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Alan David Doane of Adirondack Broadcasting offers this heartwarming Christmas advertising tale. (You do remember last week, right?)

Hey Dan,

You may find this story funny…and it has a shock ending, too.

An AE wrote a script for an out-of-the-way gift shop in our area that sells handmade gift items. I didn’t think much about the script, because it was a rush job and I didn’t write or voice it, but when I was producing the voicework, one thing stood out to me like a brick to the head.

As I write this, it’s the Friday before Christmas in the worst economy perhaps ever, and where I live we are facing blizzards tonight and Sunday. So the client’s ad has the chance to work for them, really, only Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. And then, well, we can all guess how the first quarter of ’09 will be for out-of-way shops that sell handmade gifts, can’t we?

The spot talks about all the wonderful, unique items you’ll find at this shop, closing with the location, and the perfect two word tag:


After laughing for 20 minutes or so at the client’s bird-flip to listeners and to their own bottom line, I had to go ask the AE: “Does the owner of the store get dialysis on Monday?”

He looked at me a little blankly as everyone else in the cubicles around him laughed uncontrollably. (I had already played the spot’s tag line for pretty much anyone who would listen.)

Then I explained that, unless they really have some life-threatening reason they can’t be open Monday, they might want to reconsider the idea of being closed on one of the last four days this year (or perhaps decade) that they will be able to make any money.

Then, the AE shocked me. He said, “If I can get the client to open on Monday, would you be willing to re-edit the spot?”

I told him, quite honestly, “That is one re-edit I would be happy to do.”

And shockingly, the client saw the wisdom in staying open, and now instead of CLOSED MONDAY the spot ends with directions to the store, so listeners can actually go there and spend their money. Even on Monday.

It’s a holiday miracle!

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  • Phil Bernstein January 1, 2009, 2:22 pm

    I commend Alan for taking the time to force the AE to do some thinking… and I guess I commend the AE for calling the client after that conversation.

    But the shock to me is that the AE didn’t raise this when the client first gave him the copy points.

    If I were talking with a gift store owner about how to increase sales right before Christmas, and the owner told me the shop would be closed on the last Monday before the holiday, the VERY FIRST QUESTION I’d ask is… why?

    The blizzard makes it even worse, but the principle is the same either way.

    My guess is that the store is always closed on Monday. Fifty-one weeks out of the year, Monday is probably the slowest day of the week, and so that’s always the owner’s day off. It probably never occured to him that he could, or should, stay open on Monday just this once.

    It’s an Account Executive’s job to think about stuff like this as part of the sales process. I could accept “It’s his dialysis day.” Or even “I tried to convince him to stay open on Monday but he just won’t.”

    But not thinking about it at all is inexcusable.

    Maybe I just want to feel better about my colleagues, but I truly believe that most of the people I work with would have considered it, and somehow addressed it, before turning in the copy.

  • Dan O’Day January 1, 2009, 3:59 pm

    @ PHIL: You make a very good point. Not as a criticism of that particular account exec, but of the low training and performance standards that the radio industry has established as its norm.

    Radio station salespeople — especially in the U.S. — have been taught to sell advertising.

    BEFORE I CONTINUE, PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS: I am not attacking salespeople. I am attacking the all-too-typical “If their check clears, your job is over” radio sales management mentality.

    So, where was I? Oh, yeah: Radio station salespeople — especially in the U.S. — have been taught to sell advertising. And I’m sure they all hope their clients’ campaigns succeed.

    But that’s all most of them can do: Hope.

    Most have had no education at all in advertising. Most radio salespeople whose business cards say “Advertising Consultant” or “Marketing Consultant” are neither. They are salespeople. They sell commercial time. They do not have the knowledge, let alone expertise, to consult.

    An expert can do more than hope. An expert can predict — with a high percentage of accuracy.

    Phil, Alan was unusual in A) spotting the obvious flaw in that little campaign and B) caring enough to raise his concern with the A.E.

    The A.E. was unusual in being willing to listen to the producer and in caring enough about the client’s welfare to go back to the advertiser and offer such a bold suggestion.

    And the client was unusual, too. The client listened to and acted upon wise counsel…and as a result probably made a lot more money from that campaign.

    Phil, the reason I printed Alan’s story is it’s unusual. The radio industry would be in much better shape if “Radio Station Stops Advertiser From Wasting His Money” were not newsworthy.

  • Craig Allen January 1, 2009, 6:33 pm

    Dan said: “I am attacking the all-too-typical ‘If their check clears, your job is over’ radio sales management mentality.”

    AMEN! Unfortunately, I fear that will be the only mentality the higher-ups will accept until the industry/market/economy turns around. And once it does, do you think they’ll say “Okay, now that it’s all better we can go back to doing it the CORRECT way”?

    We are entering dangerous waters. If the bean-counters aren’t already running the show, the soon will be. Reps will be sprinting in the door to get the check to the business department, then sprinting out to get the next check.

