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The Selling Power of Personalities

I remember the days of Rush Limbaugh delivering live daily endorsements. His reads for Snapple stand out to me. Kraig Kitchin, who worked with Rush first at Premiere Radio Networks and later, as the manager of Rush’s business, shared that, “Rush spoke effusively about the taste of this iced tea, and often, raised his ice-filled glass to the microphone as he poured in a bottle of Snapple Iced Tea, allowing the crackle of the ice and refreshing sounds to be heard as he spoke about what he was about to enjoy drinking in the course of the program.”


Personalities - and I mean real talent who know how to engage an audience and move them to attend an event they promote, participate in a contest, or buy a product that they endorse - are special people. They are rare people. Yet they are often overlooked as an important part of a strategy to generate additional revenue.


There have been times when a talent is eliminated without a deeper discussion as to the money they bring to a radio cluster.


Operators who recognize the value of air talent have an advantage that stands the test of competition from digital. It’s one of the few over-the-air marketing messages that can be measured. Inputting a code, calling a number, visiting a website, and clicking a link, provides trackable measurements. That and targeting are two of the best benefits of digital marketing.


Digital marketing has significant worth, but using a personality endorsement as a part of any campaign serves as the hammer that drives the nail.


One of my talk clients, Doug Stephan, has made live commercial reads an integral part of his program, the nationally syndicated Good Day. An endorsement for Travel 541 brought the ownership of that travel business to provide Stephan with a testimonial for use on his website. “We knew exactly when Doug aired a spot. We not only received customers and callers the first week of advertising, but we also heard them the first day.” The CEO continued, “I haven’t seen that happen before. It’s been almost a year since we started, and we have already booked all of 2024!”


A couple years ago, while moderating an NAB panel that included Jesse James Dupree, the lead singer of the band Jackyl who also hosts a reality TV show and is a businessman in his own right, shared his opinion about the value of live endorsements. I want you to imagine Jesse James Dupree sitting on the stage with his long-hair, tattoos on his arms and neck, and a visual gruffness about him that screams “Biker.”


I asked the question “What do you think radio needs to do to heal itself?” Jesse looked at the audience and asked, “How many of you know who Paul Harvey is?” He continued by explaining how Paul Harvey did a 15-minute newscast every day, with the commercials read live and embedded in the content.


He reenacted how Mr. Harvey would complete a news story and then suddenly shared how he and his wife, Angel, had trouble sleeping at night. “I toss and turn and wake her up, and then she tosses and turns and wakes me up. It goes on like that all night long. Until we both decided to get a new Sealy Posturepedic mattress.” Jesse made the point in sharing the story that he believes announcers when they read a live commercial in such a convincing fashion. He promoted that those advertisers would benefit if more of the commercials were read live. 


Dupree made it clear that if radio wants to “fix itself” it should air fewer commercials, with more of them being read live, and charge a lot of money for those live reads. He added “I would tell my announcers that they have to be able to sell products when they talk on the air, or they can’t work here.”

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