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Where Did All The Campaign Cash Go In Radio?

Jeff Caves

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Here comes the election. And there goes the political billing that came with it.

Political Ad Spend to Reach $6 Billion for 2020 Election - eMarketer  Trends, Forecasts & Statistics

So, what happened? I spoke with some sales executives in South Carolina, Florida and medium sized cities in the West to get a feel for how the political ad spending season went. Did they get bought, how did they get the business and what will be the election outcome impact on future billing? 

Recently, Bloomberg wrote a story about how YouTube was literally sold out of avails for political advertising. Nielsen piled on suggesting that 40% or more of all tv ads in South Palm Beach, Las Vegas, Portland, Charlotte and more cities were political spots. So, how did sports radio clusters do? Here is who I spoke with:

  • Ken Brady – General Sales Manager, Seven Bridges Radio 1010 XL/92.5 FM in Jacksonville, FL (All Sports)
  • John Sheftic – Market Manager, DBC Radio in Myrtle Beach, SC (cluster does NOT include Sports)
  • Mystery Manager – Mid-Size market out West (Cluster includes a Sports station)

How would you describe the effect political spending had on your revenue during the pandemic?

Brady: We have not had any political and or issue advertising during this election cycle.  We normally do not receive much of either but having none has been a surprise to me considering the amount of money being spent this cycle.  From my observations the sports format has been knocked down in terms of formats in the mix.

Mystery: It definitely helped. However, we don’t typically get Presidential campaigns to spend here. We saw some local and state money in during the primary and we are seeing some spend for congressional race. 

Sheftic: It has been a huge shot in the arm considering the challenges the market has with a slow down in tourism. We also have WRNN which is conservative talk and WYAV which is Classic Rock. Both have huge signals and dominate in the 35-64 voting demo. The Lyndsey Graham/Jaime Harrison race is setting record spending levels.

New poll has Jaime Harrison leading Sen. Lindsey Graham by 1 point in  Senate race | WCIV

Do you pursue political business? If so, how? 

Brady: Based on lowest unit rate rules we made a decision not to pursue candidate advertising and only take the federal that we have to if asked.  The election cycle is in the middle of football season where we have higher demand and get premium rates.  What we have tried to go after is issue and PAC money, but we have not had any luck.  The stations that show up better in the ratings or are attached to larger broadcast groups are receiving those dollars.  We are a locally owned and operated stand alone and this year it seems it has been tougher to get ears to listen to reps tell our story and act.

Mystery: Yes, we get a list of all open seats, candidates and any potential issue money and then begin to contact them all.

Sheftic: We do pursue the business. We purchase a list of candidates and contacts. We email and call long before the election to share demos, formats and general station information.

Do all AE’s sell political or do you consolidate down to a few reps?

Brady: I handle the potential candidate advertising.  I have spread the issue and PAC business exploration throughout my staff.

Mystery: We don’t limit it, but it ends up being just a few of our local sellers that really go after it. Most of the federal races and issues come nationally. We did see an increase this year in Presidential money being spent via network advertising in syndicated national news talk shows.

Sheftic: I have a designated manager who handles all political. This ensures all correct detail and information in the public file.

How much will election results impact future revenue in your area?

Brady: There is always some “wait and see what happens talk“ in every election cycle, but that always fades.  I think a lot will depend on how the stock market reacts to the election results.  When stocks go up or stay steady it seems consumers are more comfortable spending on big ticket items and projects.  If stocks go down and stay down there is always a bit of anxiety that impacts consumer and advertiser spending.  It works its way out as consumers become comfortable with their new pay, savings and retirement fund dynamic either to the positive or negative.

Let's break down the numbers - Marketplace

Mystery: That’s difficult to predict. However, the ultimate outcome of this year’s presidential race could take days even weeks before we have an outcome. Due in large part to absentee voting and the fact that each state has their own rules with regards to deadlines for mailing ballots. Some states absentee ballots have to be received and validated prior to the polls closing. Other states aren’t that way. This will create uncertainty and disruption. Just how much that will affect the ad community, we won’t know until we get there.

Sheftic: It won’t affect anything moving forward other than helping 4th quarter budgets.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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