The Advertiser Runs the Show

Marketing and advertising are strange animals. There are lots of cliches out there and even more half truths and skewed numbers. Ever heard that ‘any press is good press’? What about ‘the customer is always right’? What about the sales reps for the yellow pages that show up every year and try to convince you that despite fewer people using the big yellow book your business needs to pay more for a bigger ad? And why not add color while you’re at it?

Personally, I like the title of Seth Godin’s book, which sums it all up with the statement that All Marketers Are Liars.

With that said, my firm owns several small businesses. Marketing and advertising is a way of life. It’s a necessary evil, no matter how guerrilla or unique I do it. I can try to disguise it as something else or make it seem really cool, but I still have to make or avoid meetings with ad reps from the phone books, newspapers, and radio stations.

Me and my boys usually listen to a local top 40 station called Mix 97.7. They play a lot of the music that me and the kids like, and it’s really funny to watch the baby dance to the Black Eyed Peas. Lately, they’ve been running a commercial on overdrive that does nothing but repeat the store’s name over and over again. It’s so annoying that we switch the station every time it comes on.

I popped onto the station’s Facebook page last night after hearing the commercial yet again and basically said, “Can you please dump the _____ ad? Every time I hear it, it makes me want to turn the station.” I’d quote exactly what I said, but the station erased the post from their feed. Real good public relations there guys.

They responded back pretty quick with…”Mix 97.7 wrote: “David, they’re a paid advertiser.  Please direct any complaints to the advertiser, because as long as they pay for the airtime and aren’t being belligerent with that time (coarse or profane language or subject matter), we’re going to sell the airtime to the client.  We are a business and we operate by selling the airtime to the business needing the airtime for whichever reason they need it.”

So I said back…”That’s a very corporate answer. I’ll still be turning off the station.”

So they replied, “Mix 97.7 wrote: “Buh-bye post” and promptly deleted the entire series.

The whole thing makes me want to…wait, just a minute. I’m gonna get up and turn the radio off. They played the ad again.

It makes me want to ask, how much are media companies willing to be proselytized and enslaved by the advertiser? Is this radio station seriously unable to grab deep and speak up to the advertiser if the ad isn’t a good one, turns off listeners from the other ads, or loses customers? And how far does it go? A local alt-weekly I once freelanced for once told me that I couldn’t write certain things because we couldn’t offend the advertisers. In other words, only good things to say about the businesses who send in checks. As an individual, can I send checks as well to avoid any bad press? I can see how this would be very useful for politicians.

Technically speaking, this amounts to bribery and smacks of fear, neither of which is part of a really good business model.

With such a pseudo-truthful state of affairs where the media outlets are held hostage by the advertisers, I wonder if it’s finally time for the old traditions to go away in favor of the new. Newspapers, yellow pages, and radio stations are being replaced by something else. Maybe it’s time I completely ditch Mix 97.7 in favor of Pandora, Spotify, and the innumerable other options available out there to get music in much greater variety than my local station offers and with fewer ads. I’ve been flirting with this for years anyway. Just a simple search for Internet radio stations pops up with scores of top 40 stations.

What if that wasn’t enough? What if I wanted to start a small revolution to upgrade other people’s listening habits and bring them into the 21st century? I could probably call all of the other advertisers on the station and let them know that I quit listening because of one store’s annoying ad and a poor experience with the station’s Facebook manager. Would the station then be held hostage by one advertiser or two dozen? But I forgot, they told me that they can’t do anything about the ads. Well, I guess the other advertisers could since the station is powerless. They could pull their ads and start placing on the Internet stations and outlets that only reach people in carefully chosen demographics and geographical locations, which is much more precise than the local radio station offers.

Or I can learn a lesson from this and resolve to listen to my core customers at my own businesses and not play corporate games to shift responsibility. I just don’t know. I really am tempted to stir up some trouble.


