82I am a trombone player. Or maybe I should say “was” as it’s been quite a few years since I picked up the horn. Growing up, I knew that was the instrument I wanted to play. Out of all the instruments in the band, trombone was the one that caught my attention and was relevant to me.

76 Trombones

Meredith Wilson’s Broadway smash “The Music Man” is one of my all time favorite musicals. Can you guess why?

In that production, Robert Preston knows to be successful in selling band instruments “you gotta know the territory.” In fact, all of the carpetbaggers knew this. In “The Music Man” the song “Rock Island Line” establishes the rules of selling on the road. In other words, you had to know how to make what you were selling relevant.

And then I heard someone say RADIO

Alan Mason is a programmer that I’ve known for years. I subscribe to his weekly “Mason Minutes” and was thrilled to see Alan promoted to President of K-Love and Air1 as this New Year began. Alan actually assumed his presidency before Trump did.

Alan’s minute recently told the story of celebrating his birthday in a crowded restaurant. You know the scene, you hear lots of conversations but you’re not really paying attention. When Alan said he heard someone say “RADIO” and he heard that clearly.

“It’s funny how our minds are attuned to filter out almost everything except what’s relevant to us. We can be in a crowded ballroom buzzing with people and still hear our own name. It gets our attention and pulls us in,” Alan wrote.

Frost Advisory

I also subscribe to John Frost’s weekly “Frost Advisory” and John must have been as taken by what Alan wrote as I because he made it the subject of his programming memo this past week. John wrote about his friend Eddie who needed to get a passport photo. He went online and found a place all the way across town. It wasn’t until he was on his way home he noticed a camera store near where he lived that took passport photos. He never noticed, because getting a passport photo had no relevance to Eddie, until it did.

Radio Ads

And that’s the way it is with radio ads. The listener never hears them until something that’s relevant to them speaks to them.

Sadly, radio programmers no longer have a say in what commercials air on their radio stations.

I was a general manager before becoming a broadcast professor and even I had lost control of what ads would be placed on my radio stations by (at that time) Google.

Google did a deal with Clear Channel and would insert ads they had sold on all of the stations in my cluster between 2am and 3am in the morning. I wouldn’t even know what they had sold until I heard it on-the-air driving into the station.

I heard ads for restaurants advertising their lunch special for that day and the restaurant was over three hours away from my coverage area. I heard ads out-of-phase air on my AM station in the cluster that were 30-seconds of dead-air. (Out of phase ads means the left and right channels of audio cancel each other out on an AM mono signal.)

Bonneville Beautiful Music

When I moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1984, WFPG-FM was a Bonneville Beautiful Music station. Bonneville had strict guidelines about what content could be added to their music presentation and that included commercials.

Atlantic City’s biggest car dealer did the loudest screaming radio ads you’ve ever heard. We dearly wanted their business but not those screaming ads.

It took lots of meetings but we finally convinced the owner not to “wear a t-shirt to our black tie” radio station over-the-air presentation. We would be the only radio station in Atlantic City to have specially created ads that would perfectly fit the musical content of our format.

I don’t hear that happening on any radio station today.


Today, money talks and nobody walks.

Radio stations appear to take every ad that comes through the door.

When you consider the volume of ads airing on stations these days, one or two ads in that cluster than aren’t relevant might lose the listener’s ear or worse, cause the station to be changed.

WAVV in Naples, Florida is a station that marches to a different drummer. It plays music the owner enjoys and the sound is so unique it can’t be heard anywhere else. It’s why the station doesn’t stream. You have to listen to it over-the-air on your FM radio. But what makes WAVV golden in my book is that the commercial breaks are just as carefully watched over as the music. The ads are about things that listeners attracted by the music will also enjoy. Be it theater, dining, travel, clothing etc.; it’s all relevant.

John Frost ends his article by writing “We throw a bunch of stuff at the wall without using the precise filter of relevance. Start with the listener and work back. What does she care about RIGHT NOW?”

Unless the program director is given the authority to approve every element that goes on the air and insure that each goes through the relevancy test, your product is compromised.

Is what I wrote relevant to your radio station?