    However, now is the time it makes the most sense to concentrate on the message, the writing, and the campaign. When ad dollars are ultra-tight, give the advertiser something for their money. There’s absolutely no reason not to give them a Cadillac Escalade message even if they only have a Ford Focus budget.

    So yes, I’d have to agree that reps today are only trained how to make the sale, not build a successful campaign design to generate Return On Investment. A well-trained rep can not only stand up to that criticism, but prove it wrong.

  • Anonymous January 1, 2009, 9:39 pm

    Reps’today need to be told, “sitting at your desk” talking on the phone isn’t a “sales call” put together an annual package and explain why your client “cannot afford to not advertise” Boatman Wmom-fm

  • Anonymous January 2, 2009, 1:34 am

    well, I agree and I disagree…though you may think you aren’t slamming the AE you are slamming the whole sales force…the poor sales dude may already have the maturity before he even get’s hired to know what is obvious and know basic customer relations already ..or he could be a lame head and be clueless..I think it is the former..but then he has to choose whether he is going to do what is wise or not. Do the right thing or not and then listen to his boss and do the right thing or not. It is a slight possibility that the boss may have a lame attitude also and then you are dealing with politics. But dude if you have integrity you will do the right thing. If you don’t it may come around to bite you ..I was cleaning carpets once and my friend and boss told me as I helped guide him, “anticipate”.
    I would say that is valuable as is “sincerity”

  • Steve Willoughby January 2, 2009, 6:49 am


    Radio sales people should do the following:

    1. Make FEWER sales calls. We always say it’s a numbers game — let’s make it a quality game…take the time to become a partner with your clients, learn what their true goals are and work with them on hitting those goals.

    2. Yes it’s important to have a good relationship with your clients — but what they really need is someone they can count on to tell them what they need to hear, liek Phil’s advice to stay open.

    3.Stop training on closing techiniques or training on radio terms…instead, learn the language of our clients.

    4 Train with Dan O’Day and Roy Williams on writing effective copy.

    5 Right now, Clients are more willing to “experiment” with advertising, teach them how to advertise effectively on radio.

    Just my strange ideas….Happy New Year.

  • Stu January 2, 2009, 9:32 am

    Just one point… I know its all good to go the extra mile…. But when did AE’s or production staff become business advisors~?! Surely its about helping the client.. but not interfering in their business plan! I know for a fact radio stations get stroppy when clients try to tell THEM what to do!
    If he wants to close on a monday.. let him close on a monday!

  • Scott Lander January 2, 2009, 12:05 pm

    Unbelievable in its’ silliness! Often, with sales and clients (alike), the most basic of principles can seem abstract. Great story and one that I can relate to!

  • Phil Bernstein January 2, 2009, 1:59 pm

    In general, I’ve been content to read the comments and just follow the discussion. I agree with some of it, and disagree with some — it takes all colors to make the rainbow.

    But I have to jump in and take issue with Stu’s contention that we’re not business advisors.

    There are hundreds of media sellers in any decent-sized market. Radio sellers, newspaper newspaper sellers, direct mail, TV… we breed like rabbits.

    What separates the good ones from the bad is the quality of advice they give. There is tremendous value in a rep who will find out as much as possible about the client’s business, and bring ideas to the table.

    Some of the ideas have to do with media buying, but a lot of them don’t.

    When an AE sees a gift store owner getting ready to do something suicidal — whether it’s jumping off a bridge or staying closed on the Monday before Christmas — that rep has an obligation to speak up.

  • Alan David Doane January 5, 2009, 8:42 am

    Thanks for posting the story, Dan, and thanks, everyone, for the kind comments, especially Phil. I think it’s great that we are talking about issues like this.

    I do disagree with Stu, as well. If we can’t share the benefit of our experience with our clients, than why are we here? No one told the client they “had” to be open Monday, just brought to their attention the fact that they were closing (likely out of plain old habit, as Dan notes) on what could be a very big money-making day, in fact, one of the last of the season. Ultimately it was up to the client, and it’s gratifying to see that not only did they understand the point, but so many of my colleagues in the industry do as well.

    Like Dan says, radio will be in better shape when a client taking some good advice from one of their marketing partners is NOT worthy of note.

  • Richard Berry January 6, 2009, 2:55 pm

    We need to get away from the notion that radio advertising is boxes that need to be sold. We shouldn’t sell boxes we should sell business solutions. That’s why businesses advertises. They want to achieve something and the solution to that is to advertise. The ad should work but we should also say ‘hey what about…’ Help them close the gaps. I’ll give you an example. At the moment in the Uk an insurance comparison site comparethemarket is running a TV spot which talks about a spoof site called comparethemeerkat.com… it’s a funny ad, sells benefits etc etc. But they have registered the web address and put a site there, which is also funny. Simple. Effective but not a box.

  • charlie January 12, 2010, 8:23 am

    Being a sales consultant and trusted advisor to make the rep more valuable to the client( instead of his print and cable reps), is discussed in the last tape ( ha ha ha-anyone know what that is?) of the salesmans training series. The one never listened to (as number 3 thru five-“get past his objections”), are the ones played over and over!