Inspiration. Aspiration. Exhaustion.

Some Observations From the Road

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Zanger Doug Zanger
I'm not exactly sure when all of this travel got so out of control. I wrote about it a few months ago when I was still somewhat green and the thought of being on the road was still kind of fun. In the past two months, I have been home a grand total of four days. Being away from home has been really tough, but I've managed to gain elite status on Alaska Airlines (by far the best airline in the U.S., in my opinion) and some wisdom that I didn't expect.

Some observations (purely my opinion):

Advertising people are really fun to interview. I had the great honor of being part of two pop-up radio stations, sponsored by the Radio Advertising Bureau. The first, WADV, covered Advertising Week in New York. The second, KANA, covered the ANA conference in Phoenix. Simply put, these projects were an absolute blast to work on and the people we talked to were engaging, funny, inspiring and had a real passion for not only what they were doing, but the industry in general. We ran the gamut from celebs such as Martha Stewart and Ludacris to industry leaders and journalists such as, my personal favorite, Andrew Hampp from Advertising Age. In fact, all of the Ad Age people were great to talk to: Bob Garfield is sassy, Scott Donaton is a badass (in a good way), Matt Creamer tells a good story, Alice Cuneo is passionate, and Jonah Bloom is flat-out smooth (even though he managed to drop a couple of s-bombs on the air). Additionally, Stuart Elliott from the New York Times was a real treat to talk to (and we are highly grateful for the mention in the Times).

What stood out to me was that each of these people proved to be absolute naturals on the air. The content was solid and we were never at a loss for things to talk to, which leads me to believe that –

Hybrid formats, including Advertising Talk, could be a viable format. I think there is plenty of opportunity to tell compelling stories about this industry on the radio. I've also been dinking around with some hybrid formats. Some examples: "8," which is a format that thematically programs eight songs at a time and gives the end user/listener more control over the on-air product; "Progressive Alternative" which combines left-leaning talk, alternative and conscious hip hop; "Cause Talk," dedicated to the world of non-profits and cause-related marketing; and, of course, any variant of compelling business talk. Stay tuned on this one.

Steve Berkowitz from Microsoft owes me coffee: Oregon State 31. Cal 28.

The Oregon Ducks will win the national championship. I'm willing to bet coffee with anyone on this. (Editor's note: Consider this bet taken. LSU all the way. Or at least a team that plays in a real conference -- by which I mean the SEC.)

Radio is in the best position it has ever been in. It's like the reset button has been hit. The convergence of technology and content has given the industry a completely blank canvas. Throw in "Radio 2020," a bold new initiative from the NAB and RAB, and you're looking at limitless opportunity. We may be the stodgy "Gray Lady" in people's eyes but, with some focus, hard work and creativity, radio will reinvent itself, evolve and become a can't miss opportunity for advertisers and brands. Change will need to be drastic and radical, but once it happens, it will be sweet.

Clear Channel isn't the problem. It's part of the solution. (I'm fully expecting to get slammed on this one. Have at it.) Being the biggest has its challenges, but, in talking to people at the company, they are committed to doing the right thing, especially creatively. They are taking the lead on the creative end and will continue to push hard. Yes, they have done some things that have contributed to the swoon, but EVERYONE has a piece of that and is at fault. The pervasive thinking outside of radio is that we've done this to ourselves and it shouldn't all be put on Clear Channel's shoulders. I will fully admit that I was part of the anti-Clear Channel movement. But we all should own up to our shortcomings. I know I have and I fully intend to fight the good fight for an industry that I care very deeply for. In the words of Scott Donaton at the ANA conference: "Go radio!"
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