34 thoughts on “The Advertiser Runs the Show

  1. Dr. David Powers,

    First of all, what a tremendous verbal ”hissy fit” you\’ve thrown. Kudos. Secondly, I don\’t know what you do for a living, but feel free to tell me where to go to your business and post a handbill on it\’s building with my complaint(s) about it. That\’s exactly what you childishly did.

    Now, to the matter of your beef; you seem to be claiming that the advertiser is running the station. What an over-simplification, at best, and outright lie at it\’s core. I’ve not had ONE – count \’em – ONE – advertiser have any influence on what songs we play or what personalities we hire, in my nearly five years here.

    Where you seem to try to blur the lines, however, is where you want ME to control what content an advertiser places within the airtime they’ve paid for. In your case, a 30-second commercial for ”Purple Haze” smoke shop, where, for the entire 30 seconds, various voices merely repeat the name of the store. It\’s called ”branding,” Dr. Powers.

    Your reply – That’s a very corporate answer. I’ll still be turning off the station.” – is A. false, in that we\’re a small company with a mere handful of stations, unlike the Cumulus Broadcastings, Entercoms and Clear Channels of the world, and B. borders on immature. \”I\’m taking my ball and going home.” Fine; go. That’s your right.

    I’m the person who replied to your post – on OUR wall. And what I said I’ll stand by 100%. I don’t always care for what a client puts within the airtime they purchase, but as I said in my reply on our Facebook page, as long as they’re within the bounds of decorum, and they’ve paid for the airtime, there’s no basis FOR removing a commercial.

    Incidentally, you\’re the one – and ONLY – person who\’d lodged a complaint. Need I also mention that Mix 97.7 was the MOST-listened to radio station, persons 12+, in the most recent spring 2012 Arbitron ratings cycle?

    Now, take your ball and go home. That’s your right.

    • A very interesting comment stream from a manager at the local radio station. I find it most interesting, because in a day and age when customers and their social media streams are becoming more and more critical to a company’s success, that the easy way out is to say, “Screw the customer”. I wonder how many of you out there would survive in business if you said this to every customer that complained?

  2. I’d think you’d be thrilled that, after five days of getting no reply to your pout-fest here, you’d be happy to get a reply, period.

    And no, you didn’t “touch a nerve.” If anything, your actions and attitude surprises me, you being an educated doctor and all.

    Please tell me how I said “screw the customer?” And by the way, you seem to misunderstand who “the customer” is, do you not? Listeners are not “customers,” because they do not pay to listen. We are grateful to their listening, but we also know they’re free to listen if and when they want to and also have the right to change stations when a song plays they don’t care for (or a commercial). That being said, the client airing commercials on our stations – they’re “the customer.”

    We spend a GREAT deal of time listening to the listeners; that’s how we formulate our playlist and put together our contesting and giveaways. Again, need I point out that your scribe on OUR Facebook wall was the one, lone complaint? Do you also notice that there are over 13,000 followers on our Facebook page?

    Now, where can I post those handbills, Doctor?

  3. Looks like it’s an open wound now. Do you have a shovel or should I provide one for the continued digging?

  4. Hmmm…you say it was one complaint, but you clearly have NO problem deleting comments. You probably delete every other complaint, leaving you free and clear to say that nobody complains. Seriously, you have got to be the most arrogant person in the world for confronting someone complaining about your business in the manner you are doing it. You seem childish, and frankly, I am surprised you are allowed to do so. You are threatening to go to a user’s business to complain because you got a legitimate complaint. Your commercials are distasteful and obnoxious. I change the station when some of your “drug” related commercials come on. I mean, come on, we all know what some of those relate to. Get over yourself Ron Roberts. I can’t speak for Dr. Powers, but I know I will strive to show your childish side to any audience I come across. I’ll be waiting for your next not so thought out reply.

    • Wait a minute; if you’ve read this man’s entry (your mutual friend on Facebook), you see I’m not even backing away from his account of the dialogue! LOL I stand by my response! Period.

