As a lifelong broadcaster and supporter of radio, I was surprised to read Gary Fries and other behemoth group heads rationalize radio's down-tick in national ad dollars ("Radio runs a-ground, turnaround in doubt," AA, May 7). The down-tick in ad dollars is due to much more than a lack of dot-com business and budget cuts from the automotive category as they would have us believe.
The Radio Advertising Bureau and other radio owners must look under their own roof before passing the blame to the advertisers. Since I can remember, radio has touted its ability to ferret out "new" categories after losing major advertisers (e.g., loss of tobacco).
Radio's future is tenuous unless it faces up to these issues:
* The "local" in radio is disappearing. Too many once locally programmed stations have been usurped by major conglomerates with little regard for and no knowledge of "local" programming. Their credo? Bring on the syndication: It's cost saving.
* Radio's glut of commercials is a runaway train. We are now hearing eight to 12 minutes of spots per break. Media conglomerates are at fault in this case. They have overpaid for their properties and have set unrealistic sales goals. The stations in turn simply expand the commercial breaks while sacrificing programming and audience.
* When you add to the above the rising use of in-car cell phones, CDs, books-on-tape and time spent with computers, it's easy to see why radio has problems other than diminished ad budgets.
* And here comes satellite radio! It will feature 100 channels with clear digitalized signals, some commercial free, others with limited commercial breaks.
I have to go. They've just interrupted my favorite commercial for a radio program.
Kelley Communications Corp.
`Cheap shots' at buyers
I enjoyed the Special Report "TV's Upfront" (AA, May. 14) but was appalled by the uninformed cheap shots against the buying community taken by [media consultant] Erwin Ephron ("How the TV nets got the upfront"). ... His credentials in this area are at best questionable. He has the added luxury of being accountable to no one while questioning the motives and even the honesty of the dedicated, hard-working members of the buying community. I am tired of his thoughtless comments.
If Erwin Ephron was given a budget and had to make a buy and that same amount was given to any of my counterparts at the major buying agencies or myself, who would deliver the better buy? Who would provide more value to the client? The answer is simple; we would kick his butt from one end of Madison Avenue to the other!
Robert E. Igiel
President, Broadcast Division
Mr. Ephron replies:
I am sympathetic to [Mr. Igiel's] outrage at my article critical of the upfront. He is a buyer trapped in a system that favors the seller and he deserves sympathy.
I am skeptical of Bob's idea that only buyers are competent to comment on buying. That is the same secret-society mentality that would have only doctors police malpractice, and by logical extension, only criminals comment on crime. It would be better if Bob showed us how the upfront benefits his clients.
Finally, I am disappointed at the personal nature of his attack. If I am to be judged by the enemies I make, I should have done better.
Ephron, Papazian & Ephron
Perhaps women are the target audience for American Express traveler's checks, but my reaction to its series of heavily rotated TV spots is that it thinks only women are dumb enough to leave their bags ... on the beach, in a cab, at the airport. My guess is that the campaign is effective or [the company] wouldn't keep running it. But I can't help believing it is damaging to the American Express brand in the eyes of many women.
Buick and `The Simpsons'
I enjoyed Rance Crain's column about Buick's new slogan ("Buick's new slogan goes after buyers in off-target age group," Viewpoint, AA, May 7). But he missed the real origin of "It's all good."
This is a phrase used by Rev. Lovejoy, the boring and spiritually bankrupt minister character who appears on "The Simpsons."
If my memory serves me correctly, when way-too-good Ned Flanders had a problem, he asked Rev. Lovejoy what part of the Bible he should read. "It's all good," was Lovejoy's bored reply.
The Morgenstern Co.
* In the Grocery Products category of "The Best Awards" Special Report (May 28, P. S-8), John Dingfield was the editor at Leo Burnett Co. for the winning commercial, the "Commute" spot for Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats. His name was misspelled.