By Al Herskovitz
NEW YORK — The sale doesn’t end when the client signs the contract. That was one of the hot topics bandied about during discussions I had in the lobby, at lunch and at the cocktail party outside the formal goings-on at the recent TALKERS conference (6/6). It is one of the valuable side-effects of the event attached to the panels and presentations in the main hall. The opportunity to talk face-to-face with programmers, producers, hosts, sales folks, about specific challenges they face.
In our conversations about sales responsibility I described a commercial island that I recently heard which held five 60-second commercials and two 30-second program promos. That’s six straight minutes without any program content. Unless the material such as this is brilliant, amusing or unusually entertaining my sense is a good number of listeners will flee. And the stuff I heard wasn’t particularly brilliant. The set included a sink-hole repair company, a restaurant, an Internet protection system, a house painting firm and a car dealer plus the promos. The time spent seemed interminable. Two of the spots, the sink-hole company and one of car dealers, were “live reads.” Not actually live, but pre-recorded to fill the time slots. Therein lies a problem.
Too much copy! It sounded as if the program host reading the commercials was trying to win the Preakness. But he had to meet the clock. If I weren’t trying my darndest to follow him, the whole thing could be described as a monotone garble.
It’s interesting to note the biggest, most popular, highly-rated, national talk show hosts do live read commercials magnificently on a par with their program content. I’m talking about the likes of Gallagher, Hannity, Beck. Dennis Prager puts his heart into it. And I recently heard Limbaugh do one about a tax-help service that really drew me in. I didn’t even realize it was a commercial until he announced a website address and an 800 number. It’s apparent that the biggies know where their bread is coming from.
It’s on the local and independently syndicated level that I hear commercials raced through as if they were annoyances that should be pushed aside to make more room for the scintillating comment and pithy observations of the host.
This is where the sales rep should come in. If the commercial is so jammed with words that it is ineffective, there goes the possibility of it working and with it the possibility of a renewal. If the program host has a history of kissing off spots, what makes anyone believe that the schedule is going to work?
The sales rep has an obligation to operate in his/her own best interest, in the best interest of the advertiser and in the long run the program or station. There is not a lot the rep can do about those lengthy spot breaks except lobby against them.They seem to be the fashion of the day. But as to racing through jammed-with-copy commercials, what would be wrong with going back to the client and suggesting two different ones be prepared and then alternated on the air?
In our discussions in the corridors of the Concierge Conference Center we all agreed that attention must be paid from start to finish by the sales rep in order to maximize the possibilities of success for the advertiser. And concerns must be brought to the management of the station. However, there is one wrinkle among the numerous independently produced and syndicated shows. In many cases talent, sales and management are wrapped up in just two or three people. Here egos must be put aside for the greater good.
While monitoring a station today I heard the morning host blitz through a spot for an air conditioner service. Obviously no one from his station had attended our hall sessions.
Al Herskovitz is president of H&H Communications and a marketing specialist for TALKERS magazine. He can be phoned at 941-708-6520 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meet Al Herskovitz at TALKERS Los Angeles 2013 on Thursday, October 10.