10 Questions with ... Paige Nienaber
July 26, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
After being turned away from all the good media and under a fair amount of pressure from the State of Oregon to "maintain a job for at least three consecutive months," I started out in research and as de facto assistant to the morning show producer at KGON/Portland. I later went to KRCK in Portland where I learned to stack T-shirts in the prize closet. I took these mad skillz to WLOL in Minneapolis where I learned lots and lots of other things you can do in a prize closet. In 1989 I went to Kiss 102 in Charlotte as Director of Fun 'N Games ... one of the greatest stations ever and consulted by an odd little man named Jerry Clifton. I later went west to KSOL and was there to flip it to Wild 107. Shortly thereafter Clifton rewarded me for being the only person he'd ever met who was more immature than him, by bringing me into the company. For almost 19 years I've been suggesting redonculous and often profane ideas to radio stations ... and they do them. How can you possibly be on the fence about a higher authority in the universe?
1) How would you describe your first radio gig?
As a Freshman in college at Pepperdine, I wandered into the campus station KMBU expecting the women to look like Bailey Quarters and that I'd be scoring like a mad Canadian on a power play. I was wrong on both counts, but was totally hooked. I also set the station record for being suspended the most number of times. My academic career at this prestigious and religious school was ... brief.
2) What led you to a career in radio?
The whole Jan Smithers Thing(tm). Plus I woke up one day and was 26 and really not qualified for anything else.
3) Why do so many stations not understand the "show biz" aspect of Promotions?
Because they've worked in the industry long enough that they stopped thinking like listeners. One of the mantras I always try to pound into people's heads is that we're in a Six Degree Of Separation relationship with Steven Spielberg. The litmus test I impart for them is when tasked with, say, giving away front-row tickets to a huge musical event, what would George Lucas do? What would Monty Hall do? Would they stick them in the VIP Club and send a text code that would be worth bonus points? Probably not. Would they do "Race To The Front Row" and take five listeners in "psych ward" jumpsuits and dump them 50 miles away (plastic handcuffs are assumed) and the first person to get back gets the tickets? Probably.
So, we're thinking that you're not exactly the "Family Four-Pack Guy"...
Someone should have taken that name, along with "Summer Survival Kits" and "Win It Before You Can Buy It," out behind the barn to be destroyed by the local vet. (Sorry. I live in Scandia, Minnesota. That's how we roll.) We're in the word business. We're supposedly great masters of communication. So why would you do promotions that undoubtedly have been done by every other station in town ... 10 times? Dave Ryan from KDWB and I had a competition to come up with replacement names for these contests and our database of friends and colleagues voted on the best. I owe Dave a beer and Dave owes me a transgender Thai prostitute. Ask nicely and I'll send you the lists. But not the hooker.
4) When hiring a promotion director, what do you look for?
It depends. If there's a creative braintrust in the building who are generating the ideas, then you need a detail anal-freak (in the good way) who can implement these things. I look for people who can change "plays" at the drop of a dime. Who can react quickly and make adjustments? No football coach goes out on the field with every play mapped out and by God that's the order he's going to do them in. I changed the weekend contest in San Francisco at 7 pm on a Friday. Why? Because I was doing movie tickets and KMEL was doing a trip to see Prince in LA. It took three calls and a rewrite of the copy over the phone but by 7:30 we were doing Prince in Paris. It was totally unacceptable to be beaten on any, even a weekend, promotion.
I also look for people who are "fun." Great Promotion Directors have an office that is The Fun Center Of The Station Universe. And you hear that on the air. If they're hyper and can't stand still for more than five seconds? That's a bonus.
5) What is your favorite part of the job?
I love the travel and love going to stations and CREATING stuff. No one is coming up with new stuff anymore. Except a few stations and I'd like to think they were clients. I also enjoy being able to work at home with my wife (a former intern of mine) and the Paigettes, who we adopted in 2001 and 2003.
6) What is the most challenging part of the job?
Hanging. I remember starting this gig in '92 and going out all night with Bob West, Rick Thomas and the people at Hot 102 for a night of drinking in Milwaukee. I was just asked by the women at Power 96 in Miami if I wanted to join them for a night out. They had a limo and were hitting South Beach. I said, and I quote, "I've got a flight at 9 in the morning. I'm just going to go to the hotel, do some work and go to bed early."
7) What are some of the coolest promotions you've been involved with recently?
Q-107.5/Memphis Live Eye For The Bieber Guy.
And a live manhunt for someone with an iPhone streaming to the station website. You found them in real-time based on the visual.
I was just up at Hot in Ottawa for the most thorough asskicking and takeover of a concert in recent history. Photos and description at my FB page under "Rihanna Ottawa."
Flying a banner over Charlie Sheen's house.
And "The Running Of The Balls:" a dial position number of golf balls, numbered, hurtled down the interior staircase at Citadel in Albuquerque and Clear Channel in Minneapolis. Done for front row tickets for Rihanna and Britney respectively.
Also, the Naked Wedding at BRMB in the U.K. Pics are on my FB page (the sound of scampering feet).
8) What's the coolest promotion you've EVER been involved with?
One of the PDs shot me an e-mail and asked me for the-10 ten promotions of all time. Wow. I'd never thought about that. I got some beer and a legal pad and started a stream-of-conscious listing. When it was over, except for the Beach House that KXME did in Honolulu, the other nine were all situations where radio stations reacted and responded to circumstances. Hurricanes. World Series victories. Tragedies. Earthquakes. Celebrity stupidity. How can we argue for the relevance of the medium when your station ignores (and I don't count a blurb on the website and a link to the Red Cross) a tornado hitting your market?
9) What's one thing that would surprise many people to learn about you?
I've never killed a listener. I had a VP ask that. Seriously. Shaking his head... "So, really, how many listeners have you killed?" I paused, looked thoughtful and reflected for a moment and replied, "Killed? No. I never killed a listener..." I did, however, get clipped by a car at a remote (paid for my wedding), have an event get hit by a tornado, almost fell 150 feet off a bridge while hanging a banner, broke nine ribs in a limo accident and ski'ed into a tree on a station promotion. At the end of the day, I'm way WAY more dangerous to myself than the audience.
10) What is it about our industry that keeps you wanting to do it for a living?
Occasional moments of brilliance from stations that make me just shake my head and go, "Holy crap, that was cool. I wish I'd thought of that." Drunk Canadian street-teamers. And when I see a station that actually rises to the occasion and does something tangible and compelling in their community. A Jerry Clifton line: "All the ratings trickery in the world won't beat a station that's connected emotionally to the audience."
How has the invention of the Flowbee changed the way you approach radio promotions?"
Because of the Flowbee, I've been able to cut my own hair, thus saving me over TEN DOLLARS a year, and that allows me to maintain the same style I've had since Marshall Tucker was a Power and also, I use it to buy underage interns beer at concerts.
Can you expense the entire case of Coors Light, or just the ones you drank writing promos for the Mix 106 Fathers Day "Vasectervention?"
Expense? No. Bill to the client? Yes. Deduct? No. Never. My ministry has been under so much scrutiny for selling faith healings as medical procedures that I'm not playing around with the IRS anymore. No way. No how.