank you.
Now to the cat litter. “Lucy Pet Products” made an amazing litter. It never, ever smelled. A gift from heaven. The litter helped prevent urinary tract infections – and that was the problem. One company would not accept the easy-to-change copy because it was making a medical claim. A claim for cats! The same company runs spots for not-approved-by-the-FDA vitamins, hospitals, liposuction clinics and boner medicine. But litter that didn’t irritate cats? We can’t have that.
Radio is hard to buy.
But the other side is this: An iHeart market sales manager thanked me for the buy and then asked, “What can I do for you?” I said, “Jingle Ball!”