I’m Not Mad, And Radio Isn’t Dead

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

My answer was always a detective. Picture Olivia Benson from Law and Order getting the call about a crime that has just been committed. She’s gathering the intel, searching the database for info and possible suspects, drinking coffee out of a styrofoam coffee cup and running out the door in her cop power suit – high heels and gun visible on her waist as the wind from the door whips her coat back. Off to get the bad guys! Solve the problems! Be the silent, unknown hero that goes home at night to a simple life with a glass of wine, leftovers from the night before and a snuggle on the couch with her dog. Yep, that was the future I pictured for myself.


Annnnnnnd that is pretty much how life turned out for me – minus the crime solving, and the gun. Oh and I have a wife, an eight-year-old (going on eighteen), I do the cooking and there are three (sometimes four) dogs to come home to – but who’s counting?


My name is Tracy Call, I own and operate Media Bridge Advertising Agency and I’ve been described as part private eye, part pit bull. And I like it – because frankly, it’s true. When I tell people that I own an Ad Agency I typically get one of two questions, “Have you seen Mad Men!? I love that show! There’s drinking, sex, beautiful people…do you even work?” And the second question is, “How much does advertising cost?” Both questions crack me up! But the world I live and operate in is about as far from Mad Men as it gets, and I usually answer the “how much does it cost question” with, “it can have two zeros or seven zeros, depends on what you do, how you do it and for how long.”


Mad Men. These men were, in fact, mad! Madly unproductive, madly overpaid and charging their clients a MAD amount of money! As entertaining as the show was, I was hoping my current and future clients weren’t watching it. The way they ran the agency, up-charged clients for meetings and “strategy,” and the references to “grossing up 15% on the buy” gave me heartburn.


However, many agencies still operate this way today. In fact, most do in order to sustain the overboard overhead, assistants to assistants, layers of management and the fancy offices. But my agency does media-buying much differently. After spending years on the other side working in corporate radio, I know first-hand how to efficiently investigate deals and flip deal terms upside down to cleverly stretch and place client dollars for max returns – without passing the buck and nickel and diming clients. At Media Bridge Advertising, we don’t need to charge for “strategic thinking” or “service and handling” or even for most “the doing”…that would be MAD!


It’s mad because we already get paid from the other side!


What most clients don’t know is that agencies receive a commission from most media companies. It’s similar to real estate commission in that the seller pays the buyer’s agent a commission for the transaction. In the ad world, the “buyer’s agent” is the agency and the “seller” is the media company. So the media company is actually paying my agency fee. Pretty cool, right? Here’s the best part of the deal though…at Media Bridge, we provide 100% of our clients anywhere from 25% to 50% greater efficiencies when we earn their business, and we do this through our stellar relationships, knowledge of the market and the history of market rates. So not only are we saving our clients’ money and making their buys better and more targeted, but we also pay for ourselves (and then some)! Also – and this is very important – we NEVER let media companies gross up their rates to pay themselves back. No way, José. That’s just counter-productive and bad business ethics.


Now I’m not saying that buying media is easy or unworthy of good payment – but it’s not just “spots and dots.” Perfectly aligning the right client to the right media mix with the right idea and message is challenging in any industry, but it isn’t rocket science! I often tell clients that what we do is part research and analytics and part gut instinct. Test, measure and move. Test, measure and move. And in today’s world, move fast!


Here’s another secret: unlike most agencies, we’ve found great success driving low CPL (cost per lead) rates for our clients with good old-fashioned radio. Every year I read articles claiming “radio is dying”, yet it continues to be the most efficient advertising medium, delivering the most consistent leads and sales for almost all my clients, both locally and nationally. With all the hype around social and digital media, people tend to forget about the importance of offline, mass marketing to gain traction and brand credibility.


With radio, advertisers are able to efficiently activate around the two most fundamental principles of advertising: 1) advertise in uninterrupted space whenever possible and 2) word-of-mouth is king. Over 90% of people listen to the radio, and that number holds strong across all demos and age segments. The way I see it, cars will continue to be sold with AM/FM radios throughout my lifetime and that of my son’s. I’d even argue that talk news and sports talk are timeless. And radio personalities – or word-of-mouth on speed – will always be in high demand.


Think about it, people tune into their favorite show every morning on their ride to and from work. Most people are driving, so their time with the radio is almost completely uninterrupted. No cell phone (or hopefully not), no TV in the background, no work or home project multitasking…just the “radio and the road.” Radio DJ’s are a key part of millions of consumer’s daily routine and worldviews. Many tune in religiously and sometimes even sit in their cars waiting for that days bit, story or segment to conclude. Listeners often form a pseudo-relationship with their favorite DJ – they feel connected like friends because they’re uniquely engaged with them for 5+ hours a week (which is probably more than most listen to their loved ones).


Radio provides advertisers with dedicated, loyal and uninterrupted engagement like no other medium. Couple that with a personal testimonial from an influential DJ and you’ve got a magic marketing potion. Companies spend millions of dollars trying to get thought leaders or “influencers” to endorse their product. Why not use a radio DJ for a fraction of the cost? Throw in some targeted reach and frequency with the perfect buy and BAM! You’ve got sales!


Moral of the story: You don’t have to pay crazy agency fees to outsource your media-buying and negotiations, but investing in smart, high reach and frequency advertising pays dividends. Use offline media to help drive online results. Start with radio – tap into your customer’s listening habits, follow them around the dial and leverage strategic DJ endorsements to activate word-of-mouth to another level!


No one respects money – how hard it is to earn, and how easy it is to spend – more than I do. My entire Media Bridge Advertising team works tirelessly and innovatively to grow our clients’ businesses, looking under every rock and around every corner to deliver results. With unrelenting tenacity and marketing smarts, we consistently earn mad props for being the trusted team “behind the curtain” for our loyal clients.


Developing a clever, efficient marketing strategy that drives results does not need to be a maddening process. But doing marketing “DIY-style” is almost always maddening. You don’t need to do it alone, and you don’t need to pay mad fees to an agency to accelerate your business. Do the detective work early and often to find out if your current plan and partners are giving you the ROI and negotiation power you deserve.  Then be swift and bold when you’re ready to upgrade.


Right now, I’m PAYING business owners if I can’t find media savings and creative wins on their marketing plans! So contact me anytime, give my agency the chance to analyze your current buy and show you the money….and mad results!