When I began my radio career in Winnipeg, I’d lucked out because many of the KY Good Guys were Americans and the thing about Americans is, they liked to do things big and flashy. Of the many things, I learned from them, my favorite was, how to do promotions that caused talk and excited the air staff. Unfortunately, when they all returned to America, my only teacher then was my many mistakes.
When I became the Program Director of CKOM in Saskatoon, I immediately put my two-point promotion system into effect which caused quite a stir in that prairie town and was the beginning of my promotional life. However, knowing that a PD is only as good as his last book, I took up the task of learning how the diary system worked. Thankfully, by the time I made my way to CFRA in Ottawa, I’d figured it out which got me to Toronto.
After putting up a few CFTR billboards around town, I accidentally discovered element number three, how to get publicity with your promotions. To make our billboard showing look bigger we’d hired a driver to drag one of our billboards all over town. Unfortunately, the truck broke down in the middle of downtown on Yonge Street which caused a horrendous traffic jam. Hey, but we made the TV news. (see below)It was while working at CFTR that not only did I create a whole new music system, but I also met the legendary Jack McCoy who taught me the fourth element, the art of adding visuals to the promos.
Armed with my new found diary knowledge, a new music system, and the four-pronged promotion concept, it was time to invade America. My first stop was Indianapolis where I reunited with my old boss from CKY, Jim Hilliard, and met Dick Yancey and Jerry Bobo who added the fifth element, making money with promotions.
For starters, we did the “Great Race” at WIBC in Indy and KVIL in Dallas. This promotion featured our morning men and afternoon guys racing each other around which the newspapers and TV stations in town were kind enough to do updates on their progress.
Meanwhile, in the back of the “two-story brick,” Cris Conner was busy running the annual WNAP Raft Race which soon rivaled the Indy 500 attendance figures. (see event above) Unfortunately, after nine years it had to be abandoned because all the folks who were trying to get to the finish line, had brought most of the traffic in Indianapolis to a standstill.
When Jim Hilliard ran the “Big Sugar Daddy” contest at WIBC, it blew out the phones in Indy, which made the TV news and again when we caused a massive traffic Jam by putting up a billboard featuring pretty girls swinging on a giant swing high above the traffic in bikinis. When we did it again in Dallas, they got a court order forcing us to bring the girls down because they were so hot, they froze the freeway. (see WIBC girls on a swing above)
Back home in Indy, WNAP was running a make-believe live concert on the air called Fantasy Park. Buster Bodine, (see Buster above) along with the rest of the Buzzard boys, did it all so convincingly, they had people driving around aimlessly looking for the concert. Before long the TV reports said that the police were trying to put a stop to the make-believe concert, but they couldn’t find it.
When we did the 50% Off Free Fair in Dallas and Indianapolis, it shut down every road and highway leading to the fairgrounds. By then though, the TV stations all had their own Helicopters, so they showed it live. Darn.
In Boston at F-105, Jay Williams was running a promotion called, “Show us a sign that you want to win free money” and I’ll never forget watching Jim Plunkett on TV, throwing the winning touchdown pass to his tight end. He had to leap high in the air in order to catch it and when he did, he did it in front of a huge F-105 sign. They replayed that catch over and over again.
When Ron Chapman, (shown above with me after been inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame) did his first-ever parachute jump live, all three networks showed him slowly floating down on their evening news.
A few weeks later, losing a tug a war contest to one of the local TV stations, got us five minutes in both of their newscasts with some nice close-ups of the giant KVIL call letters on our brand new sweatshirts. Oh, and when we hired the Mayor to do sports, we also put up a billboard up that the Dallas Morning News showed with a headline that read, “Mayor Moonlights On KVIL.”
One of the billboards that should have embarrassed us was the one we put up of Mike Seldon located across from a nunnery. The church complained so of course the media couldn’t help but rag on us about it. However, after we agreed to take it down, the church blessed us, and as I recall, that was one of our better books. (see above)
Then there was the time in Dallas when a Saudi was reported tipping lady bartenders all over Dallas with hundred dollar bills. Taking advantage of the situation, Bill Gardner (shown above) withdrew a few thousand dollars with which we hired some actors and dressed them like Arabs. Then we sent them to KVIL studios where they handed out money to everyone.
On air, he claimed that the Saudi handing out the hundred dollar bills was a phony, and he was going to prove it by giving away more money than him. However, he needed our help, and of course, he picked Bill Gardner out of the crowd to join him in the limo. Bill’s job was to advise him where he should go to hand out the free money, and then call the station with their location.
