At a time when the radio business sorely needs strong leadership, it is ironic that a major source is coming from a small single-station broadcaster, Philadelphia's Jerry Lee. If you don't know about Jerry, you should. He was recently honored by the NAB, and has owned B101 in Philly forever. He would not remember this, but I did some work for him 30-odd years ago when I was a young research analyst for Frank N. Magid Associates. Even then, he was a strong, enigmatic broadcaster. The thing I remembered most was that he owned the Aston Martin that was featured in "Goldfinger." These days, Jerry is known for much more.
In Philly, Jerry is known as a committed, philanthropic broadcaster who has a penchant for doing it right. He does extensive research, he is always the market's top radio advertiser, and his station is always in a prime position to win - which is exactly what B101 does. It is ironic and more than a little interesting that in an era where all the predictions pointed to the death of small broadcasters because of consolidation, Jerry Lee and B101 are stronger than ever.
My understanding is that Jerry's leadership has been instrumental in helping PPM's advertiser acceptance in Philly. And at the NAB last month, Jerry put together a four-part plan to essentially "reignite radio," which is what the Convention's theme was all about.
One of his key planks stood out to me - a money-back guarantee to advertisers. Maybe this sounds crazy to some, but in this era of ROI and accountability, radio is simply being overlooked and cast aside. Part of Jerry's mission is to upgrade the horrible quality of most radio commercials, including testing them against listeners. What a concept.
If radio is to survive against the onslaught of digital and search advertising, it has to step up and be proud of its product - and its ability to deliver results. Radio still has the cume (growing in PPM, by the way), the personality, and the ability to move bodies and eyes to retail locations and to websites. There are thousands of creative, smart people who are silently suffering inside radio stations, dying to re-prove their worth and value.
Jerry Lee has taken the first steps in identifying the problem, and attempting to address it with a plan. Let's hear from other industry chieftains who can jump onboard, or come up with better plans themselves.