By Doug Stephan
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Reading the statements by Spencer Brown at Dial Global about what has happened to the advertising agencies’ attitudes toward controversial programming gives me cause to want to add my perspective as an independent producer with almost 25 years of syndicated radio experience…pretty much the same amount of time as Rush Limbaugh.
First and foremost, I’m a champion of and cheerleader for the format. But what is represented here is the same quandary that faces the Republican Party…relevance.
We can praise the format’s audience loyalty to many advertisers following the Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke incident and complain about those who no longer want to stay in the atmosphere of controversy surrounding “those” shows, but we are outnumbered and outgunned because, let’s face it, the agencies and advertisers are how we survive. So to tell them that their clients are stupid for not staying in an atmosphere in which they don’t want to be is akin to the Republicans not reading the tea leaves about changing demographics.
I’m not here to argue the point, but rather to tell you what this ONE incident has cost me as an independent in a sea of big corporate operators, who are obviously losing tens of millions of dollars due to this one event.
So far this year, my losses are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cancellations, avoidance and decisions to just not buy across the whole format, no matter what the content, have led to this rude awakening.
I’m not looking for Limbaugh to send me a check (although that would be nice), but I do think we have to let it be known that his actions have been devastating to our survival. I do think we have to do what we can to expand the format and let agencies know that their message can be safe with those who produce good programs that are fun, relevant and aimed at a different audience. Letting the news media, and even agencies, get away with lumping all hosts and content together is irresponsible for them and their clients because they know they get the best results from spots delivered in the spoken word formats.
Solution: Expand, broaden, open up the potential for non-political talk to be aired and encouraged on weak stations in markets of all sizes.
Daytime television is telling us something. Why aren’t we paying attention?
Doug Stephan is president of Stephan MultiMedia and host of the nationally syndicated “Good Day” program. He can be emailed at email@example.com.