Reigniting my love affair with creating radio commercials

I have the privilege of being a guest speaker at Walt Jaschek‘s radio ad production course that he teaches through the Webster University School of Communications.

During my one-hour presentation, I’ll be sharing some of my all-time favorite radio commercials that I have produced through the years. Sad to say, there are no recent spots that I’ll be sharing. It’s not that I’ve lost my skill-set for creating radio commercials that stand out, get noticed and acted upon. I simply don’t have the client list that does broadcast advertising anymore.

And that’s a shame. Radio has always been one of my favorite modes of advertising. I’ve probably written and produced more than 200 radio commercials throughout my career. I’ve had the opportunity to create memorable spots for a wide variety of clients – here’s a short list …

The Missouri Division of Tourism; St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis Baseball Cardinals, Six Flags, AAA Insurance, Charter Communications, The Pasta House Company, Missouri Division of Highways Safety – I could go on and on but I won’t.

No matter what the client, service or product, I always sought to deliver their key message in some attention-getting, memorable way.

I’ve done a jingle or two. I’ve done humor. I’ve done drama. I’ve been hollered at by Peter Graves and Jack Buck – all in the pursuit of creating radio commercials that cut through, are memorable and that get the cash register or the phone to ring.

Creating great radio commercials involves the ultimate theater of the mind. Through words, sound effects, music and the talent you choose you can paint a picture in someone’s head and if you do it right, plant a seed as well that gets that person to act.

Going through the radio reel that exists on my website as well as raiding my archives made me realize just how much I miss both writing and producing radio spots. It’s a talent I have that has gone untapped for too long.

I wish there were some car dealer out there or local retailer who wants to reach a very targeted audience and knows they could be doing better with their radio efforts. Maybe there’s a new product or service that needs launching. Maybe a local golf course is tired of seeing their number of players continue to go down. Whoever, whatever, I could virtually guarantee that I could do a better job than anything they’ve ever done before.

I just need someone to pick up the phone and call me.

This operator is standing by.

Waking up to Missouri

It’s been many years since I worked on the Missouri Division of Tourism account, going back to my days at Kenrick Advertising.

Back then, the overall theme we developed for the state’s advertising and marketing efforts was “Wake up to Missouri.”

Our goal was simple. Get people (primarily families) both in-state and out-of-state to wake up to the wide variety of things to do here in the Show Me State. And there really is a lot to do. It’s just that after living here for a while, many of us have a tendency to take it all for granted. Wake up, people – that’s what we wanted them to do.

Over the past few days, we did a little of our own waking up to Missouri at the Lake of the Ozarks as various family members experienced the following …

There was a helicopter ride, gliding over the Lake and Bagnell Dam. A visit to Bridal Cave which both surprised and delighted. An early morning wave runner ride at the base of the dam. Golf at Porto Cima, one of the finest courses I’ve ever played. We had two sunset dinners overlooking the lake, bought a few silly souvenirs and spent a fair amount of time just chilling poolside.

All in all, it was time well spent and enjoyed by all of us.

So that got me to thinking about Missouri’s current advertising and marketing efforts.

I remember how disappointed I was when our state adopted the theme line of, “Where the rivers run.”

Oh, I get it. There’s all kinds of river activity here in the great state of Missouri. But it seemed to totally neglect the three biggest tourism factors the state had going for it – St. Louis, Kansas City and the Lake of the Ozarks. Toss in Branson down in Ozark Mountain Country and you’ve got four major tourism draws that though there may be a river nearby, really aren’t focused around river activity.

The theme for Missouri these days is, “Enjoy the show.” My first impression was, “Huh?” But then, after a little more investigation, I see that Hoffman Lewis is back to following the same strategy we employed – only instead of waking people up to the wonders of the state, they’re playing off of the Show Me State nickname – and it’s true, Missouri does put on a variety of enjoyable shows. And not necessarily the theatrical kind.

After viewing some of the ‘enjoy the show’ TV commercials and print ads (http://www.visitmo.com/backstage) I think the overall effort is strong. The writing is a series of play-on-words (something that I’ve always enjoyed – both creating and viewing). The art direction of the print ads is simple and clean. The photography is very well done. The outdoor boards don’t do much for me but I won’t hold that against them. And the end logo treatment is contemporary, fresh and somehow fitting (good job by Rukus – the post production facility).

