Friday, February 9, 2007

RAB07, Day 2
Well, Day 2 has been a tad longer than the first day, with a 6 a.m. start for the first session of the day.
On Thursday, I missed John DiPietro's talk, "Surviving & Thriving with the Sales Manager from Hell," because I attended Holland Cooke's talk instead. However, John was nice enough to repeat the bulk of his talk at an early morning session for a handful of folks he called "winners" for just showing up that early to hear him speak. This John DiPietro is not to be confused with the other John DePetro, the alleged "independent man," who was fired from WRKO a few months back for calling Mass. Green-Rainbow Party gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross a "fat lesbian." DePetro has apparently landed back in the cozy arms of WPRO in Providence where he was a talker for quite a number of years. Also interesting is that the DiPietro of RAB once called me after reading some of my comments online at the board about the DePetro situation.
Any-who, DiPietro had some good advice in his talk not only for sales reps. but also managers not wanting to become managers from hell: Commonsense and courtesy; smiling; and not to add caveats and criticism after saying something good to an employee.
I also liked these lines: There is a crisis in the radio industry. When the industry began answering to Wall Street, issues of local control became out of control. He also suggested that if you follow the crowd, you end up in line. Another snappy comment: If everyone does a little bit more a whole lot more gets done. And another: Winners do more than whiners.
To win over customers, sales reps. should learn about the businesses they are trying to sell to and not just with research. Go offer to work in the business with the owner to get a feel for what they are trying to do and what they go through in any given day. He also suggested trying to get appointments with busy business owners during odd hours, like 7 to 9 a.m. or 4 to 7 p.m., with the understanding that just dropping by may not be the best time for the client.

The theme of RAB this year is "Opportunities are on the horizon: High Tech, High Touch, High ROI [or return on investment]" and you could tell that while there is a lot of hope for the business, there is also a lot of fear. But Jeff Haley, the new chairman of the RAB, opened the breakfast with some staggering statistics.
Despite what is being said about radio, 140 million people are listening to radio at any given time in the morning. Sometime during the last 24 hours, 194 million listened while 230 million listened during the past week with another 30 million listening online. And yet, even though 29 percent of a person's time is spent listening to radio, radio only receives 7 percent of the overall amount of money spent on advertising. That is an eye-opening statistic right there. Haley called radio "sponsored audio content" and said with new platforms, integration and innovation, radio should be able to increase advertising by the billions. He also noted that the RAB, NAB, and HD Radio Alliance were creating a synergy between the organizations to increase the size of the industry and preserve its future. The groups will be doing all they can to change the perceptions advertising agencies and marketers have of radio, because it is a strong and effective one-to-one medium which engages listeners emotionally. As one example, Haley pointed to the recent "Don't Almost Give, Give." campaign promotion, to increase awareness about volunteerism and non-profit donations as proof of that. The campaign aired on 500 stations with 22,000 spots and during that time, the give site had a 60 percent increase in Web site traffic.