      Our Facebook page is OURS; feel free to let people complain about you on yours all you want, but that’s our page, and when someone wants to be disparaging to our station, our company and/or our clients, the post gets deleted. Now I gave Dr. Powers an explanation, and that explanation was met with snark.

      I am not “threatening” anyone with anything any more than I’m being threatened; doesn’t feel so nice, does it?

      Now, I’m no theologian, but “do unto others” sure rings a bell.

      Now, is this about (as you touched on) the “drug-related” commercials? Is that what this is all about? Because that’s not what the thread on Facebook even broached. That’s an entirely different complaint altogether. One you have no idea how I’d react (but you might be surprised…)

      You see it how you want to.

  5. Portray this how you feel you need to so you don’t appear to be a rambling buffoon to your tens of readers. Let me know when your replies come with something more substantive. Good day, Doctor.

  6. An interesting fact to note is that my original e-mails to the radio station were sent to the general manager Jimmy Fueger and he has yet to respond to a single one. Either he’s not seeing the incoming e-mails or he’s just pushing them off to an obviously lesser qualified employee with no social skills.

  7. How do you think I caught wind of this blog? With the words “I’m behind you on this” coming out of his mouth, no less Maybe you should just chalk this up to being a tad out of line and a lot out of the loop on for-profit radio (and TV) broadcasting norms and practices.

    You got a civil and explanatory reply on our Facebook page (notice you haven’t volunteered where I can log on and question your business practices the two times I’ve asked for it; maybe you just don’t want any input, out of, I don’t know, fear?), and for the time I took to give you that explanation, I got your “fine, I’m changing stations” hissy fit.

    I welcomed that; problem solved, right? You don’t hear the commercial that nagged you. Done. And yet ….

    Now, I realize a Doctor of Theology isn’t a “doctor,” per se, but I know most theologians have better tact than this. Seems I’VE touched a nerve …

  8. Your excellent customer service continues. Even with the insults to me and the threats to come visit me at my business, the comment from you that scares me the most is that the “listeners are not customers”. I would disagree. Even if you don’t see a direct involvement there, the advertisers would certainly see it. After all, aren’t they paying good money to reach your ‘customers’?

  9. Exactly, doc; they’re paying (as customers do, when purchasing a good or service) to reach our listeners.

    I’ve said this to your friend Shane and I’ll say it to you, I’m not “threatening” to do anything you’ve not already done yourself.

    I’m not theologian, but “do unto others” sure comes to mind …

  10. Via Facebook- Rick wrote: “When I had a business, I experimented with several modes of advertising. The Yellow pages were still valid back then. They are not now. I throw away the phone book every time it arrives. No longer relevant. I found that radio was worthless because my target demographic did not listen to the radio. They had their own devices (even then). Radio is a dying medium. Print ads were equally worthless as my demographic (young males) could not or would not read a paper. Newsprint is even more worthless now. Obsolete. I found the two best forms of advertising were movie theater screen ads (my town still had real theaters and not corporate multiplexes) and television advertisement. It was cheaper than I ever dreamed and I could pick the programs/networks/times that broadcast my spots.”

  11. That’s one person’s perspective, I suppose. And yet I’m looking at our commercial logs and advertising and marketing agencies for dozens of fast food establishments, two major soda distributors, half a dozen car dealerships, two mobile phone providers, a national hair cut chain, etc., seem to be disagreeing.

    But that’s clearly off-topic, here.

  12. Yes, that’s it; I’ve personally looked over every day’s log for the last five years, and I can’t remember a longer period of “sold out” inventory than we’re experiencing right now. I know our sales department’s made their budget a lot lately, because, as I look around, we’re again, closed early on a Friday. Call the business line and see if you get an answer. 🙂

    I see this has eroded to personal attacks; tap me when it gets back to the discussion at hand, kids.

  13. Do you seriously not realize how everything you’re saying is just backing up a very arrogantly corporate vibe that kind of says that no person is more important than your numbers?

