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Airwaves: December 18, 2009

We Have a Problem ... Ad

There was a time in radio when the programmer had the ultimate say over what went on the air. The product was key, and that included not only the music and personalities, but the commercials. If a commercial didn’t fit well with the station, it was either revised until it did,, or was rejected.

In some cases, there was even a formula to the way commercials were run. The pace of commercial breaks would start with the slow or duller ads, with each ad picking up the tempo until it reached a high right before the music started. And content was as important as flow; the old television program WKRP even had an episode about it when a funeral home wanted to advertise on the fictitious top-40 station.

The legendary WCFL/Chicago -- known as The Voice of Labor due to its ownership by the Chicago Federation of Labor -- has some great examples of these ideals on two of the airchecks found on One is with Big Ron O’Brien and the other is Johnny Driscol, both from 1975. At each and every commercial break, the ads build in intensity until they get back to the music. The idea is to keep listeners tuned in through the entire break.

These days, it isn’t happening. And sometimes I wonder who even allows certain ads on the air. Sit ‘n Sleep, for example, is legendary with ads that make people leave for another station. But perhaps the best example of ads that should never have been approved comes from a Japanese semi-luxury carmaker that actually tells listeners to “go ahead, change the station.”

That’s right. Change the station. Follow the directions and you never go back, as the listener finds something else in which to listen. Whoever wrote that ad, and whoever approved it for airing should seriously think about finding another career. You never tell your listeners to change stations, especially when there was no directive to tune back.

Any ads that are tune-outs for you? Write in and let me know. I’ll compile them for future columns.

Gift Guide

Just one week to go before Christmas ... what do you get your favorite radio fanatic?

Normally I would do my normal recommendation of a subscription to Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com, the best site in the world for news and information regarding local radio stations and personalities. Unfortunately site owner Don Barrett is still in the process of deciding whether or not to continue publishing, so that idea may not work this year.

Other ideas? A donation subscription to the already mentioned, a museum of aircheck recordings of classic -- mostly top-40 but a few others -- radio stations. It is the site I on which I spend way too much time.

Living in the past? RadioLogoLand.Com has shirts, mugs, mouse pads and more featuring the logos of stations from the past. I just ordered the classic 1975 KMET logo on a coffee mug and a 93/KHJ mouse pad.

Product-wise you can’t go wrong with a new HD Radio tuner. Even if HD Radio isn’t blazing trails yet, if ever, the tuners are superb if you look at the right ones. Two I highly recommend are from Sangean (HDT-1 and HDT-1X) as well as the Sony line of tuners and radios. I happen to own the XDRF1HD, perhaps one of the best analog tuners available today in addition to receiving HD broadcasts. And don’t forget the classic portable GE or RCA Superadio 3, a portable radio that while expensive for its class (about $50) is arguably one of the best portable radio receivers available.


Copyright © 2009 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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