Sometimes it helps to get outside the box and see things from a slightly different perspective. What would happen if Santa Claus was on the radio and a programmer reviewed his performance? Here’s how it might go if a programmer airchecks Santa.

It’s mostly a one-way discussion because the PD has a lot on his mind:

A Programmer Airchecks Santa

PD: Okay, Santa, here’s the deal. We need to talk. It’s Christmas, your biggest time of the year, and the ratings aren’t what they used to be. You’re doing fine with the younger demographics, but that’s not the money demo. We have to expand your appeal.

Now, we’ve done some research, and there are a few things we have to fix right away. And if we don’t make big adjustments, there will be serious issues.

SANTA: Okay, do you want me to take notes? I can make a list and check it twice.

The PD ignores the question and starts the critique.

Credibility & Image

PD: First, your credibility is shot with adults. You’re just not believable. They aren’t buying into your whole story, and it starts with your name.

Where’d you get Saint Nicholas? They don’t think you’re being “real” with them. We have to change it. Come up with some ideas, and let’s discuss.

You need to spend more time talking about yourself and your real life. None of this “North Pole” stuff. Peel back the curtain and be authentic.

SANTA: But I live at the North Pole. I do.

PD: But your audience doesn’t. They live ordinary lives. They go to work, drive the kids around, and try to get through their day. You need to relate to them and how they live their life. Talk about how you drive a minivan and live in Springfield Heights.

SANTA: I guess I don’t know how to be authentic. I thought I was just being myself. Are you sure this is the best way to relate?

PD: (Silence).

Research & Gifts

PD: The last couple of years, you’ve been letting too many kids ask for toys that don’t test well with 35-44-year-old women. Those are the moms. You know, the target?

There are only about five real hits that everyone wants. Here’s a list. If little Lindsey asks for something that’s not on that list, ignore her and tell her you know she’ll like this better.


PD: She’ll take what you bring her. Don’t worry. She’ll adjust. Go with the research that appeals to mom. We can’t miss this.

SANTA:  Okay. I guess.

Music Choices

PD: Now, let’s talk about a few things about music. Our research found that most people like Christmas music in general, but there are 37 Christmas songs that nobody dislikes.

If you play those songs and get rid of all that other polarizing crap, we’ll keep them in the mall for hours. That may not seem like enough variety, but we’ll be fine if you tell them we play “A better mix of Christmas so you can listen longer.”

They’ll believe whatever you tell them. Research proves that this will make them like you.

SANTA: What about the true spirit of Christmas? And joy and family? And warm connections to better times? I want to make them feel Christmas emotionally.

PD: How about just playing the hits, huh, Santa? The hits. You know, the only songs people like? Geez. Which reminds me…

Less Talk, More Music

PD: Now that we have a definitive, safe list of the right songs, I need you to start playing more.

We know that they tune out as soon as you start to talk. So we’re removing some of the talk breaks with a recording that promotes”at least 10 Carols in a Row every hour” and a special “90-Minute Marathon to start the Shopping Day.”

You’ll take longer breaks and hang out in the back room more. We’ll drop in some of your voice tracks so you still have a presence.

SANTA: But I love Christmas music and can make it a part of what I do. Why can’t we have a big personality and play more music? My fans love both.

PD: Don’t worry. We will mention your name in the liners. Some promos will even say it’s “Santa’s Gift To You”. Cool, huh?

SANTA: But that makes no sense. They can get continuous Christmas music on Spotify, but they can’t get Santa.

PD: Right. And it’s working for Spotify, so what’s the problem here?

Sell The Music

PD: Okay, when you say something, your primary job is promoting the music. We have to play more Christmas hits than the other malls. And now that you brought it up, Spotify annoys me, too. Besides, Christmas songs are the real stars. That and the prizes….er, presents.

SANTA: But I get many letters at the North Pole and questions about the reindeer. I think they want to hear stories and have a bigger experience with Christmas.

PD: Well, they seem to like the music better. We did the research. We asked if they wanted to hear continuous Christmas songs that make them happy or listen to a big fat guy gushing about what he’s doing on Christmas Eve. They almost all said more music, less of the fat guy. So…maybe you can keep that in mind? A little?

SANTA: That’s how you asked the question?

PD: I can show you the research but I don’t want you to be depressed. Also, be sure to back-announce Elmo and Patsy. They hate it when we don’t identify every song and artist.

Positioning Statements

PD: It’s also important that we image the brand with Christmas, so starting now, every time you say anything, the first and last thing out of your mouth should be to remind them who plays the most Christmas songs. That’s how we’ll win Christmas.

Start every conversation with the positioning statement we talked about:

A Better Mix of Christmas and more of it featuring 10 Carols in a row every hour and a 90-minute marathon to start your shopping day.

Then do the break with the kids. Remember to keep it tight. Edit, Santa. Edit! And wrap it with a quick testimonial that supports our position. Ask:

Who plays the most Carols?

Get them to say, “Santa at the Springfield Mall.” If they don’t say it right, get them to repeat it after you. Avoid all that other stuff, like if they’ve been naughty or nice. All that milk and cookies chatter and carrots for the reindeer is self-indulgent clutter, anyway.

SANTA: But that positioning line takes a long time to say…

PD: We’ve done some tests, and we think you can do a great break in 12-14 seconds, so tighten up the personality part of it and use your skills to entertain and relate, baby!

SANTA: But that positioning line takes 10 seconds to say, and that’s if I say it fast and don’t put any personality into it. Help me here.

PD:  You’re a pro. How hard can it be?

Less Ho Ho Ho

PD: With shorter breaks, there’s less time for talk, so we need to cut it down, big fella. But we’ll let you have a longer content break once every 20 minutes.

