BLOG: The Radio Menu: Canned Spam 

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(By Ronald Robinson) One of my favorite restaurant-built sandwiches is the wonderful and venerable BLT – toasted, certainly. Mayo or Miracle Whip, I don’t care. I defer to my friend Copy Master Mike, who describes scarfing down or politely enjoying a finely tuned bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich as one that is “oozing with goodness in each delicious, rich, and creamy mouthful.” Of course, that claim would never make it past our feared, local, Radio Commercial Food Narcs. They have real powers and they tend to arrive at their offices in extremely ill humor.

Otherwise, local radio stations perceive no need to publish or offer any menu of spots of any kind to their advertisers. This is mostly because they can’t. The commercial preparation kitchens have been shut down for years – decades, actually. The most a local advertiser can hope for are weenies made from meat-ish by-products made from chicken lips and lemming hooves. The gladly provided alternative is canned Spam. Many stations might have a two-burner Coleman camp stove stuffed in a closet somewhere – just in case some snotty advertiser insists on having their Spam boiled (never fried).

I have heard it argued that the staggering dearth of effective, never mind interesting or, gawd forbid, creative advertising being continuously foisted on advertisers and audiences might be cause for some kind of class-action suit. This is unlikely, because, well, guess who has the most expensive lawyers and the deepest war chests for just such a contingency. (I confess that was an interesting 10-second fantasy. I’m feeling much better now.)

Meanwhile, I, and other astute bloggers and commentators have gone to great pains to demonstrate the neurological aspects that impact the minds of radio listeners. These elements are many. They come with important distinctions, and they are profound! An appreciation of these factors would be enough to bring the status quo, and accepted and traditional standards of presenting on-air deliveries and the designing of commercials to a grinding, screeching halt. Fires could be ignited. And nobody has the insurance policies that would cover such an eventuality.

None of the fears and resentments of those who can provide more effective strategies that are desperately needed — and absolutely necessary— for radio to make any forward movement in content delivery are of any use at all. But, we all know those bile-producing emotions and raggedy positions are also real enough. It doesn’t take any more than a weak justification, a mild denial or a clutched and accepted delusion to bring the whole idea crashing in and swept away, while resolutions are made to never ever address the issue never ever again.

Some of the distinctions to which I referred (above) are extraordinarily simple to understand and even easier for a typer-of-the-hype to apply. They come under the heading of Absolute Quantifiers. Copywriters have been using these crutches for so long and have become so used to, and crippled by, them that it never occurs to “wordies” why they can’t catch up with a bus waiting at the stop.

A few examples of absolute quantifiers include: best, all, greatest, lowest, highest, only, every, never, and always. There are others, but you get the gist. Those who are impervious to pain are invited to fill their boots and, by all means, to do a search of “Absolute Quantifiers.” A fair warning is appropriate and a fair warning has been given.

Constant use of absolute qualifiers has been a part of radio’s DNA for generations. Producing three-headed, pancake batter-brained offspring that can’t walk, talk, or blow their own noses unless in a linear progression has been the result. And yet, given the lack of self-awareness on the part of the participants, nobody is embarrassed, either.

As contemporary American culture has been demonstrating, anything can become accepted as “normal.” So it is with the use of absolute quantifiers used in radio deliveries. As a neurological experience, listeners unconsciously reject the wild assertions that make up these quantifiers. Consciously, listeners are, usually, completely unaware of any impact the words are having. But again, unconsciously, they ain’t happy – or convinced. The exit ramps off this radio merry-go-round are well marked and are conveniently located. Restrooms and lots o’ free parking are available on arrival.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the ’60s as a performer, writer, and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counselor. Contact Ron at [email protected]

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Ron Robinson
Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counselor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to talent and creative, have yet to be addressed.

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