  14. Listen, doc, my job is to “get numbers’ – numbers of listeners. That’s MY goal; but our sales department’s goal is to take the work I’ve done in attracting those listeners, and currying the money we need to keep our lights on and sell air time to businesses who seek to reach the audience we’ve put together.

    As I’ve stated before, I think our programming team is doing their job because, well, we were the most-listened to radio station in Myrtle Beach, period – across all demographics – the spring/summer Arbitron ratings period. I personally fight the battle every day to make sure what we play is what our listeners want to hear – between the commercial breaks. Even then, I’m constantly making sure that the allotted time FOR commercials isn’t over-run and that nothing that airs is indecent.

    Now, as Shane hit on, I’ll ask you – is this about the content of the commercial? The fact that – as Shane said – it’s a “drug-related” (his assertion) business? Because that’s not even what your initial complaint was about. Or did the commercial just “annoy” you?

    You have the power at your fingertips to change the station if it does, and while I,as a program director/station manager am well aware that there’s possibility of that happening (and have stated on many occasions to our sales staff when a commercial has that potential), there’s only so much that can be said, when the client is within FCC regulatory bounds and our company’s policy allows for their business to go on the air.

    I’ve explained this to you now multiple times; you can continue to not like the answer, but that’s the answer.

  15. Ok, ok! I have just read thru all the comments and let me just say – WOW! It would appear that the local radio station has dug in and will not entertain the thought that their policies on responding to would be clients of their customers needs a softer touch. As Mr. Roberts has said the listener is not their customer. I can see your point we the listener are allowing you to be played in our homes, cars, and even our parties. You as the station are influencing what I and my family listen to. Your customer, the advertisers, are paying you because they want to reach the listeners. If you no longer have good relations with those listeners then your customers would eventually dry up. It is important to remember that all good debate begins with good listening skills, and the ability to empathize. We can not expect every person to follow this advice because you can’t control everything, only what we do. In a profession where you have to deal with the public please keep this in mind. Thank you for reading and have a blessed day.

  16. Via Facebook- Emil wrote: “Indeed remember during the bush gore election Ralph Nader was banned from the debates ( even though he had the required ratings to be in them) the explanation was that the debate commission doesn’t make the rules the sponsors set them. You really have to keep this in mind when you read the papers or watch the news. It’s as though advertisers / corporations have full editorial power of over the information we receive “

    • Ooh, but Emil; this is about the commercial(s) the advertiser pays to run; not the content the station provides between the commercials. Though, I GET where you’re coming from. Frightening to think how sales influences our “journalism.”

  17. Jane, I appreciate the input. Please notice, in the copy of the blog here, my reply; not only did I give an explanation, but I also provided Dr. Powers with a means for lodging his complaint at the people responsible for the commercial that made him want to (his words) “turn the station.”

    In all candor, the spot drives me nuts, too. Being in the business and having my ear on the station more than most, I hear it more than most. But then, the same could be said for the music we play, too. It’s not all going to be my “cup of tea,” and the same goes for the commercial content.

    I explained why it airs and why we have to continue airing it as long as the client wants to air it. I don’t understand why anyone would come to the conclusion that I wasn’t listening to a listener.

    Yes, I removed the thread; my email address is on the station’s website if Dr. Powers truly wished to lodge a complaint about the commercial instead of trying to make a public spectacle on our Facebook page. He found the means to send my general manager an email FROM our website, so I know he’s capable of doing the same to my inbox, as well.

    Thanks for your input; all of you. I’ve explained this well enough, I believe. Nothing short of “okay, we’ll do it your way, Dr. Powers” will seem to suffice. That comes with the territory. We’re not going to please everyone all of the time, hard as we may try.

  18. Tact and social grace … that is what is missing. As a customer service friendly retailer – we look to answer the complaint with tact and grace. “I’m sorry that you do not care for the advertisement and we certainly do not wish to lose you as a listener, but we have an obligation to a paying client ( the advertiser) to air their commercial throughout our programming.” would have been such an easier way to go. Now it is merely a contest of competing words.

