Sometimes, something 180 degrees away is what works best. You can’t do it all the time, but it’s one of the first things that I consider. Here are three examples.
- The opposite of what anyone would think: Homer Simpson, “If Jesus had a gun, he’d be alive today.” (I thought I’d fall off the couch when I heard that.)
- Wally, on Contemporary Christian Music network WAY-FM: instead of automatically playing an artist’s songs when he’d have that artist on as a guest, he’d do “Win it to Spin it,” meaning that the artist had to do some challenge in less time than Wally did it in order to get his/her song played. One I remember was when he had a singer form a pyramid of Spam “cakes” – without using his HANDS! (The guy had to stack them up into a pyramid with his MOUTH. Ewww! Hilarious on the air, and as a YouTube video.)
- Once when I was on the air, my boss wanted me to do an all-request hour every Friday night. After doing it the “plain vanilla” way a couple of times, I went in exactly the opposite direction, saying “This is an all-request hour, but I’M doing all the requesting.” Totally unexpected, I had more people call in when they COULDN’T make a request than when they could. (A couple of weeks later, when I got a novelty album with 20 different versions of the song “Louie Louie,” I started the hour with “You can request any song you want… as long as it’s ‘Louie Louie.'” Believe me, there’s nothing funnier than hearing an “anthem” song done in Mariachi band style, or as a waltz… or hearing the same song requested for an entire hour.)
Try the Opposite once in a while. It opens up brand new roads.
We radio folk tend to think of tune out as a benign little concept akin to teenagers button pushing looking for the latest Taylor Swift song. While that does happen and we should do our darnedest to minimize programming that results in tune out, there is a far more ominous idea lurking in the bushes.
Some people leave a brand and never come back.
A friend of a friend told me that when people leave a car brand they seldom come back. Eek! Specifically, when folks have an accident they are far less likely to purchase that brand of car again. Maybe it’s partly psychological (“It’s the car’s fault”), or maybe it’s the potential embarrassment of the folks at your dealership pegging you as the one that side-swiped the delivery truck of kumquats headed toward the orphanage. (There’s a sentence you don’t see real often!)
What if we radio folk considered the seriousness of “tune out” as if the listeners were NEVER going to tune back in? That is, they were likely to leave the brand once and for all.
The old comedy axiom is that the 3rd time gets the biggest laugh: watch any old sitcom or comedy movie and you see it over and over. Something gets a laugh. A few minutes later, it gets repeated, and gets another laugh. Finally, much later, there’s a “call-back” and it gets said again, and that’s the “big” laugh. That’s the Rule of Three.
But now, that’s outdated. Everyone’s attention span is shorter now. The Rule of Three doesn’t apply anymore. Now it’s just 1, 2 instead of 1, 2, 3. To sound like TODAY, you need to shorten that rhythm of yesterday. If you do it a third time now, it usually just sounds like you’re trying too hard. (Or maybe it doesn’t even make sense, because Time Spent Listening is so much shorter now.)
You’ve probably seen them. The clever little social media posts that say something like “Tell me you’re from Texas without mentioning Texas.”
“Tell me you love pizza without saying pizza.”
“Tell me you love baseball without mentioning baseball.”
You get the idea.
In our case, tell me that you reflect my values without saying you reflect my values.
Watching ‘Jeopardy’ these days is strange for the millions of people of all ages who grew up watching Alex Trebek emcee the show. First, Ken Jennings, the greatest contestant of all time, hosted. Then the Producer of the show, Mike Richards, came in with his “Don Draper” looks and professionalism. Then Katie Couric, enthusiastic, but…
While we know a little about Jennings and a lot about Couric (but in another setting), we knew a lot more about Alex. He loved travel, his pride in Canada was cute, and just the WAY he conducted the show spoke volumes about his respect for what could have been just another Game Show.