We Have Met The Enemy, And It Is Us


(By Paul Weyland) It’s got to be our fault. As local direct clients need us now more than ever, we’re still not stepping up to the plate for them. Instead, broadcast stations still seem stuck in a late-’90s time warp, still offering clients the same old computer-generated proposals for radio and television schedules (unfortunately at 1980s rates). Are many of us ignoring the fact that in this new digital age, many of our buyers are either cutting back or just not buying radio and television the way they used to?

Ask around. For the local brick-and-mortar retail client, the threat isn’t just Walmart or Sam’s Club, now it’s Amazon Prime. Millennials and even boomers are brazenly showrooming our retailers and forcing them to shut down.

The digital threat is real, and we in broadcast are often our own worst enemy. Digital revenues are climbing as broadcast revenues shrink. Coincidence? Hardly. Each week I talk to broadcast managers who are now finally entering the digital playing field. Welcome to the party, even if you are at least a decade late.

Regardless of whether you want to believe it, the fact is that formerly good clients are now cutting back or canceling. Why? Because for many clients, their belief systems regarding media have changed. They’ve been told, and at this point many of them truly believe, that they should be transitioning much more of their marketing and advertising dollars away from traditional media and over to newer, more “measurable” digital platforms. How many times have car dealers warned you about their new “digital mandates”?

So what to do? Nothing? Just sit back and hope things don’t get any worse? Just pretend that everything is OK? Keep telling yourself that with luck, you’ll retire in a few more years and won’t have to worry about this crap anymore?

From this point on we must go back to earning our money the old-fashioned way. We must prove to our advertising decision-makers, in language that they absolutely understand, that we’re still worthy of their respect and we’re still worthy of their financial investments in our radio and television stations (and our digital products as well).

Question: How do we do that?


1. Give the advertisers (and your audience) what they need in order to stick around. If you haven’t already, start building a digital platform. Then you can tell clients that yes, you’ve got them covered … in their cars, at home, at the workplace. You’re everywhere consumers are, on all-sized screens.

2. Give your sellers the tools they need to succeed. Bringing back client dollars and respect requires broadcast sellers to have two important skills:

First, the ability to convince decision-makers beyond a shadow of a doubt that advertising with you is a necessary and measurable long-term investment, not a gamble or a luxury. Use the client’s gross margin and average sale to show them that broadcast advertising, with good creative and an appropriate long-term schedule, is a good, calculated risk (I have explained how to calculate return on investment in previous Radio Ink articles).

Second, the ability to do the client’s advertising and marketing thinking for him. In other words, the onus is upon the broadcast seller to come up with short- and long-term rock-solid creative strategies that will capture the hearts and minds of the client’s potential customers without sacrificing the client’s gross margin of profit.

We can no longer afford to leave it up to the client to come up with their own advertising ideas. We’ve allowed that now for decades, and what have we got? Dissatisfied clients blaming us for their terrible creative and their mismanaged expectations about results on our stations, and who are now chasing after a newer, more promising medium.

Let’s face it. Most local clients still don’t have a long-term marketing and advertising plan. In fact, most local businesses don’t even have a short-term plan. That fact is evident as advertisers jump from radio to broadcast television to cable to print to Google Search to Facebook. They have no specific creative strategy to lure consumers to them. And rarely do they have a discernible system for measuring the effectiveness of the radio and television advertising they are doing or have done.

Bring clients to the Big Table of Ideas. Become their go-to on any matter involving marketing and advertising.

Give them ideas they’d never come up with by themselves. Show them in their language that advertising with you is not gambling but instead a good, calculated risk. Here are some examples:

Divorce attorney: Gross margin of profit is 60 percent after the cost of labor. Average sale for a contested divorce with children is what? $10,000-$20,000 minimum? Per $5,000 a week spent on advertising, how many new customers would we have to bring to that attorney? Especially with a commercial that says:

“If you’ve been threatened with divorce, you’re in no emotional condition to make financial decisions that may affect the rest of your life. Here at Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe, we treat our clients like we’re your big brother. We’ll make sure you get everything you’ve got coming to you. And your disloyal spouse? We’ll make sure they get what’s coming to them as well.”

Internet security company. Average sale on a T-1 dedicatednbusiness line is at least $575 a month on a gross margin of profit of 70 percent after the cost of labor. But nobody buys just one month. So your average sale is really nearly $7,000 for an annual contract. How about commercials like this, on your radio/television station as well as on your website?

“Do you have 12 or more employees and are still using your own servers? Why? Do you realize how vulnerable you and your clients’ data are? To theft? To hacking? To foreign Bitcoin blackmailers? At Computer Security Inc., we have you covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We know the moment someone tries to break into your system and immediately we do everything necessary to keep them out. At Computer Security Inc., we serve … and protect.”

Just like the cops! Imagine the commercials this client could launch.

How many new customers would we really have to bring to this kind of company in order to justify our tiny little $5,000 weekly schedule on your station?

Remodeler: Average sale on a kitchen remodel is $30,000, gross margin of profit 30 percent after the cost of labor. What is, both literally and figuratively, the warmest room in the house? At a party, where do a majority of the guests eventually wind up? The kitchen! Here’s an idea for a commercial that will help sell new kitchens.

“When you have a party, what’s the room where everybody eventually gathers? The kitchen. Because the kitchen is the heart and soul of the house. Too bad it’s not your heart. Too bad it’s not your soul. Those aren’t the cabinets you’d have picked out. That’s not really your countertop.