  19. Ron. I think your original fear is that once SOMEBODY speaks up it gives everyone else a little more nerve to speak up as well. So you quickly delete any “bad press” that your 13,000 +/- FB followers may see. Also your decision to find Dr. Powers’ physical address and post handbills and complaints is CHILDISH! “You talked bad about me so I’m going to talk bad about you” even though you had no idea what the good Doctor did for a living. YOU threw the first stone. Having a legitimate complaint about a company’s choice of advertising is not childish and simply stating that he will not be listening to the station as a result of your seemingly copied and pasted excerpt from your company’s “playbook”, is actually showing maturity as CHOICE. He saw a problem with the “corporate” answer he got and did not understand why such a simple request would go, seemingly, uncared-for. So he wrote on HIS blog about his experience and thoughts of why he may have gotten this response in the first place.. One last thing. If there were no listeners there would be no commercials as advertisers would not buy airtime, but as you so arrogantly bragged “Mix 97.7 was the MOST-listened to radio station, persons 12+, in the most recent spring 2012 Arbitron ratings cycle”, you basically don’t care for ANY of your listener’s complaints. Good day to YOU, Ron Roberts. Ass. (<<<<my level of maturity)

    • I love it when people say the things I mean to say in way better terms. Thanks for the very applicable words Nick.

  20. Nick, there’s no “fear” at all; as I said before, folks have EVERY opportunity to email me the same way Dr. Powers did in trying to reach my general manager did.

    Where it gets trivial and childish is in going to a business’ Facebook page and posting something derogatory. If Ocean Breeze Awnings had a Facebook page and somebody went there to post some derogatory message, I’m thinking David would have a better understanding. I love how you see that I’ve thrown the “first stone!” Let’s see .. first the Facebook thread, then this blog … coupled with an email to my GM (which brought me here). Yeah, I threw the first stone.

    You’re right; “Having a legitimate complaint about a company’s choice of advertising is not childish” – nor was my suggestion that he contact the business.

    Now, as to “simply stating that he will not be listening to the station” that’s fine; he has the option and is welcome to exercise it. But once someone says that – particular on our Facebook page – their rights as a listener, in my mind, expire. Thread deleted. As i did.

    Incidentally, there is no company “playbook.” Labeling my response as ‘corporate” may raise yours and others’ hackles all day, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I, in fact, held out for a position with this company instead of taking similar roles with much larger and much MORE “corporate” entities. If you know anything about radio, you’d know how hard it is to HAVE a job away from Clear Channel or Cumulus Broadcasting.

    The “simple request,” let’s remember, was to pull a commercial a client had paid to run. Sorry, that’s not something anybody who mans our Facebook page would even have the authority to do, number one, and number two, I gave the reason(s) why it wouldn’t happen anyhow. I can’t help that Dr. Powers didn’t appreciate getting an answer that was anything other than “yessir, Dr. Powers; right away, Dr. Powers.”

    You wrote …”So he wrote on HIS blog about his experience and thoughts of why he may have gotten this response in the first place.. One last thing. If there were no listeners there would be no commercials as advertisers would not buy airtime, but as you so arrogantly bragged “Mix 97.7 was the MOST-listened to radio station, persons 12+, in the most recent spring 2012 Arbitron ratings cycle”, you basically don’t care for ANY of your listener’s complaints.”

    A. So NOW you recognize when someone (or in our case, our company) takes ownership in their corner of the web world, eh? Interesting timing.

    B. When pluralizing “listener,” you need not place an apostrophe, especially where you did.

    C. Speaking of, there weren’t multiple complaintS from listenerS. There was one complaint, from one listener; and I took the time to explain to that singular listener, instead of just deleting the comment altogether or ignoring it.

  21. Radio listeners are consumers, not customers. Ron wins this one. You are hoping for a bedbug letter, and he isn’t giving you one.
    Move on to the next free music option, or file this lesson away when you are coaching another business owner. Irritating may equal memorable, and you want your customers to remember your name.