There are several ways to do this and keep it tight. I noticed you’ve been saying “Ho, Ho, Ho” a lot. It seems repetitive. Do you need three ho’s to get your point across? How about just one?

Less Ho – More Carols. Everyone wins.

And can we cut down the time you chit-chat with the kids? We’ll have an intern screen them for their name….

SANTA: You mean an elf, right?

PD: Huh? Yes, an intern. The elves are out. Budget cut. But we have some 18-year-old kids from a Community college who understand how to work social media, so it’ll be an upgrade.

Now, when little Jason sits on your lap, just say, “Hi, Jason from Springfield, what do you want?” If they can’t tell you in the first few seconds, get them off and move on to the next kid. All that filler talk is killing forward momentum.

Energy, Santa! Energy! The clock is ticking! It might be cool to play a techno music bed behind talk breaks. That’ll keep the jams pumping when the talk brings it down.

SANTA: That has nothing to do with Christmas.

PD: Energy, not art, Santa. What part of that do you not understand? If you have to, jingle a few bells in the background. Whatever.

Promise It, Even If You Can’t Deliver

PD: This may not seem important to you, but in listening to some of the airchecks from last year, we noticed that you told the kids you’d “try” to get them the gift they want.

You need to promise them. No more being vague.

SANTA: But what if they don’t get it for Christmas? They’ll be disappointed and will stop believing in me.

PD: Yes, they may not get what they ask, but we don’t care. We want to get them through this Christmas season. We’ll worry about next year when it comes. I need time spent in the mall, Santa. Don’t worry about your fanbase. We need impact now.

No Jingle Bells-It Doesn’t Test

PD: In August, we did focus groups with eight people in a hotel room.

They spent four hours telling us what Christmas means and none of them cared about the sleigh bells. So get rid of them, and be sure to promote it.

We ran some slogans past them they got it when we asked if they understood “More Music, less Jingle.” It works. Let’s go with that.

SANTA: You tested this in August? Wasn’t it 95 degrees? In a hotel room? That doesn’t feel like Christmas. And sleigh bells are a classic part of Christmas.

PD: It was a motel. We had some trade. Listen, I know this seems extreme, but you must trust that we know what we’re doing. This is research. Science. We’re taking out all potential negatives, so we’ll keep the audience from going off to the competition.

SANTA: The competition?

How To Say Goodbye

PD: We’ve been thinking about this and are sure it will put you over the top. Do this, and I think you’ll become famous.

SANTA: I’m pretty well known.

PD: Not according to research.

I want you to end each conversation with a kid by asking them, “Who just made you the happiest kid at Christmas?”. Get them to say, “Santa Claus at Springfield Mall.” It’ll make great promos.

SANTA: But I already asked them who plays the most carols. And can’t they just say Santa?

PD: What? No, they have to say Springfield Mall. And your full name is Santa Claus. Otherwise, we won’t get credit. They HAVE to say it just like that.

SANTA: But what if they don’t?

PD: What do you mean, “What if they won’t say it?”. They have to say it just like that.  Look…I don’t care how long it takes. I’m not going to do your job for you. Be creative and keep asking until they get it right.

Oh, and make sure they sound excited.

And if you can get them to tag it with “Your home for Christmas fun,” it will be even better.

Think you can do that?

SANTA: (sighs)

Update the Formatics

PD: Hey, I just had a great idea. On second thought…take out the part about you. Just ask, “Where’s your home for Christmas fun?” Let’s open with that.

Start each conversation with a kid with that line. Say this:

“Welcome to Springfield Mall, your home for Christmas fun. I’m Santa playing a Better Mix of Christmas and more of it featuring 10 Carols in a row every hour and a 90-minute marathon to start your shopping day. What’s your name?”

SANTA: Really? Every time?

PD: Huh? Yeah. Every time. No exceptions. Thanks.

Personal Stories

PD: Now we need to talk about something you won’t like.

I need you to stop talking about yourself so much. Nobody cares about you or Mrs. Claus or Rudolph or what’s happening at the toy shop at the North Pole.

Those stories take too long. Get to the point.

SANTA: A few minutes ago, you told me you wanted me to tell more personal stories, and now…

PD: I changed my mind. Ask them how old they are and what they want for Christmas, and wrap it up. Tight and bright. Don’t waste time. You’ll get to more kids that way.

No more stories, okay? Parents will love this because they get pictures of you and their kid and can return to shopping.

SANTA: (Head in hands)

One Final Thing

PD: Finally, Santa…here’s an idea for consideration. Since the mall is our sponsor, and since it seems kids want different things, we decided that the one thing every kid can use is money or a gift card from the Springfield Mall. The sponsor is going to love it.

That way, they get whatever they want. It appeals to everyone, and our client makes more money.

So no more train sets or video games or electronic gadgets, okay? When they ask for it, switch them to a gift card from the mall. Everyone can relate to that.

SANTA: But that’s not much fun.

PD: What? Not as interesting or personal? Yeah, maybe, but everyone will want it. It’s universal. Trust me. We tested it. And the sponsors want it. It was their idea…so yeah, we kind of need to do this. You can always ask what they will buy at Springfield Mall with the gift card Santa is Bringing them.

By the way, that’s what the Easter Bunny did this year. It killed in focus groups.


The programmer has now completed the meeting. After the aircheck, the PD took a call just as Santa was about to ask another question. The PD waves him off and mouths, “We’ll talk. Keep up the good work.”

With that, a dejected Santa slumped out of the office and back into the mall, wondering why he ever decided it would be fun to be Santa in the first place.

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