Awareness And The Marketing Mind of Brad Booker
May 20, 2014
If I could name three qualities I wish every on-air personality I hired had a background in, improv would be first and foremost, followed by the ability to be aware of EVERYTHING -- and then, the desire to be transparent, authentic, themselves.
The year was 1998. The station was B97 New Orleans.
Frank Bell, the VP/Programming at that time for Sinclair Broadcasting out of Baltimore (now with Taylor Swift's camp, so I'm sad life hasn't worked out well for him), had come for a market visit. He said, "In the next couple of days, we should start figuring out who you'd like to interview for mornings, middays and afternoons."
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
Since I was leaving B93.7 in Greenville at the time, I was allowed to steal one of my former employees, so I swallowed up one of the best music flow specialists/night jocks I had ever met, Jonathan Campbell, a.k.a. J. Love, who is now in Las Vegas with CBS. He would be my MD for the second time, and the only thing that was greater than his talent was his loyalty.(Surrounded by Silk: Patty Steele at the board, J. Love, center in the white polo, Wagman in the black polo, Brad Booker in yellow golf pullover, during a Silk promo tour in 1999.)
To Frank Bell's surprise, instead of starting to figure it out, I had already whittled the airchecks of all the talent that I had already received down to the PERSON I wanted to hire in each daypart.
I played him the aircheck of Patty Steele, who was just up the road in Biloxi. I wanted her for middays. After hearing her first two breaks, he said, "Hire her." I did.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Then, I played him Brad Booker, a demo from St. Louis, who I was considering for PM drive. He loved it but wanted me to focus first on AM drive.
Time had gone by since the first time I had contacted Brad Booker, so when I finally called him to get the ball rolling, he answered the phone; it was late in the evening.
I responded, "Hey jerk, I want to talk to you about coming to New Orleans to do PM drive." He paused and I could hear the disappointment in his voice, as he said, "Well I hadn't heard from you, so I took that as you not having interest, so I took a job in Birmingham, I'm packing right now ... I leave tomorrow."
THE CHANGING OF DESTINATIONS
Here's where improv makes life fun, as I was definitely about to fight for what I wanted. My response was, "Well, that's gonna suck when you have to call them and tell them you're not coming!"
And I am sure it did suck for Brad when he made that call, but he started a couple weeks later.
Because I am a stickler for odd, creative types, who have a deep curiosity for the things of life, what I loved immediately about Brad was his zest to learn everything he could about New Orleans, and he did and as he learned, he would share this with the staff.
This became my template for the rest of my career, as I learned from Brad that awareness is a key ingredient in penetrating the marketplace, claiming territory and sticking your flag in that piece of ground while you explore for more.
During his job interview, my OM, Nick "Bazoo" Ferrara and I had taken Brad to lunch at Planet Hollywood. It was a double date, as I was also interviewing Wayne "Wankus" Lewis for AM drive, and there we all sat as the waitress came to our table, and Brad asks, "Hey, I heard that you have Michael J. Fox's high school yearbook in here somewhere?"
The waitress answered, excitedly as if she would like to see this too, "Wow, really, no, I have never seen it, I will ask around."
I found Brad's question odd, wondering how he'd know this, and why he cared, but then, didn't give it another thought as the waitress left. Before the waitress arrived at the table, Nick Ferrara was in the middle of riveting us with stories of New Orleans, since he was the man in that town, and had been there from the start and through the original heyday of WEZB, B97. Nick picked up right where he left off.
LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE
There is a rule in improv called "Give and Take," and that is simply to not jump on your partner while he or she is saying something, so Brad patiently listened to Nick finishing up his story, and when he breathed, Brad popped in, "Hey, and by the way, Michael J. Fox's high school yearbook is right there," and he points, and where it was on the wall was less than three inches from the waitress' head, when she was taking our order.
We broke out in thunderous laughter, and one of my greatest joys from those days in New Orleans was the laugh of Nick Ferrara, which when laughing, he was a man purely full of joy. He had it at that moment.
Once in place, Brad's curious awareness would strike often, but the gold it produced in visibility for the station was far beyond TV commercials, billboards and other advertising means of that day.
I DID NOT HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH THAT WOMAN
When Monica Lewinsky came through New Orleans on a book tour, Brad contacted the book store and before he was done, they had given him exclusive access to Monica Lewinsky and the on-site of the book store that day, and except for TV stations and newspapers, all radio press was sent off the premises. More than 1,500 showed up and Monica Lewinsky and the staff of B97 became friends from that point forward, and friends is all we became, by the way, so unlike President Clinton, when I say, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," I am telling the truth.
There was a Britney Spears impersonator contest done at a Los Angeles radio station in 1999, and the winner got the prize of being able to meet Britney Spears, but somehow when the winner revealed that she was a "he," fooling everybody, the contestant never got the grand prize and in '99, going viral wasn't like it is today, where it happens in seconds, but weekly the story was leaking and Brad thought it would be a great idea to get this person to New Orleans the day of the Britney concert, do a mini pre-show concert at our booth outside, and then use our only Meet N' Greet pass we had for this show to get him to the prize that he had won fair and square.
OOPS, HE DID IT AGAIN
The result: Every news magazine from People to E! News on site, covering the impersonator doing the performance in front of the back drops of B97, airing nationwide that evening, and in pictures in every magazine, not to mention, the 2,000 crammed around our space to catch the performance, and afterward, People magazine got to take the only picture allowed of the two meeting, and that was then seen everywhere.
Awareness starts with curiosity, and with a simple plan of action to follow, the end result can be monstrous. These are just three of the numerous instances I could expound upon, from the mind of Brad Booker.
Brad, who has spent time in morning drive in New Orleans, Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Evansville, IN, is presently at KAMX/Austin.