HEY YOU! Look at the TV! Stunning woman in a T-shirt! See how the sounds of Q107-FM look as if they're coming from this incredible closeup of her mouth?
Hey, good buddy. Y'all look at these country-music lovers having a grand ole time out in the country for the weekend, while they listen to country WMZQ-FM. Twang.
Hey! Watch this cute Rube Goldberg contraption take 30 seconds to set off the clock radio tuned to all-news WTOP!
Hey: WMAL's Harden and Weaver dressed up as the capitol and the Washington, Monument. A couple of crazy institutions those two.
It's "Hey You" time in the radio business -- the two-month "sweep" period during which ratings are made on Washington's more than 30 stations. They want to make sure you're listening when Arbitron sends out the little survey diaries, which it did last week.
And more and more stations are deciding that the place to reach listeners is on TV -- where about a dozen radio stations in the nexteight weeks will spend an estimated half-million advertising dollars.
This fall's sweepstakes marks Washington's sudden entrance into the big leagues: Reliable estimates say about $250,000 of that half-million will be spent by one station -- WRQX-FM, the ABC-owned top-40 station known affectionately as Q107 -- on the prime-time TV placement of a syndicated commercial known as "The Remarkable Mouth."
This kind of saturation is unheard-of in this market; the average local television expenditure for one rating period in Washington is about one-fourth that amount, says one advertising executive. Any Washingtonian who hasn't seen or heard of the Q107 commercial by the end of November, says another, probably lives in Iowa.
By then, most of the current, slick commercials will have disappeared until January. But meanwhile, they provide a revealing insight into the image each station wants to project and the effect it wants from the ad.
Q107, for one, wants no more than your basic wide-eyed, slack-jawed attention.
"We've been in this business 16 years and ['The Remarkable Mouth'] is really the first thing we've stumbled on that's gotten this kind of reaction," says Don Richman, one half of Chuck Bloor-Don Richman Inc., the Los Angeles advertising agency that has custom-produced the ad for more than 30 stations in the United States, Canada and Australia since its debut in Pittsburgh five years ago.
The commercial starts off in its local form with a medium shot of a woman in a black Q107 T-shirt. She says she's going to tell us something "that's right on Q." A voice-over of disc jockeys, jingles, music and more deejays begins, and the actress very convincingly lip-synches every word as the camera zooms in.
Pretty soon the viewer is closer to this woman's mouth than four out of five doctors would recommend.
The camera zooms back out as the luscious lip-synch ends, and an off-camera voice says, "That's remarkable." Hence the name.
"It was really not intended to be erotic or suggestive," Richman says in response to a suggestion of eroticism. "But I guess whenever you're dealing with a girl's mouth . . . well, they're sexy."
But for the January-February sweep, says promotion director Jerry Downey, Q107 will switch to "a life-style-type spot, like the MacDonald's and Pepsi spots, you know, about 20 different quick vignettes of mostly 20-year-olds doing things while they listen."
Downey says "The Remarkable Mouth" has done good things, ratings-wise, for Chicago' WLUP and L.A.'s KFI. Richman says it also "doesn't seem to make a damn bit of difference whether it's used in a major market like Chicago or Los Angeles or in a place like Wichita. It always gets a big response."
"We have gotten an awful lot of phone calls from people who think the mouth was our spot," says Michael Cohen, general manager at country-music WMZQ-FM -- the only othr local station whose call letters contain a Q (which Cohen says is sought after these days because "it's the most unusual letter in the alphabet").
"The Remarkable Mouth" -- and its cost -- mark the first all-out effort by Q107 (and ABC) to pull the station out of its heretofore unremarkable showing in local Arbitron reports. Many would say it is also the station's first all-out effort to topple contemporary WPGC-AM/FM, the Marriot-owned station that in the spring toppled Q107's ABC sister station, WMAL-AM (630).
"Yeah, they're gonna steal some teens from us," says WPGC program director Scott Shannon. "It'll make WMAL look better in the overall 12-plus numbers [listeners 12 and over, the most-quoted rating figure]. It's an old trick in the business."
WPGC's TV spots are left over from last spring -- testimonials from people on the street to the superiority of WPGC's morning team of Jim Elliot and Scott Woodside.
WMAL plugs their top-rated morning team -- Frank Harden and Jackson Weaver, dressed as the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, respectively -- in a 30-second commercial created by the Washington advertising firm of Goldberg Marchesano & Associates to emphasize the 17-year team's reputation as "local institutions." WMAL is reportedly spending about one third of sister WRQX to place the ad.
TV spots for radio -- and the placement thereof -- have primarily two purposes, according to a study conducted earlier this year by a New York agency for the Broadcast Promotion Association: They either establish or they reinforce (meaning they grab new listeners or massage old ones).
The WMAL spots reinforce : In research conducted several months ago, WMAL promotion director Sandy Anderson says the one thing everyone kept saying about the station was that it was the home of Harden and Weaver, and that Harden and Weaver are "Washington istitutions."
The Q107 spots, according to Marty Greenberg, head of ABC-Owned FM Stations, are designed to establish .
"I'd say I'm spending about three-fifths to establish and maybe two-fifths reinforcement," says all-news WTOP-AM promotion director Meryl Cohen, who is talking not so much about the Rub Goldberg-type TV spot produced for the station in Los Angeles (and also syndicated), but primarily about placement.
"I'll buy news, for example," says Cohen, speaking of buying a spot for the ad during a local newscast, "and that's pretty much reinforcing that part of the audience which is likely to listen to us already. But I'll also buy a World Series spot, say, to reach people who wouldn't be our typical listeners."
Even when the ads win awards, they may do nothing for the station's ratings: NBC-owned WKYS-FM's 1978 TV spot, produced locally by Denniberg Associates, was the "life-style" sort. Over the beat of an up-tempo "If It Feels Good Do It," Washingtonians were glimpsed listening to their radio station. Even a traffic cop was made to smile.
WKYS, after a disappointing year in the ratings, has replaced the Addyaward winner with a computer-animated slicko this fall, which starts with a laser-beam version of those same landmarks WMAL uses -- a pulsing outline of the Capitol and the Washington Monument. And in case the music and the outlines of dancing feet don't get the message across, the words "DISCO 93" flash by a couple of times, along with the station's red-lips trademark.
"It positions the station," says WKYS general manager Raymond Yorke. "People know that if they want a disco station, WKYS is the only disco station around. The other spot didn't mention disco at all."
WKYS' NBC-owned sister, news-talk WRC-AM, is running a locally produced collage of people on the telephone -- from a businessman on his limousine's mobile unit to a young black man in a phone booth -- to trumpet the station's across-the-board appeal. Add to this the follow-the-bouncing-larynx voice of Mac MacGarry and a pretty blond telephone-bound housewife in a T-shirt advertising WRC's "Get It Off Your Chest" on-air contest, and voila -- pure demographics.
"We had a whole other idea in mind for our campaign," says WMZQ-FM's Cohen, "and then our jingle package came in." The jingle is big on easygoing fun and "making every day a weekend in the country."
So WMZQ hired a freelance producer to film some typical weekend-in-the-country life-style scenes: barbecue, kids piling into the jeep, a lovestruck young couple by a lake. Cohen thinks it was an excellent reason to abandon the "I MZQ in my car, I MZQ in my kitchen, I MZQ in my shorts" testimonials of last spring -- which he says caused "some negative response we didn't expect."
"We just thought, why put on a circus when we just want to let people know who we are?"