(By Michael Easton) Much, much more than just a spark, in fact. His name is actually Sparky Taft and he continues his lifelong career at the age of 77 years. And yes, in his part of the world, he adds that much-needed spark to the industry.
No doubt this man has radio in his DNA. After all, the Taft name has been associated with ownership of radio stations in the state of Washington since 1921, starting with Seattle’s KOL.
Sparky (pictured at right) was a natural for radio. Not only was he involved in programming KRKO in Everett, Washington, but he also shone in marketing and sales, and still does. He made this junior Rock radio station in Everett a success, challenging the top stations in the Seattle radio market ratings.
Seattle radio icon and former Sparky boss, Pat O’Day shared with me that Sparky is a “one in ten million” kind of guy. “Sparky should be in the Radio Hall of Fame as well as the Ad Agency Hall of Fame. What a totally unique package he is.”
Sparky would give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money. He shares his daily schedule on Facebook — this man keeps going and going and going. He sets up meetings with his clients across the country, then flies out to one of several cities to meet them face to face, then gets together with management of radio and television stations in that particular market. So far this year he has chalked up over 100,000 air miles and predicts he’ll surpass 150,000 by the end of the year. Last week he was in Tucson, then back out to Baltimore, next week in Dallas, and so on. And on many occasions he takes his lovely wife and partner Jean Ann with him.
By far, Sparky Taft is the most successful advertising person in the Pacific Northwest, and arguably one of the most successful on the West Coast.
He’s also written five books, has a website, and now a YouTube channel where he displays the commercials he has produced for his clients.
Sparky excels in the media – in fact, the two most successful broadcasters in the Northwest are Pat O’Day and Sparky, whose family are pioneers of broadcasting in the state of Washington. Sparky, personally, has been General Manager of eight radio stations. He built KRKO and has hired and trained some of the top broadcasting and business people in the Northwest – many of whom went on to very distinguished careers.
In my opinion, Sparky was, without a doubt, the all-time broadcast salesperson. He drew in 50% or more of five different stations’ total revenue. He has a favorite story about when he was working for Pat O’Day at KYYX-FM. Bob Bingham was Pat’s General Manager. One day, they called Sparky into Pat’s office. They wanted to personally present him with his monthly commission check. It was larger than the GM Bob Bingham’s check — and even larger than the owner’s check! This could never happen in today’s corporate broadcasting world.
Sparky is also a uniter, bringing the media together, having held his Media Party of the Year for 18 years in Seattle, three years in Las Vegas, and two years in Central Washington. The Media Party of the Year was the largest such media event in the entire country. Media people came from Canada, Spokane, all over Central Washington, Portland, and of course over 100 from Seattle. Four or five years ago, Sparky made the difficult decision to cancel the event. He did so because the media have changed dramatically – different TV and radio people, different media ownerships, etc. It just wasn’t the same.
Sparky was also a class act when it came to promotion, having produced over 50 custom car shows in Seattle and British Columbia, specifically at Vancouver’s PNE, where he would bring in major TV and sports stars to sign autographs. And he helped pioneer the multi-event usage of the Kingdome. He also ran two race tracks – Evergreen Speedway in Monroe and in Port Angeles.
It was when he worked for Pat O’Day in the early eighties at KYYX that he came up with the Car Wars promotion — probably the biggest and most spectacular auto promotion in the country. It even got national news. Here’s that video he produced for it.
When it comes to advertising, Sparky is again very prominent in the Pacific Northwest and on the West Coast. His style of advertising is mostly direct-response advertising. He has had advertising running all over the country in over 30 markets and on well over 50 TV stations, and some radio and cable TV.
Sparky is not just hands-on but also face-to-face with his clients, traveling to other markets every week, sometimes twice a week. Earlier this week, he was in Pittsburgh, last week in Baltimore, the week before, Phoenix, Las Vegas. Next week, he’ll be in Tucson then St. Louis. At 77 years of age, he could easily pass for someone in his early 60s, and it’s fair to say the man is in chronological age denial.
I asked Sparky if the name Taft would continue to be involved in the radio industry in Washington State, and sadly his reply was he sold KRKO because he came to the realization his children had no interest in getting involved in radio. The family has owned 13 stations in the state since the early 1920s.
Sparky feels blessed to have had the career he has. He told me what I do is not a job, it is a passion to help businesses be more successful all over the country.
Sparky Taft deserves special recognition for his contributions to the broadcasting industry.
You can reach Sparky Taft at Dynamic Results World Headquarters, 11801 Harbour Pointe Blvd. #206, Mukilteo, WA 98275. Call (425) 353-3265 or his cell (425) 359-8888. Email: [email protected].