Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When It Comes To Radio Broadcasters -- They Just Don't Make Them Like Al Tyrell Anymore

  I have worked with some incredible broadcasting legends during the twenty-five plus years that I toiled in the business.  Some of the names you would recognize from their work on air and then there were the others that worked behind the scenes who were just as important as those on the air that people turned on their radios to listen to. One of those “behind the scenes” people who made an impression on me is a salesman in Port Huron by the name of Al Tyrell.  A big bear of a man, Al Tyrell was an old school kind of salesman who didn’t have to convince you to advertise on his radio station by carrying in a bunch of rating books with numbers that you could twist and turn to say anything you want.  Nope, when Al Tyrell came into your business – he convinced you to buy advertising on his station because it worked and he made sure that it did.

  The main reason that the radio advertising that Al Tyrell sold worked so well was because of Al Tyrell.  Before Al stepped in front of a microphone, with that “voice from God” that he has, he would sit at his desk and personally write the commercial for his client. He didn’t use a computer or have a secretary transcribe his words – he wrote it in long hand with a pencil on yellow legal pad.

  And when it comes to writing commercials – Al didn’t have to follow some stylebook on how to write radio commercials or attend some advertising seminar where the “ones who know pass on the knowledge to those who don’t” – Al just knew what it took to make an effective radio commercial and he did it.  He knew it in his gut what to say and said it.  Plus, Al had an amazing gift for knowing how to deliver the message his advertisers wanted you to hear without a lot of fluff and minus the bullshit.  Once written – the advertisers’ message was delivered not by some screaming insincere announcer or a pimply-faced kid just out of broadcast school, but by a caring voice you could trust – Al Tyrell.

  When it came to selling radio advertising in Port Huron – there aren’t too many people who could come close to Al Tyrell in terms of sales.  There were no big or small accounts to Al Tyrell, because he treated all of his clients alike – whether it was some big agency account that bought in thousands of dollars a week or that one client that advertised for a week or two once a year.  

  I would venture a guess that Al would probably be pounding the streets selling radio advertising today, but radio changed and it’s almost like people like Al were pushed out…not because they didn’t produce – it’s they didn’t do it “the company way”. 

  Salespeople like Al Tyrell don’t come around every day.  They don’t yearn to climb the corporate ladder at some radio station – they just want to do their job – which is to sell.  Management knows that someone like Al Tyrell is going to write a lot of orders and bring a lot of money into the station – but there’s something about management that wants someone like Al to be just like everyone else – where not only do they expect you to sell – but they have you busy writing reports and projections that are nothing more than just paper for some department head to push around to justify their existence.  I think it’s safe to say that near the end of Al’s career as a radio salesperson, he was more than a little frustrated with all of the paperwork that he had to do – paperwork that took time away from him doing the job of selling and paperwork that he knew didn’t add any more money to his monthly sales figures. 

   It’s been a little more than seven years or since Al retired from selling radio in Port Huron, Michigan.  Oh, he dabbles in the industry here and there – writing and recording commercials for a few of his clients that he has served over the years – but for the most part – he’s enjoying the good life with a fishing rod on some lake with his grandson.  I’m sure he’s shared a few fish stories with his grandson – not about the ones that got away – but stories about how many fish they’re going to reel in today.

   I think it was the late Steve Allen who said that when you have to describe what makes a joke funny – the joke is no longer funny.  The same thing can be said about advertising -- once you try to analyze what makes a radio commercial great and try to do it over and over again – the next commercial might not be as good.  It’s people like Al Tyrell who knew just by instinct what made a great commercial and he delivered it time after time to a list of clients who wish that he was still doing it today.  But radio as an advertising medium has changed.  Today – it’s just facts and figures, reports and projections and the human element to the business is gone…and Al Tyrell – he’s gone too.  He’s out fishing and enjoying life while radio tries to figure if they’ll ever see the likes of someone like Al Tyrell again.