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Monday Memo: Smart Advertisers Relate

| March 30, 2020

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Sales managers: Come down off the ledge!  While nervous sales reps are REACTING to cancellations as the economy dives, smart sellers are PROACTIVELY turning-lemons-into-lemonade.  And canny clients are using radio to sound relevant, helpful, and like we’re-all-in-the-same-boat…

“We want to keep our people working.”

This is a commercial copy point we’re using at client stations, in spots for local service retailers.  Another empathy message pertains to restaurants, increasingly restricted to take-out and drive-thru business.  They’re really hurting; and I’ve heard several offering gift cards “that never expire.”

In addition to asking Alexa to play clients and personal favorite stations across the USA, I’m listening-local as I self-quarantine at home.  And I was impressed to hear these three spots back-to-back-to-back in a single stopset on WPRO-AM, Providence:

  • “Manville Palace Pizza, offering free ‘touch-free’ delivery.” You order with a credit card, and they’ll ring your doorbell and leave the pizza there as you come to the door.
  • Next ad: Nursing home, a regular advertiser, changed copy to invite children to make cheery greeting cards for residents.
  • Next ad: Roofing/siding/remodeling company offers “safe” survey. Keeping social distance, they’ll come to meet/measure/etc. then deliver an online proposal that shows how the finished job will look.

Other tactics I’m hearing as I listen-around:

  • Another remodeling company seems to be talking to those cooped-up at home and noticing it’s time for kitchen/bathroom make-over: “Let us show you NOW how your home can look great in time for your holiday guests.  We’ll be ready when you are.”
  • Banks are announcing no penalties for late loan payments and other accommodations.
  • And with cabin fever nudging more toward the restaurant take-out business still allowed: “You can get out of the house, but you won’t have to get out of the car.”
  • In a couple markets I monitor, I’m hearing I.T.-to-go nerds asking “Need help setting-up to work-at-home?”

Resonant messages like these aren’t “stopsets” that interrupt programming.  Survival information commercials ARE programming, that identifies the station as aware and useful.

Remaining PDs: Are you on-it?  Or offering escape-from-it?

A month ago, I got pushback when I sounded the alarm:

It seemed alarmist to some back then, with Rush Limbaugh comparing coronavirus to “the common cold.”  Back to the future: Talk stations are on-it now alrighty, and the three legs to this stool are:

  • Latest news on the outbreak. Be listeners’ coronavirus radio button, the first place they hear things like the Olympics are postponed.
  • Advice from the experts, real news-U-can-use stuff, i.e., IRS deadline extended, state primary election rescheduled, etc.
  • Callers’ stories. Local, local, local.

Listen to how Clark Howard is playing this (like a Stradivarius).

Meanwhile, down the hall, the news/talk station’s music FM sibling can position, also usefully, as listeners’ escape appliance.  Last week here, we described tactics for offering an “aware oasis:”

Great example I heard on “Chicago’s Classic Rock,” Hubbard’s WDRV, a liner that simply offers: “Sometimes the only thing that gets your mind off EVERYTHING is The Music.”

Stay safe.

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books.  Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page for an instant download.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT

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Category: Advice