At breakfast, I didn't eat alone, as sometimes happens. I had a nice chat with some folks from Idaho and later, an RAB VP joined us for part of the talk by Dennis Burrus of Burrus Research Associates. I had noticed his handout sitting on the chair before I sat down to eat and it listed about 60 different study topics he had been involved in. Puzzled, I looked at it saying, What the heck is all this? Burrus' topic was "Futureview: Creating and Sustaining Competitive Advantage" and it was pretty amazing. The basic theme was that there were soft and hard trends and everyone would have to understand what the future situations could be by growing from change.
Why is the windshield bigger than the rear view mirror?, he asked. Well, because the visible future can be predicted. There are known cycles, season changes, etc. which are expected. But analyzing soft and hard trends is different.
Hard trends are based on the physically tangible information, like demographics. For example, baby boomers have most of the wealth and growth of the economy, he said. In the next 10 years, because the boomers are aging, there will be a shift in the stock market. Another example: Government regulation. The government implemented a new policy where corporations have to assume email is a corporate document and must keep a record of it. He wondered how long it would be before the government required companies to record and save all phone conversations since the phone, like email, is more frequently being sent over IP. It could be considered a legal document, he said. Now wonder if you had invested in storage capacity before the implementation of the email backup provision.
Burrus also believes in strategic planning not just to stretch goals or understand finance but to figure out what companies are doing in the marketplace to decommodify their products. Radio isn't an "old media," it is a "timeless media," he said, adding that radio isn't just a device. In times of uncertainty, we must ask what we are certain about, he noted, while adding that the change curve is so powerful that companies had no other choice but to be prepared to see the future for what it is. Make audio the centerpiece of an integrated package of media options but don't base the mission on an inward focus. Companies will survive by integrating their processes - shopping at the mall and e-shopping; radio and Web sites, for examples - while at the same time, serving the customers instead of themselves. Burrus talk was really good and made me think about things a little more deeply than I had previously.

After the breakfast, I attended a talk by Sheila Kirby, of Interep, and Susan Novicki, of Morrison & Abraham in Boston, called "New Revenue in a Digital Age." There was some pretty good stuff here but it wasn't much different from a previous talk I attended by Kirby at RAB last year. Kirby did an overview of the business currently while Novicki talked about some different ways of looking at the future.
Kirby noted that the market was becoming so fragmented with entertainment choices - almost too many - that marketers had to get creative with hope they presented proposals and ideas. However, digital media combined with traditional media can create a myriad of marketing choices, she noted.
Kirby quoted Einstein: "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."
Kirby said while media is in the midst of change, there are both threats and opportunities, with each threat allowing for a counter process - Internet radio can be combated with HD Radio; mp3 sharing can be taken on with sponsored station Podcasts; etc. She suggested that stations not spend money on a "top seller" but instead hire a Web designer to work on creating a site which is user friendly and loaded with content options. On-air staff should have MySpace pages and station Web sites should have blogs and forums to build better relationships with listeners and drive traffic to company Web sites. Kirby noted that AT&T is making $1 million per day on cellphone ringtone downloads and there was no reason why stations couldn't offer downloads. Cellphones will be the ultimate entertainment device, she said, mentioning that CBS has entered into an agreement with Nokia for a "visual radio" interactive program to be installed in some phones. She noted a statistic that 50 percent of Internet radio users were over 35 years of age, and predicted that XM and Sirius satellite radio would merge, a safe bet if you read the trades or WSJ.

I then attended a talk by Kirk Donovan of Donovan Enterprises, a behavioral science from Georgia. The topic was "AdSense: The Behavioral Science of Advertising" and it covered a bunch of stuff. Personally, I'm interested in these kinds of things because I'm interested in what makes people tick and how they react to things. Advertising is a component of that ... making the buyer buy something and why that process happens.
Donovan noted that 85 percent of advertising is ineffective or not as effective as it could be and it has been this way since the dawn of advertising. He used an example of car dealers who spend a lot of money on newspaper ads but were reaching a limited audience. Studies show that only 1 percent of people in the United Sate are looking to buy a car each day. So dealers are spending thousands of dollars on a full-page ad in the paper while only reaching a small percentage of the people reading the paper because the car-buying audience is limited. Car dealers should cut that ad in half and spend the other half on radio to reach more people over a longer period of time than that one page did.
Donovan used a fish analogy to help sales people and managers get more ads: Find out where the fish are and find them for your client. Go after fish with what they want and understand the bait. Also understand that you must move around the lake to find the fish. Also remember how many lines you have in the water. Consumers have so many choices that it is getting harder to influence people. That means that sales reps. have to be more aware of their own skills because the business is changing every day. Nothing will sell the product, it will only tease the customer to come into the store and look at the product. Just because it is a good deal doesn't mean a customer will buy it. But if reps. build realistic expectations they will have retention with clients.