Things were going well, and as Dave Spence and I watched it all unfold on TV, we celebrated with high fives. My favorite visual was the one showing a crumpled up hundred dollar bill going around and around on one of our turntables. Then when we heard that the trail of cars following the limo was over a mile long, I was ecstatic. However, when we got the call saying the FBI had shown up at the radio station, I immediately got a hold of Bill and said, “Send Ahab the Arab back to the desert, Bill.”
However, the most publicity we ever got didn’t cost us a dime. Ron Chapman went on air and said, “If you’ve got an extra 20, send it to me, and we’ll do something fun with it.” However, when over a quarter of a million dollars showed up, Ron was back on the air, begging them to stop. Not only was it all over the news, but it also went National.
When I left Fairbanks, I took the four-point promotion concept with me, and pretty soon, we were blowing out the phone systems all over America. We did this by giving away vast amounts of cash and exotic cars like BMWs and Mercedes. Hell, the cheapest car we ever gave away was a Trans Am when the Smokey and the Bandit movies were hot. (see newspaper article)
At KOGO in San Diego, where we did the first-ever prize catalog and wrapped it all up with, “For one last shot at a big prize, scratch your name and phone number on your catalog and drop it off at the Doubletree on Hotel Circle. I wish you could have seen the mess, Interstate 8 was now just a parking lot but according to Don Walker, (pictured below) the TV shots were spectacular. However, I missed all the mayhem because I was smart enough to be out of town.
Just down the hall from KOGO, our sister station, KPRI was shooting a TV commercial with a “looker” named Peggy. Peggy was dressed in very tight shorts and a mid-drift KPRI T-shirt cut way up to here.
The shot opens up with Peggy who is pouting, just staring into the camera but when the music starts, she breaks into a big smile and she begins to dance. All of a sudden, the music stops and Peggy says, “When I hear KPRI’s music, it makes me want to dance, but when I dance I get so hot, I just wanna rip my shirt off.” Then she starts pulling the shirt up and just before it reaches her nipples, the shit freeze frames on the huge call letters which are on the shirt. Scrolling underneath is “Next week Peggy takes it off.”
Unfortunately, at the last minute, all the TV stations canceled our schedule, saying that the commercial was too proactive. However, they did all ran it in their newscasts as being the first TV commercial banned in San Diego.
One of the saddest things that I was ever involved in got so much publicity that it had to be killed before it had hardly even started. Reid Reker (Pictured above) and I had created a brand new format for his radio station in Phoenix called “Radio For Men.” We went as far as to say that women were not allowed to listen to it and had a billboard showing the symbol from the women’s restroom with the ghostbuster line drawn through it.
We sounded so sincere about our Radio For Men that it drove the city crazy. Not only was the local media all over us, but it went national when People Magazine and entertainment shows like “ET” showed up to cover it. Unfortunately, when the owners turned on the TV and saw the Now organization marching on the station, they pulled the plug. Most of the promotions on our “Class/Classy” stations caused so much commotion that whenever we got a new client, I’d immediately meet with the GM and present him with a “Get out of jail free card.” On that card were the words, “We never dreamed, imagined, nor anticipated this kind of reaction to our promotion which I suggested the GM should memorize. He would need to say those words, I advised, to the TV cameras which will be showing up soon. When they’d ask how I knew the TV people were going to show up, I said, “Oh trust me, they always do.”
Do drug users know that the people who sell the drugs never use them?
In the beginning, the radio station is always bigger than the air talent.
I bet Ringo is pretty happy that he ended up with the Beatles and not the Eagles. John and Paul weren’t as greedy as Glenn and Don.
I may be prejudice but I’m sure not a racist.
How come after World War II, I only remember a big surrender ceremony with the Japanese and not the Germans. Surely more than just Jews hated them?
I think that even with the problems we have, America is still a great place to live. Just ask all the Black people who are not moving to Africa, or the Jews who prefer America over Israel, and how about the folks from the Desert, you see any of them going back?
Why do women think that they have the right to say things to men that if said by a man, would probably get him killed?
Speaking of women, why don’t men fess up that we’re not attracted to most.
Sometimes not knowing what you’re doing ends up with you doing something fantastic.
Do you find it as strange as I do that if you cut the owner in, payola isn’t illegal?
Just because you can’t see it don’t mean it ain’t there.
Wow, the Bombers beat the Stamps. Go Big Blue!
Speaking of Winnipeg, the Jets finally won one!
I wonder if they read Baghdadi his Miranda Rights?
Geo’s Media Blog is an inside look at Radio, Music, Movies, and Life. For a sneak peek at some upcoming Blogs, or to see some that you may have missed, go to Geo’s Media Blog @ GeorgeJohns.com. On Twitter @GeoOfTheRadio. Sharing and commenting is appreciated.