Robert Christy, who worked in radio for 44 years, took notice of our Nielsen/CMO story Thursday and gave us some interesting feedback. His wife Jan (pictured here with Robert) owns a 38-client agency in California. Unfortunately her perception of our industry is not the best, and hopefully this is an isolated incident. Every once in awhile we find out our baby is ugly and it’s not always daffodils and roses.
We asked Robert to speak to Jan and give us an inside look at how radio reps call on her, her perception of radio salespeople and managers, and what she’d like to see from the radio industry.
(By Robert Christy) Two weeks ago my wife handed me a presentation from the GSM and AE from one of the largest radio groups. They were asking for $31K over two months for a promotional campaign on four of their stations. There was no breakdown of where and when the commercials and promos would run or which of their stations would be carrying them. The presentation made no sense.
Not only that, the in-person portion of the presentation they made was weak and confusing. She said the GSM had difficulty answering any of her questions in any detail. The AE, her rep, said nothing except hello and goodbye.
My wife has spent a lot of money on radio over the years, especially when she was the VP of Marketing for one of the largest furniture retailers in Southern California. She knows radio (she began her career as a radio sales rep). She’s watched and experienced the decline in the quality of radio salespeople, the massive turnover in sales at stations (one major LA station had four different reps call on her in a nine-month period). She says that whenever radio sends out a manager with the reps, the manager is one of two things: arrogant or soaked in flop sweat.
What she says about radio reps in general:
- They don’t listen. They ask questions that aren’t relevant to the discussion or to her client’s wants, needs, and desires.
- She says this is especially true when the rep is accompanied by one of the big guns. The manager types she encounters listen even less and blow off legitimate questions. She feels they are trying to push a one-siz-fits-all program, no matter what the client is trying to accomplish.
- If she makes a radio buy, she gets inundated by radio reps from the competition and some (especially managers) go as far as denigrating her judgment and expect her to justify to them why she made the decision she made. Or they whine that if she doesn’t spend a few bucks with them they’ll lose the account or worse yet get fired. Radio is the only medium she works with that does this.
- She is never swayed by an offer of concert tickets, etc. Her interest is only in what will work for her client.
- Radio is virtually the only medium that always denigrates other radio stations and other media platforms. One of her clients, a family practice law firm, owned by a woman, uses the slick local magazines on a regular basis. It works for her firm. My wife can predict almost to the minute when the calls from radio reps will start after each new issue comes out.
She knows how radio works, she knows how it fits into her client’s marketing strategy and that’s how she operates.
What she would like to see from radio:
1) More community involvement. One of her restaurant clients hosted a community forum a few days after the huge Thomas Fire (the largest in California history). Residents could ask questions of fire, police, relief, and emergency leaders. Half the food and bar receipts went to help people most affected by the fire, the wait staff even donated their tips. The restaurant was a drop-off point for clothing, food, and cash donations. TV and print were there, NPR was there, commercial radio didn’t bother.
2) She’d like to see sales reps take the time to learn about her clients or, at minimum, seem curious beyond size of the budget.
3) She’d like to see managers who make calls with sales reps either support the rep or make the call themselves.
4) Radio managers believe they are good negotiators; they’re not.
The last radio campaign she ran for one of her clients, she did the research, planned the buy, wrote the copy, called the stations, and bought the schedule. She ran 35 units on each station per week for three weeks. She paid full rate card for 6a-6p, one unit per daypart, Monday through Friday. She asked for and got 20 units a week as a bonus. She ran 10 of them like this one unit, 7-12 and one overnight M-F; the other 10 bonus units ran midday on Saturday and Sunday. Did the campaign work? It did, and worked well, because she understands radio better than the people who sell it.
Robery Christy can be reached at [email protected]