Author: McNeal, Brian


Good morning from Whiskey Creek, where the very comfortable mid-seventies bely the fact that fall is very much upon us. The leaves of the cotton wood trees have now mostly turned the brilliant yellow that signals their fall to Mother Earth, our five llamas and four dogs and now our solitary cat have begun growing their winter coats in earnest and my wife Lynn is now fully engaged in her annual campaign to get me out of shorts and tank tops and into “sensible clothes…the way your mother dressed you for fall.” For my part, I’ll hang in till the last possible moment…and with the warm, sunny days and mild evenings that could still be for a while.

As I begin my thirteenth year managing our Association’s web site I’m struck by both the importance that collaboration has had on the growth of and, of course, through it, the CBA itself. Not a month has gone by without some opportunity popping up to establish a new relationship with a individual or organization or business that, given time, has strengthened our effort to exploit the Internet to get the CBA’s “message” out. And few of the collaborations about which I speak have been more powerful, and with this example, visible, that our Welcome columns. I can’t begin to tell you how many good friends I’ve made and how much I’ve learned about bluegrass and web technology and marketing and, yes, just plain old living, from the men and women and young folks with whom I’ve worked, month after month, year after year, in filling this space.

Each morning I sit here in front of my trusty Mac sipping strong coffee and spending forty-five minutes or so just leisurely scanning across a dozen or so web sites. It’s the way I get the 3:00 a.m. cobwebs swept away, find out what I’ve missed during the night and, quite frequently, collect the images and copy and ideas that help to fashion the day’s iteration of our web site. It’s always time well spent, and today perhaps even more so than usual. One of my stops along the early morning tour is a site called run by a fellow in the southwest called Brian McNeal. Brian does a good job with the site and since he began writing his own Welcome column once each month the collaboration that’s ensued has taught me a great deal. He’s particularly adroit at pulling in advertisers for perscriptionbluegrass and, fortunately for the CBA, he’s more than willing to share what he knows. Brian is currently running a piece on advertising and, even though the second Monday of the month isn’t his assigned Welcome writing day I’ve decided to share it with you this morning.

Measuring Success! A Prescription Bluegrass Editorial
Brian McNeal
How do you know when you've reached commercial success? Or how do you know when your radio or television commercial is successful?

Well, here's a little story that I hope will help explain the measure of success in commercials. The story I'm about to tell you is true.

It was quite some time ago, before the current economic downturn. Before the terrorism scare of 9-11-2001, before the first Gulf War, and before the great inflation of the late 1970's. Hippies could still be seen on main street and the disco fever had not yet grabbed a hold of anyone.

A young man working for a mid western advertising agency developed a fictitious character – a truck driver with a dog who was also a character – and he used the two of them in story-commercials. A great songwriter once said he has to tell the whole movie in just three minutes or less. But imagine trying to tell the whole story in just one minute. That's all radio and television folks got back in those days – just 60 seconds to get you hooked, and keep you on the edge of your seat. Not many could do it. There were no cell phones to distract us and we didn't have earbuds connected to something about the size of a cigarette pack in our pocket. Push button radios and presets ruled the dashboard of every car and an uninteresting commercial took all of two seconds to cancel and we'd begin listening to some alternative message on another station.

Our fictitious truck driver and his dog soon became extremely popular. So popular that very quickly, serial commercials became the way to go for the advertising sponsor. No, not CEREAL commercials as in Snap, Crackle and Pop, but SERIAL … as in SOAP OPERA style continuation. One commercial would set the stage for the next and that just made our hero and his dog even more popular. Radio listeners couldn't wait to hear the next episode and our popular hero and his dog became household names in the Mid-West. The commercials featuring this fictional trucker and his dog were so popular in fact, that a major newspaper in the area started publishing the broadcast times of the commercials in the paper's daily television listings.

Now that's how you measure a successful advertising campaign! When the commercial message is so entertaining that the broadcast times are listed just like programming – well, you just can't get it any better than that – – – or can you?

From the success of these television commercials, our young advertising executive began a country music recording career and very quickly gained regional success with a full length song version of the very same story he'd used in the one-minute television commercials. His Country Music Recording Career was off like a cannon ball with extra powder. With his second song, he started getting noticed by national record labels and his third song became a smash hit – crossing genre boundaries and out of the radio world and right smack dab into Hollywood.

Not many songs ever written actually make it big, much less get turned into a full scale Hollywood movies. Wikipedia lists only 30 songs that were ever made into full movies or television shows. Now that's certainly a measure of the success – to be one of only 30 out of millions and millions of songs.

Who was our young advertising genius? His name was Bill Fries and he worked in Omaha, Nebraska with another young man – a pioneer in “New Age Music” who helped him to develop the music for his story commercials. His name was Chip Davis.

Bill's partner, Chip, went on from these little television commercials to produce some of the world's most fantastic New-Age Orchestrated music – selling more than 28 million copies of their various Christmas Albums in the U.S. Alone – under the name, Mannheim Steamroller.

And what about Bill? Well, the character for his television commercials and his country music stage name were one in the same. From the “Old-Home Filler-Up and Keep On Truckin' Cafe” to “Wolf Creek Pass” to “Convoy”, Bill Fries was C. W. McCall … and now you know how one broadcast advertising copy writer measured success. Image635196807358838330

Bill will celebrate his 85th birthday this coming Friday, November 15th. Happy Birthday Bill Fries!

“Yeah, breaker one-nine, this here's the Rubber Duck, / you got a copy on me Pigpen?”

Posted:  11/11/2013

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