Paige Nienaber’s Midweek Idea Dump: Who’s Your Spanky?


(By Paige Nienaber) Last week I touched on Hall Vibe and how it’s the great intangible you see, hear, and feel in winning brands. No one got into Radio to fill out TPS Reports. You got into it to have more fun than your friends who were destined for careers with higher salaries… and TPS Reports.

When people in the halls are having fun, you will most assuredly “hear it” in everything they do and say. But it needs to come from somewhere or someone.

I always refer to that person as Spanky.

Growing up in the Twin Cities, on Sunday mornings Channel 4 would run Our Gang episodes, followed by some Laurel & Hardy. And in the Our Gang series, Spanky McFarland was the Center Of Fun. He was the Enabler. He got the ball rolling. If Miss Crabtree was going to lose her job, Spanky would be the guy who would jump, well, climb onto a chair and rally everyone to throw a gala in a barn to save her salary.

You need a Spanky. But it needs to be a natural Spanky. Someone who this comes easy to and not someone you pull into a meeting and declare, “You’re in charge of making this place FUN!” An implied threat usually comes with that.

When I arrived at Kiss 102 in Charlotte, the station already had its foot in the Fun Pool. I just decided to be the person to push us into the deep end. My office was filled with gadgets, toys, occasional dancing on the desk (to the world’s most aggravating Radio jingle), and a ritual that had to be accomplished before people were allowed to enter.

This wasn’t intentional, it was just me.

I’d been there a couple of weeks and was told that our great, revered consultant, Jerry Clifton was coming to visit. I’d never heard of the guy, but I had encountered our competition at events and they hated Clifton. That impressed me.

So I’m on the phone and getting introduced to someone who was marginally important (the head of Pepsi’s marketing for the Carolinas) and this little guy bops into my office. While he was waiting for me to get off the phone, he picked up some ping pong balls and started chucking them at my head. Without pausing I reached under my desk took out a Super Soaker and let all 4’ 11” of him have it from head to foot. He stepped back, kind of shocked, broke into a huge smile, said, “That’s f—–g great!” and walked out.

A colleague of mine told his GM about that a few years ago and the GM said, “I would’ve fired him.” And he would have.

The point? That station was a monster. It was the perfect alignment of elements with zero to no budget. Great programming from Mark Shands and Erik Bradley. Stunningly great talent like Jo Jo Wright, Max Sweeten, and Helen Little. Street presence. A fantastic Sales Manager named Chris Remme was able to conjure big prizes out of nothing. Topicality, stupidity, and fun.

So, who is your Spanky?

And now on the with the Dumpage.

Text What’s Next

One of the all-time great remote games was CD Scramble. It was the hook du jour for KSFM in Sacramento to get people hanging around their booth. It was set up like a casino game and you “bet” what the next song was going to be. (I can explain more if you are interested.) But it always built a crowd and it also trained people on the music.

The next level or new generation of that would be a Programming contest. At either a cue or an appointment time, you take texts from the audience guessing what the next song will be. If you texted in “Don’t Want To Fall In Love” by Jane Child and gosh darn it, for some reason the station actually played that, you win.

Pimp Dad’s Car

First, prom is going to fall on just a couple of nights in your town. And every limo within 500 miles WILL be booked. To even have one on lock puts you at an enormous advantage in terms of leveraging the teens. You’ll be able to get them to do anything to win it, as happened with KGGI when they did Loco For Limos. As the GM put it, “Actual local, not group. Cash contests didn’t get this response.”

Or for older stations, have people post photos of their Prom Cars

(For the record, me? …A Ford Matador. Which explains why Gretchen excused herself midway through our fancy dinner at Steak & Ale, and never returned.)

Slogan Shirts

In 2019 it’s increasingly hard for brands to get consumers to wear shirts that are simply blatant advertising for them. It’s required some subterfuge and cloaking to get the logo in there and still have it be something creative that people will want to wear.

Michael Martin when he was with CBS in San Francisco, about eight years ago was at his daughter’s college in Santa Clarita and noticed that students were wearing shirts with just weird phrases on them, so he went back to 99.7 NOW-FM and redid their wearables so they would say something cute, have a logo too but too obtrusive… and the audience loved them. And wore them. It was also about the time that iCarly started dressing the stars in similar shirts. A company called Penny Tee’s started churning them out and the viewers bought them by the truckload.

Since then some of the stations have started doing this with phrases like “Keep Boise Boring” and “I Only Love My Bed And Utah. Sorry.” Terry O’Donnell in Albany has done that with Kiss and the listeners love them. Something like “Dance Contest Loser” and a logo down and to the left of it. “Hannah Montana Destroyed My Family”? They couldn’t print enough of them. And that’s the sign of a great t-shirt. People want them and will wear them.