Right before the “AdSense” talk, I ran into Jeffrey Myers of Personal Selling Principles of Maryland and we had a nice quick chat before his talk on profiting from diversity. Myers is one of the good guys in this business. He is always friendly and smiling, and exudes confidence and enthusiasm for radio sales and getting young people involved in the sales field. At the Job Fair at the NAB Radio Show in September, we were seated next to each other and talked a fair amount about the business and other things. I watched how he handled people and promoted his product, along with a Media Sales Institute program he is also promoting. I attended his seminar at the RAB06 event, so I was familiar with his work already before getting to talk to him. It was so good to see him this time around and to hear that he was doing so well.

At lunch, Betsy Lazar, a media and marketing operator of General Motors, gave the key note speech: The Consumer is in the Driver’s Seat.
Starting the presentation off with a Q&A, Betsy put some slides on the large television screens and asked members of the audience some loaded questions: Which car company’s manufacturing plants ranked first in initial quality by J.D. Powers & Associates? Which car company has more models which get 30 mpg to the gallon on the highways? Which car company will have the most hybrid models available in 2007? Which car company was voted the industry design leader by its peers? Of course, the answer to each was GM. And yet, GM was still not seen as a leader in the business by consumers. So, Lazar said, the company is trying to shake things up. We are going to alter our course with a great sense of urgency.
As a marketer, Lazar pointed to a bunch of things which the company was doing to market themselves. They are spending $100 million on radio, which doesn’t include local buys, in order to drive customers to the company’s Web site. The company was using brand positioning for its vehicle lines and using different ways of promoting the company. They are also using creative natural sound – like ones from 911 calls – to promote the companies OnStar service. They also used Sean Hannity as an outlet to promote their quality standards and the number of American workers who work for GM during interviews and links to Hannity’s Web site. They also worked with a station in
Los Angeles to promote a Survivor-like drive across the country, to Miami, with a number of contestants. The last one remaining will win a car. Lazar also presented advertising promotions with WAAF in which the Chevy Cobalt was promoted at beach gatherings and also a DJ in Atlanta doing an ad-lib bit to promote the Chevy Tahoe.
Lazar suggested that radio people think about the end result and not just the starting point. She also made three other points: Increase focus on research and accountability; speed up digital integration; and develop partnerships with other media.

After lunch, I headed over to “Extreme Radio Commercial Makeovers” being presented by Jeffrey Hedquist of Hedquist Productions of Iowa. Hedquist presented a slew of ads for us to listen to and then reconstructed the bad ads into good ads as part of an online contest he hosts called The Sow Ear Awards, the Worst Radio Commercials in North America.
One of the great things about Hedquist’s presentation – beyond the good information – was his dry wit. He was full of clever jokes and light humor which really made the seminar fly right by.
Some of the suggestions Hedquist made were: When using dialogue or scripted banter between audiences, make it realistic. Don’t use station staff … the listeners already know those people. Use actors. Try a one-sided conversation over the phone like Bob Newhart used to do. Don’t use hype or screaming, like car dealers and furniture retailers do. It is more powerful to let the listener have the opportunity to make the decisions. The ad shouldn’t be about the clients, it should be about the potential customer.

Later on, I headed over to the Wide Orbit tech talk to get briefed on their traffic and billing software. I mostly went because they were having a drawing for a free trip for two to San Francisco and there weren’t many people in attendance so my odds were pretty good. I’ve seen the software before and it is pretty impressive. The presentation, however, was a disaster. There were several technical glitches and the VP of sales didn’t seem to have a comfort zone for the product and kinda stumbled through the process and the glitches. It wasn’t all his fault; he was having difficulty pointing to things on the big screen. The woman running the computer presentation seemed to have a better feel for it which is probably because she once worked in radio trafficking.

It was a long day and I got a lot done so I decided to have a quick beer and some munchies and mingle a bit before ending the day.


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