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

16 responses to “Relevancy

  1. What you wrote is big picture for Broadcast Total Packaging.
    Audio channels deliver sound identity needing proper fit & flow. Radio creates feeling, emotion, information and connection. The curation develops brand, popularity and income. All the small details & decisions develop the lasting winners. CBS allowed me to curate the original Softrock package: “The Eagles. Without the turkeys.” & “Joni. Without the baloni.”

    No pun, Professor Dick, but once again: Spot On! Thank you. Clark in Boston,

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember “The Eagles, without the turkeys” and “Joni, without the baloni” positioners. Those were powerful and reinforced the execution that was taking place on-the-air.

      You’re right Clark, it is not about any one thing, but EVERYTHING.

      And it’s true for every enterprise.

      As Peter Drucker said, the purpose of a business is to create a customer. -DT

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Curt Krafft

    I never thought of it that way. Making your spots relevant to your format and listeners. Interesting concept. Thank you for the tip.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Relevancy | artversnick

  4. Doug

    Dick….I read both Alan and John’s articles and they, as well as yours, hit the nail on the head. When I sold radio and during my time as a sales manager I used the phrase “advertising is getting the people to know you before they need you, so when they need you they know you”. You have to be relevant to connect with them and the typical nonsense you hear on the radio today is bad. I’m a big fan of Roy Williams, The Wizard of Ads, and his books taught me the term Reticular Activator…which is exactly what Alan and John were referencing. If someone reading this reply is not familiar with Reticular Activator please look it up as it is the foundation of how ads work when done correctly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I too am a big fan of Roy. Read all his books. Been to Buda, TX twice. I’m a graduate of the Wizard Academy. The Wizard of Ads trilogy is timeless. I highly recommend them. I use the “Secret Formulas” book in my broadcast sales class on writing persuasively.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog Doug and sharing your experience. -DT

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, Dick, I believe you would agree the answer to this begins with the Program Director being given the responsibility for the sound of his or her radio stations again. While there are still many good PD’s in the business, there are, also, a lot of, let’s call them “caretaker PD’s” today. They really don’t know jack about some of the finer points of programming, they just do what the “Corporate PD”, or “VP of Programming” tells them to do. Same for the role of “Assistant PD”, which has also, in some companies, been watered way down from what it once was. As long as “the company” (whoever it is) seeks to take control away from the people who are supposed to be minding the store and the sound of the station, this will not change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The real problem becomes no one is mentoring the next generations.

      Time to put the “show” back in “show business.”

      Thanks Kevin for stopping by the blog and contributing your thoughts. -DT

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is true. And that is because cutbacks in staff and the requirement for one person to “run” 3,4,6 or 8 stations leaves no time to mentor. That’s why we’ve started teaching rudimentary programming theory in my college broadcasting classes. Lord knows, it’s dicey whether you can even learn that kind of stuff on the job anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I love it that commercial radio has such awful spots all the time. Makes non-comm/public look just that much better, doesn’t it? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting observation Aaron. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Very relevant. -DT


    • spotmagicsolis

      I think NPR is trending toward millennials now and their spots and programming is slowly getting louder and more invasive. On Fresh Air yesterday, the first thing the guy said was, “Well it’s been seventeen years since the first Avengers movie came out” BOOP, I’m gone.


  7. Blaine Parker used this blog post as the launchpad for his weekly screed and the result is illuminating.

    I invite you to read Blaine’s thoughts here:

    Blaine and Honey Parker are Hot, Hot, Hot.


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bill Cain

    Yes, the story Mr.Taylor revealed is true. The dealer was my account. I just bought a new Buick from him, and we had a good laugh. Dick’s first idea was to tame the screaming spots by cutting the treble. Then, cutting the volume by 30-40% or so when dubbing to cart. When the weekend saturation schedule ran at the low level, I was called into the dealership Monday…and greeted by the owner, with a recording of a spot break. Indeed, the lazy Bonneville settings of our processing did not bring up his low-level dealership ad. Clearly, the VU Meters did not lie. His solution; since we ran his spots at half volume, he was paying half the bill. Ya can’t make this up! Bill Cain

    Liked by 2 people

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