Leprechaun Races

With Mardi Gras and Valentine’s out of the way, St. Patrick’s Day is on deck. There will be a mess ‘o Patty’s stuff before you know it, including leprechaun races. Diaper crawls have been done for a lot of the Hallmark Holidays and they’re always fun and they always get TV. BEN-FM did it as a charity event on Saturday. Why would you not want to do this?

St. Pump-it’s Day

The Max Media stations in Denver just did Gallontines where they were all over town giving free gas. So, why not declare that March 16th is St. Pump-it’s Day in honor of Patrick?

Munch Madness

Social media is all about kids, pets, food, and people’s opinions about the three. BEN in Philly has done Mutt Madness in March. Tell me that people wouldn’t barrage you with pet pics if you asked.

Conversely, Audacy in St. Louis did Food Fights and every week battled it out between different genres of local restaurants like Chinese, steaks, Mexican, and wings. Random voters got picked for sponsors’ gift cards.

Final Four Packs

In one of the markets Buffalo Wild Wings is asking for something for March Madness, so you might want to have someone calling whoever places their buys where you are.

Froggy in Santa Rosa and Mix in Cincy did great jobs of creatively bundling their Valentine’s prizes. IF you had four decent prizes to giveaway around the tourney, there’s your name. Then you just need a methodology. Having people guess scores would be okay.

Another option would be to do a version of “Dribble Till You Drop.” You have one of the talent with a basketball, put taped boxes around their feet so you can see if they moved and they start dribbling the ball on Facebook Live. Listeners guess how long they’ll be able to dribble without missing or moving their feet. Closest without going over, wins.

So… Looking For More “Dates”

March is Frozen Food Month. Yes. That has serious potential for boredom, but so do school lunches and KyXy had some fun with that because everyone had a favorite school lunch growing up. And since TV dinners were a big part of our childhoods, maybe there’s a bracket. Maybe there’s not.

Kiss in Boise did UFO or Unidentified Frozen Object. The breakroom freezer had been opened and closed so many times with so much condensation that there was just enough room in the frost to stick a gas station burrito. So the office manager started unthawing it and way, way, way in the back, encrusted in ice, was a Tupperware container from the midday jock who’d quit over single-ply TP a decade before.

ID what was in it and win a side of beef from a client.

March 1 is National Pancake Day. Boom. Bracket.

March 8th is International Women’s Day. That was easy.

It’s Free Cone Day with DQ on March 20th.

And Starbucks Day is March 31st. The anniversary of the first one in Seattle in 1971. I’m not into it but if you are, you really are.

BONUS: Morning Prep

Some ideas from Sandy On The Beach:

Things You Don’t Want Your Mom To See

Buzzfeed has an interesting list to kick this bit off HERE. Use it as a launching point to create your own story. In fact, I wouldn’t even mention the list, just create a story and share it with your listeners. I am not a woman, but I think a ton of women will be able to relate to your story.

I have never been a fan of doing a phone topic just to do a phone topic. Nothing sounds worse than setting up a phoner by saying, “Call us with things in your home you don’t want your mom to see,” without sharing your story first.

Always remember, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” This is radio, tell a great story, make it interesting, and make it big – even if never happened. If what you are doing is interesting or the audience can relate, they will call. If they don’t, you shared a great story and move on.

Should Mom’s With Crying Babies Be Banned From Coffee Shops?

Read the entire story and see the video HERE. This happened in the UK, so chances are 99.9% of your listeners will not see the story. Set up your own caller that has the same thoughts as this woman. Every now and then you have to “shake” your audience up a little, you have to grab their attention and give them a platform to express themselves.

This is a topic that will surely do that.

You are most likely to get calls from moms who will hate this woman, but try to mix in a call with moms who agree with her. You have to stir the pot! This is the type of thing people will go in to work talking about, chances are they won’t go in to work and say, “Did you hear that Bruno Mars song on the morning show today?” 

Tween Dating

I saw this article about why parents shouldn’t freak out when their tween announces they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. I have an 8-year-old, so we are still in the “boys are dumb” stage. My takeaway from the article was tween relationships don’t last long.

It would be fun to find a tween that has a boyfriend or girlfriend and check in with them every week. Ask them what they and their boyfriend/girlfriend do. Do they go on dates, do they hang out after school, did they swap Valentine’s gifts? This is the type of bit that you can work ahead on and get in the can. If the article is accurate, the bit probably won’t last long and you end up with an ending that makes sense.

Paige Nienaber insults/consults more than 100 radio stations on Fun ‘N Games (Marketing & Promotions). Find him at CPR Promotions. Read Paige’s Radio Ink archives here.


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