Somebody else chose that. They also chose your appliances and everything else in ‘your’ kitchen. Why not make your kitchen yours? Well, you can. At Kitchen Remodeling Co., we specialize in helping you create a kitchen that represents your heart and your soul.”

See how that works?

It’s not the client’s fault that they’re ignorant about what broadcast advertising could do for them, especially right now. It’s our fault. By properly educating our salespeople and investing in the tools they need to be successful in today’s newer digital world, we can still prove that we deserve the client’s respect as well as a majority of their ad dollars.

To help clear up any misconceptions regarding digital, watch some of the best 45 minutes I’ve ever seen as San Francisco adman Bob Hoffman (keynote at the Radio Show a couple of years ago) dispels many of the myths that agencies have created regarding the death of broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyTn_DgfcFE (Rated “R” for language.)

Only we can stop the cancellations and the urge to spend money with newer, shinier advertising mediums.

Paul Weyland helps broadcast companies sell more longterm local direct business. Visit him online at www.paulweyland.com


  1. What you are asking me, Paul, is to give away – free and gratis – the information I have been providing for a very long time.
    I would urge you to, first, go through the points I briefly made earlier – to find out if you can make the connections in the proposition.
    I have learned this is no easy sell, especially to the traditionalists, which includes – almost everybody.
    It may be frustrating. But the exercise could also be illuminating.

  2. Ronald,

    You know that person you try to make dinner plans with, but they refuse to make any suggestions themselves? Instead, they just veto every idea you throw out? That person is you. Go hang out on your own site.

  3. To be clearer, Paul, I have no argument about the efficacy of radio – even as it is being delivered today.

    But, it is stagnant, under performing and it needs to go into the shop.

    Meanwhile, I have been allowed by Radio Ink to promulgate reams of material – the communicative specifics which you request – for the last 4 years.

    I will however make a brief attempt to clarify “Indirect and Passive”.

    Radio is an Indirect medium because there is no connection between any presenter (“live” or recorded) and an unknown, unspecified audience member.

    Further, even though other electronic media require fuller attention than radio, and because radio listening is neither forced or can issue authoritative demands, it is rendered as a Passive presentation/experience.

    Plus, radio is not a “one-to-one” medium. Radio can not claim any direct links to anybody. Individuals do have subjective responses, of course. But only some of those responses, some of the time, are useful enough to move radio forward.
    Just that one dogmatic assumption has crippled the communicative potentials of the medium.

  4. Ronald,

    You opine, ‘My earlier remarks, Paul, pointed to radio’s need to appreciate its current approach (Direct and Authoritative) as less than highly effective, and the more important requirement to gain greater access to and influence over audiences by applying the available techniques for delivering radio as an Indirect and Passive medium – the exact opposite.” Huh? Could you be more or less specific about the “available techniques for delivering radio as an Indirect and Passive medium?” And specifically how would they work for the categories I mentioned in the article?

    I completely disagree with you that radio is a “Passive Medium.” No, a passive medium would more likely be the Yellow Pages. Because the Yellow Pages don’t talk to you until you pick it up and open it. Listeners “invite” radio into their ears. How many times have I personally witnessed conversations being temporarily shushed or even stopped, because somebody’s favorite song came on the radio? Or a news alert? Or a contest? Or yes, even a commercial?

    At any given time, a certain percentage of consumers are “on” for or interested in certain products and services. When targeted correctly, a good, provocative commercial can break through the clutter and grab the attention of that specific person. That commercial might even spark immediate action, compelling the consumer to actually get up and drive or call or go online to buy a product or service. I know this because I’ve seen radio commercials work just like that. Good radio campaigns can also inspire consumers who are not “on” to purchase. A radio commercial recently inspired me to buy a new front door. Another commercial compelled me to try a new restaurant I didn’t even know existed, prior to hearing their commercials. Educated consumers buy more than uneducated consumers.

    Good talking points drive sales in every industry. The secret for us in radio is to duplicate those talking points in commercials in language that consumers completely understand, without the cliches and screaming announcers. Once consumers realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that the advertiser’s plan for their success is better than theirs, they’ll open their minds and their wallets.

    You say, “And yes, things do get weird, but is that not the nature of “innovation”” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but yes, I agree with you that innovation is important.

    Again I look forward to hearing about your ideas and techniques on selling radio as a “Passive medium.”

  5. My earlier remarks, Paul, pointed to radio’s need to appreciate its current approach (Direct and Authoritative) as less than highly effective, and the more important requirement to gain greater access to and influence over audiences by applying the available techniques for delivering radio as an Indirect and Passive medium – the exact opposite.

    And yes, things do get weird, but is that not the nature of “innovation”?

  6. Paul states the maybe-not-so-obvious by opining: “We can no longer afford to leave it up to the client to come up with their own advertising ideas.”
    The question, then, becomes one of: Who, specifically, is going to be providing these advertising ideas?

    Paul is known to be a smart guy who has earned his credibility, so it pains me to have to report the following: The examples of copy that are provided could have been (and were) written 40 years ago. That copy just don’ cut it no more.

    Those examples are also representative of the long-held assumption that radio is a Direct and Authoritative medium. It is not. Radio is an Indirect and Passive medium.
    We will have to do much, much better than that.
    Indeed and still, the enemies are us.

  7. As usual, Paul nails it! Interesting Late ’90s mentality coincides with the Telecommunications Act that blew up ownership limits and brought in Wall Street. CS, Boston.


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