Overall, I think the folks at Hoffman Lewis have a good thing going.

There’s still plenty of summer left to get out and enjoy all that Missouri has to offer. And I’m sure that future advertising efforts will assure us that even though summer’s about to come to a close, the show will go on.

And whether you Wake Up to Missouri or Enjoy the Show, the urge to action is pretty much the same.

Wake up and enjoy it.

The day Warren broke into work

From time to time, I said I would relive some of my favorite memories of Kenrick Advertising. This is one of those times.

Warren Wiethaupt was one of the most interesting humans I’ve ever worked with in my 30-plus years of advertising. Warren was an account guy and worked almost exclusively on the Missouri Division of Tourism account. For a while, we also did work for the Missouri Division of Community and Economic Development as well as the Missouri Film Commission. But the tourism account was Warren’s primary piece of business and he was a fanatic about it. Warren had an extremely interesting way to view creative work – if the client loved it, he loved it. If the client hated it, he hated it – and there really was no in-between.

Warren also had an extremely interesting way of working. He would arrive in the office around 4 am, create a flurry of memos (long before people would send out a flurry of emails), distribute them to the necessary recipients throughout the office and then he’d be gone, out of the office by 6:30 or 7 in the morning leaving everyone who received his meanderings wondering what exactly we were supposed to do next. Cell phones weren’t even around back then so he would largely be incommunicado, showing up occasionally for a meeting, particularly when client deadlines were looming. As long as Marjorie (our tourism client) was happy, everyone seemed to be happy.

Kenrick changed dramatically when Ken Hieronymus, Ric Sides and Gene Duncan all opted out for retirement, made possible by Denny Long, the former president of Anheuser-Busch, who bought Kenrick Advertising, along with several other companies (including Technisonic Studios, Aragon Public Relations, Kingsbury Graphics, Multa-Vista Productions, Patrick Promotions and I think there may be one other I’m forgetting). Anyway, with Denny in charge, things were – well different. I came back from a tourism shoot to discover that I had lost my corner office and that I would be reporting to a newly installed Creative Director. Okay. When the Christmas holidays rolled around, our Christmas bonuses were eliminated – instead there was a party at the Sheldon where we all received a Waterford ornament. Okay. Things continued to change, none really seemed for the better, but there was still plenty of work to be done.

One day, I needed to get in early myself – not exactly Warren time but I did roll in before 7 am. I was walking toward Warren’s office and could hear the furious sounds of him typing away on his electric. As I approached his doorway, I noticed a small pile of sawdust on the floor and when I actually saw his door, noticed there was about a four inch circular hole that had been cut where the door knob once was. I stopped at Warren’s office, peered in and asked, “Hey, Warren … what’s the deal with the door?”

Warren stopped typing, turned in his chair and faced me.

“Those bastards locked me out,” Warren said and then turned and resumed typing.

That wasn’t enough of an answer by me so I dug a little deeper. “So you cut a hole in the door?”

Warren got up, walked up to me and was mere inches away. There were little bits of sawdust on his forehead and sawdust specs covered his glasses. He was red in the face. He said, “I come in early to try and get work done and someone goes and changes the locks on my door. I’ve got to get work done. So I got in my car, drove home, got what I needed and sawed my way in.” He then smiled, went back to his desk and resumed typing. I looked at the door again. It was solid oak or walnut and I figured cost at least $800, if not more.

“Someone’s not going to find humor in this,” I thought to myself.

I was correct. Warren paid for a new door. A few months later, Kenrick Advertising and all of the other Aragon Companies that had been purchased 11 months earlier closed their doors when Denny Long filed Chapter 11 and about 130 advertising and marketing related employees were out on the street.

We all went on to different things – several agencies sprang up as a result – Brighton, Geile-Rexford (now Geile-Leon) among them. Warren died a few years ago – but his memory lives on.

So I guess it’s true what they say – when one door closes, another one opens – preferably without a hole marking the spot where the door knob belongs.