BRADENTON, Fla. — No, this is not about the Emmys, the Oscars, the Clios, the Obies, the Tonys, the CMAs or the Golden Globes. No, this not about these lesser annual awards. They all make way for the most important citations that occur around this time, and this is the seventh year – the Annual Hersky Awards. As you all know, the Herskys honor outstanding achievement in the field of talk radio advertising and sales.
There may be a handful of readers who are still among the uninitiated, so let us restate the few, simple rules. There is no actual statuette, naked or semi-clothed (just the mock-up seen here)! There is no committee, although nominations and suggestions from the greater broadcast world are accepted and reviewed. There is no formal event with a red carpet or fashion parade. Keep in mind, however, the honors are pretty much confined to national entities, since reviewing every talk show or program in the country is a physical impossibility. The decisions of the judges are final, and there is only one judge (see byline above). So, may I have the envelopes!
The initial honor goes to the national program host who does the best job doing “live read” national commercials. They may be pre-recorded, but don’t sound it. The category is most difficult to judge since the top national talk show hosts all do well at this. One, however, really jumped out. Prior to Valentine’s Day the airways were flooded with spots, both pre-produced and live, for Shari’s Berries. A sports talk host takes honors here – Jay Mohr. Mohr did the commercial over a number of days with passion and conviction. What made his presentation special was that at no two times did the pitch sound exactly the same. He managed to find a little twist that made it blend into the flow of his show.
Local commercials done by national hosts also are prevalent. Well-done, these spots give a hometown feel to a syndicated/network program, and again, acknowledgement must be given to most popular national hosts who do these well. But this year’s Hersky goes to Todd Schnitt for his efforts on behalf of a local real estate company where he made it seem as if he knew the company and its personnel.
Singing commercials or jingles are not as much used as they once were. In many cases they are confined to brief identifiers or tag lines. But there is one company that rounds out its complete multi-media ad campaign with a singing commercial. The winner here is the Progressive Insurance Company whose entire campaign is built around a character spokesperson named Flo. If you’ve seen any TV, internet or print, you’ve seen and heard her…a semi-comic female dressed totally in white. How did Progressive translate this visual image to sound on the radio? By having Flo sing about the virtues of the company. A sure Hersky Award winner!
The internet has been a good part of the talk broadcasting community for a good number years now, but only recently, and very slowly at that, have networks, syndicators and stations begun to put their sales effort on an equal footing with their programming presentations. Even today there appears to be no more than perfunctory offerings in most cases. There is, however, one notable and award winning exception – Cumulus Media. Along with the program info, they show extensive sales and advertising material that is on an equal footing with everything else on their site. Additionally, the information is divided up into attractively designed and informative sections -local, national, regional, digital … wrapped up with examples of results and case studies. Very effective!
This year’s Hersky for talk radio advertiser of the year goes to a company that’s been using the format heavily for several years in addition to all other media. That company is Geico. What makes their commercials particularly effective is their diversity. They use hard-sell, soft-sell, humor, identifiable characters, produced spots, live spots and they change the copy often.
No column would be complete without a Nosey Award. Noseys go to commercials that have elements that make you want to hold your fingers to your nose. This one goes out broadly to local car dealers. Stop yelling! The pitch shouted by the sales manager or dealership owner doesn’t make the cars they’re selling any more attractive. All it does is make the listener reach for the volume control. And stop using auto industry code words! “Less than M-S-R-P!” I know what it means because I looked it up, but the average consumer doesn’t and probably wouldn’t bother.
Fortunately, there are a lot of worthy Hersky Award candidates out there, and there is always next year.
Al Herskovitz is president of H&H Communications. He can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.