I’ve always looked back at my career in Radio with lots of very happy memories. But as I continue with this blog, I’m beginning to have blocked memories crawl to the surface. PTSD will do that to you. As my Hutterite German father once said, “Feelings are bad. Bury them deep and never speak of them again. Focus on the harvest. The potatoes don’t pick themselves.”
So, yes, there were a few Mary Richards Parties along the way. The Production Director at WLOL used to refer to failed promotions as “Mary Richards Parties” because on the MTM show, all her parties were disasters.
In early 1987 I was the Promotion Coordinator at Emmis’ late, great, helped-pay-for-the-Mariners CHR, WLOL in the Twin Cities. And Programming had been really fortunate to have established a relationship with Limited Warranty, which was a local boy band with an EMMENSE and rabid following who would go anywhere and do anything to see the guys. It helped that they were very talented and also, well, good dudes.
January has always been a terrific opportunity to activate the teens. They’re fresh off break, it’s cold, they’re bored vis a vis, you can get them to do stuff.
With Pepsi as a sponsor we did “Win A Concert At Your School By Limited Warranty.” It was simple: the school that sent in the most post cards with “I love Pepsi, WLOL and Limited Warranty” on them, won the show.
Because of a school and business closing network that we’d established, I had a contact list through the State Department of Education for each of the 132 private and parochial high schools in the 12 county surveyed area.
Using this info I:
We got 199,000 postcards. BOOM. Every day I’d go to the loading dock at the post office, pick up flats of rubberbanded cards, bring them back to the station and spend HOURS sorting and counting so that Phil could breathlessly update the tightening race that night.
It was huge.
So….and isn’t there always a “so”…30 days after it’s over and the show was done, the station was approached by Arista Records and an agency repping Carefree Sugarless Gum with another contest. Arista had a HOT new artist named Expose, their record Exposure had just come out and was exploding. And we could give away a concert with them. The school that sent in the most Carefree gum wrappers or postcards, would win a concert by this act.
Holy muther of blurg. With all due respect to Limited Warranty, if we could get 199,000 cards with them, we could double that with a national act like Expose.
I got out my contacts and my info, called the agency and asked for specifics and art so I could start hitting my database and was politely told. “We have a company named Campus Dimensions that will be handling all of the work of contacting the schools.” Okay. That’s fine. Less work for me. I offered to send them all of my phone numbers and addresses and got a noncommital, “Sure, we’ll forward it to Campus Dimensions.”
We ran their promos and we ran their spots that were tagged with the contest info and waited for the Tsunami of gumwrappers.
Huh. None came in.
Three weeks into it and days before it was supposed to be over, I called some of my contacts. Nope. Campus Dimensions had never contacted them. “You’re giving away a concert with Expose?”
I think this demonstrates that promos are often viewed as spots and that you really need to do more than just run some imaging. You need a ground assault.
I picked “Hopkins High School” out of thin air, called the Activities Director and suggested that he NOW, as in, not after lunch, but NOW, go up the street to Super America, buy a pack of Carefree Sugarless Gum, take out the gum, and mail me the wrappers. NOW.
And so with 15 gum wrappers, Hopkins High School won a concert by Expose.
Now to arrange the dates. The agency gave me a date in late May for the show. I called Hopkins and was told that the school was going to be in the State Baseball tourney, this was historic and everyone would be at the game. ANY day but that day. “Please…the day before, the day after, the week after….not that day.”
I called Campus Dimensions which was handling the logistics and was told that that was the day. Period.
Which is how it came to be that Expose played to 11 kids in a high school auditorium. And at least half of them showed up at the last minute when Paul Westby, our emcee got on the air and begged for anyone in the western suburbs to show up. After playing to 2000 kids in Seattle the night before, which was coincidentally when “Exposure” was certified Platinum, this was probably kind of a letdown. But they were gracious, took questions, signed autographs and then climbed into their limo for the ride to the Radisson.
In 2020, the analogy would be to have Dua Lipa perform in an apartment building rec room.
For me the evening just went down hill from there. Paul asked me to drop him off at his place in St. Paul because, “I need to move a couple of boxes and since we have the van…”
Paul was not a fast-mover and our trip to St. Paul was delayed by a couple of errands that he needed to do “Since we’re in Frog Town, I want to quick stop…” and the longest most stretched out McDonalds dinner of my life. To his credit, he paid. But it wasn’t a couple of boxes that needed to be moved: it was his entire apartment, he was being evicted and it needed to be empty by daybreak.
When I returned the van at 7 am, sixteen hours after I’d headed out, Hines and Berglund gave me the kind of look that you would expect to give a survivor of the Bataan Death March who strolled through your office.
Four years later I was Promotion Director at Kiss 102 in Charlotte and Pepsi had basically purchased the Summer and was embarking on an intense street-level campaign of product sampling Diet Pepsi vs. Diet Coke. Guess correctly what you were drinking and win swag. Chris Remme, one of the great National Sales Managers of all time, told me “We need to be AT all of these things but they’ve hired a company to do all the heavy lifting and sampling. Ever work with Campus Dimensions?”
And yes, the screwed it up and it’s one of two or three things that Chris and I never discuss. It’s buried. It’s not spoken oh.
My dad would be proud.