A Programmer Air Checks Santa
by Tracy Johnson
What would happen if Santa Claus were an air talent, and a programmer were to review his performance? Here’s how it may go if a programmer air checks Santa.
It’s a one-way discussion, because the PD has a lot on his mind:
A Programmer Air Checks Santa
Okay, Santa, here’s the deal. We need to talk. It’s Christmas time, your biggest time of the year, and the ratings aren’t what they used to be. I know 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’s a few things we have to fix right away. And if we don’t make some big adjustments, there’s going to be some serious issues.
Credibility & Image
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. You need to spend more time talking about yourself and what your real life is like. None of this “North Pole” stuff.
Research & Gifts
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. There’s only about 5 hits that everyone wants. Here’s a list. If little Lindsey asks for something not on that list, ignore her and tell her that you know better. She’ll take what you bring her. Don’t worry. She’ll adjust.
Now: A couple of 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 just 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 as long as you tell them that 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.
Less Talk, More Music
Now that we have the definitive safe list of the right songs, I need you to start playing more of it. We know that as soon as you start to talk, they tune out. So we’re replacing some of your act with “at least 10 Carols in a Row every hour” and a special “90 Minute Marathon to start the Shopping Day.” You’ll just take a few 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.
Sell The Music
When you do say something, your primary job is to promote the music. Nobody really cares about you. The Carols are the star. That and the prizes….er, presents. And be sure to back-announce Elmo and Patsy. They told us they hate it when we don’t identify every song and artist.
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 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 your break with the kids, and wrap it with a quick testimonial that supports our position. You’ll ask, “Who plays the most Carols?” then get them to say “Santa.” You don’t need to ask all that other stuff, like if they’ve been naughty or nice. All that milk and cookies chatter was self-indulgent, anyway. We’ve done some tests on this, and we think you can do a great break in 12-14 seconds, so tighten it up and use your skills to entertain and relate, baby!
Less Ho Ho Ho
With shorter breaks, there’s less time for talk, so we need to cut it down a bit, big fella. There’s several ways to do this. I noticed you’ve been saying “Ho, Ho, Ho” a lot. It seems repetitive. Do you really 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 amount of time you chit-chat with the kids? We’ll have an intern screen them for their name….Huh? Yes, an intern. The elves? Sorry, budget cut. The elves are out. But we have some 18 year old kids from Community college that get social media so it’ll be an upgrade.
So 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!
Promise It, Even If You Can’t Deliver
This may not seem important to you, but in listening to some of the tapes 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. Yes, I know they may not actually get what they ask for, but we don’t really care about that. We just want to get them through this Christmas season. We’ll worry about next year when it comes. We need impact now.
No Jingle Bells-It Doesn’t Test
Finally, back in August, we did some focus groups with 8 people in a hotel room. They spent four hours telling us what Christmas means to them, and they don’t care about jingle bells. So get rid of them, and be sure to promote it. We ran some slogans past them and they really got it when we asked if they understood “More Music, less Jingle.” It works. Let’s go with that.
Listen, I know this seems extreme, but you have to trust that we know what we’re doing. We’re taking out all potential negatives, so we’ll definitely keep the audience from going off to the competition.
How To Say Goodbye
We’ve been thinking about this, and are pretty sure this is what will put you over the top. Do this and I really think you’ll be famous.
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. What? No, they ahve to say Springfield Mall. Otherwise, we won’t get credit.
Yeah, they HAVE to say it just like that. What do you mean, “What if they won’t say it?”. They have to say it just like that. Yeah, 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?
Hey, on second thought…take out the part about you. Just ask where’s your home for Christmas fun. You know what? Let’s open with that. Start each conversation with a kid with that line. Say, “Welcome to Springfield mall, your home for Christmas fun. I’m Santa.”
Huh? Yeah. Every time. Thanks.
Now we need to talk about something you’re not going to like. I need you to stop talking about yourself so much. Nobody cares about you or the elves or Mrs. Claus or Rudolph or what’s happening at the toy shop at the North Pole. Those stories just take too long to tell. Get right to the point. Ask them how old they are, what they want for Christmas and warp it up. Tight and bright. Don’t waste time.
Your personal life? Yeah, let’s cut out the stories, okay?
One Final Thing, Santa
Finally, Santa…here’s an idea. Just for your consideration. You see, we did some research and it seems kids want different things. So we decided that the one thing every kid can use is money or a gift card. That way they get whatever they want. It appeals to everyone.
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. What? Not as interesting or personal? Yeah, maybe, but everyone will want it. It’s universal. Trust me. We tested it.
And that’s what the Easter Bunny did this year. It killed in focus groups.
The programmer has now completed the meeting. After he air checks Santa, the PD takes a call just as Santa is about to ask a question. But 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 wondering why he ever decided it would be fun to be Santa in the first place.
Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.