         When I went off to Stanford for my Ph.D., my father (a great raconteur and a UI alum) told me about an apocryphal exchange between a traveling salesman and Leland Stanford, then president of the Central Pacific Railroad (and later, of course, the donor behind the founding of Stanford University). The salesman had been traveling on an overnight train in a Pullman car and discovered bedbugs in his pull-down bed. Upon his return, he wrote an incensed letter to directly to Stanford. Much to the salesmans surprise, he received by return post a handwritten letter on Stanford’s own stationery. The letter read, “My dear sir: I am mortified to read of your troubles on our train. Such a thing has never before occurred on the Central Pacific, and I have taken immediate action to rectify the situation. We have fumigated the entire train, disciplined the staff and fired the head porter. Please take my personal assurance that this will never happen again. (signed) Leland Stanford.” Well, the salesman was perfectly pleased with the letter and completely satisfied, until he noticed in the envelope a slip of paper with a scribbled message that read “Send this bastard the bedbug letter.”  —K. S. Suslick

  22. As a former account executive to a larger (and obviously much more professional) radio company I am rather shocked by the unprofessional manor in which Mr. Roberts is directing the complaints for said radio station. My first shock was the fact that while Dr. Powers is indeed expressing his opinion he chooses to leave the names of the advertisers out of his complaint. That is a thing called tact, Mr. Roberts, and I hope that you can take a short lesson from it. Whether the advertiser gave you permission to add their name into this sort of attention or not, I find it incredibly distasteful that you and your company would be okay with dragging an advertisers name into your childish defense.

    That being said, I also would like to encourage you to take a deeper look into the field you work in. There are plenty of radio companies that are at the mercy of not only the advertisers, but of the listeners. I have seen many instances in which a radio station fell into boiling waters due to advertisers’ displeasure. There are also circumstances in which I have seen the masses (not in impressive numbers, might I mention) of listeners outraged by statements made by radio personalities, songs played and censorship that have yielded much result. I find your refute not only childish, but rather erroneous.

    I urge you to find your Human Resources representative and inquire to whether your company does training in dealing with customer relations. You are quite an unprofessional individual, and someone that I would rather not have working for my business, let alone representing what my business is about. While I understand that you cannot, and should not, bow down to the listener (the buyer in this circumstance), you must also have dignity as well as respect in handling such things. Your approach has taken a fire that was made and contained in a small section and you have dumped the burning coals around with your terrible attitude. I am truly astounded by your lack of ability to handle this situation with tact and respect. We are all entitled to our opinions as well as to our right to express them, however, whether you represent yourself or a company, you should always be respectful while sticking to how you feel. I hope this helps you, Mr. Roberts, take it as constructive criticism from someone that has walked the halls of a radio station.

  23. Via Facebook- Nan wrote: “I always change the station when they play that ad…. Charley even changes it and can’t believe they play it and she is 11. We don’t even have to say what ad we all know which one. I will make a note to mention it to other advertisers I frequent!”

  24. Via Facebook- Audrey wrote: “Wow! I seriously don’t know how he has a job after all of that. Rude and unprofessional.”

    • I would guess Mr Roberts is about 24 or so. He will learn with age and maturity exactly what his type of responses will yield. And why would someone go to a Facebook page to complain rather than send a private email? Because sending private emails rarely warrant a response. You, Mr Roberts have taken the complaint personally from the start. I personally will not listen to the radio because I have a young son and unfortunately there are no ratings on a station. Profanity and inappropriate content is in abundance on most channels. I can tell you I’ve been to Myrtle Beach and listened there in the past. All the stations were crap anyway. But look what the good doctor 😉 was able to do here my friend. He stated his opinion within his rights and was able to give you a platform to make yourself look like an ass, offend a client and represent YOUR station as a unsympathetic careless money hungry station. Kudos fine gentleman. Good luck on your next venture.

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