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Cover Story: Paige Nienaber, VP/Fun ‘N Games, C.P.R Promotions


Paige Nienaber

It’s not often that you can stake claim as being known
as the best in your field, but Paige Nienaber comes darn close. As VP of Fun ‘N Games for C.P.R. Promotions, Paige’s name is always top of mind with some of the most respected programmers in the business when it comes to creative promotions. The sole purpose of C.P.R. is to provide the PDs, promotions staff and sales people with the best new ideas available. And as Paige says, “There aren’t a lot of those floating around the industry anymore. It’s all about looking for something that hasn’t been done before, and that will get people talking. It’s all about ideas. Whoever has the best ideas usually wins, unless they’re playing a lot of stiffs. This is an industry that is mired in Family Four-Packs, key-turning car giveaways and on-air weddings for Valentines Day.”  Paige prides himself on dealing with stations that are progressive enough to realize that it’s what’s between the songs that makes all the difference in competitive battles. He’s even recently authored a book on radio promotions, the first ever that we know of, titled Radio Promotions From A To Y (“Z” was budgeted out for 2009) (www.anactualbookonradiopromotions.com). When it comes to promotions, be it off the wall or community minded, there’s no doubt that Paige Nienaber is the Promotions Guru! Michael Martin, Operations Manager, Clear Channel/Los Angeles may have summed it up best, “Marketing without Paige is like Blazing Saddles without the fart scene. It’s just not the same.”  

What first got you interested in radio promotions?

The fact that after failing horribly as the worst overnight person in the history of early-Sunday-morning-minimum-wage-hacks, they still were willing to have me hang around the station.

How did you convince a successful consultant like Jerry Clifton into hiring you

Credit card receipts from VIP Asian Spa off the 101 in San Mateo. That and the fact that the guy who’d had this dream gig before me had been playing interim PD at Wild in San Francisco and one day they gave him the reins fulltime. Then over a celebratory lunch, it suddenly dawned on me: holy crap, the dream gig was OPEN! So I cautiously ventured, “Uh, so, hmmm…, who’s getting the job with Jerry?” He said something to the effect of “Why not you?” I called Jerry when we got back to the station. It was done in 120 seconds and I’ve held on to the job with a death grip ever since.

Having worked for Clifton back in the day, Jerry’s start-ups and format flips were known not only for adding those so-called “Clifton Records” but implementing creative promotions were also key. How much fun was it being involved with Clifton and some of the biggest and most successful stations in the country?

It’s the stuff of beer commercials. The first five hours of a radio station are probably the most critical five hours in its life. A weak launch will emasculate it. A company that starts with a “C” hired me to help launch a station. I created an audio movie, a storyline. Upper upper-most management wasn’t feeling it, they trashed the idea and went into spots playing Kenny Chesney and came out playing Ludacris. A week later I flew in, went down to the zips and spoke with about 400 people; no one had heard of the station. They’re on their third format since then. On the other hand, I took the scripts, rewrote them for a launch in Canada, station debuted at #2 and the thing won an award. God bless the Canucks for having balls and not over-thinking stuff.

At what point did you realize this could become a business model for you beyond just the Clifton stations?
 
It was Jerry’s idea. Sitting with the late, great Jay Stone on the rocks a Kailua, having a liquid lunch and Jerry said something like “You know, there are a lot of people who would never hire me. But everyone needs good ideas.” I’m a horrible, awful sales person. I have essentially stumbled upon every one of my clients. First client was WZPL in Indy. Scott Sands is a mensch!

You currently advise over 100 radio stations across the U.S, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean. Is this what you envisioned…world domination?
 
World domination was actually the easiest. Now I want to conquer extreme northeast Washington County and impose my thoughts and beliefs on the citizenry. And even more importantly, punish the nay-sayers!  

You’re now an author of “An Actual Book On Radio Promotions.” What‘s covered in the book?
In retrospect, I could have gotten way more into new revenue streams and all that stuff. But with so many people having totally lost sight of the fundamentals, I thought I’d stick to the basics. Contesting. Lifestyle. Bad Sales Requests. Street Marketing. Clubs. Movies. Cars. Morning Shows. Websites. 25 chapters in all.

What makes a great radio promotion?
 
The best promotion in the world is so damn zeroed in on the specific lifestyle of those specific listeners in that specific market, that to try to explain it to your Radio Buddy in Albuquerque…he wouldn’t get it.

Where do the really crazy ideas come from?
 
My mom, who passed away this year, nailed it: “Thank God you drifted into a career that rewards immaturity.” I stopped evolving and maturing at about the same time that Kerry Brown got boobs; 6th grade.

What do you look for in a great promotions director?
 
Hyper. Bouncing. And someone who can add to and accentuate the vibe in the hallways. Fun radio stations create fun product. And that is usually something that emanates from that department. They need to have amazing detail skillz (“z” intentional) and the ability to keep 128 balls in the air at once. Great Promotion Directors can easily segue into a career as either a psychologist or an air traffic controller.

You’re known for out-of the box promotional ideas. But how do you promotionally address issues of concerns in communities?
 
The best of all time promotions were instances where radio stations reacted quickly and decisively to opportunities (usually sad, tragic situations) that occurred in their community or in other markets. To be a radio station in the U.S. and not “do something” with Virginia Tech or the Oklahoma City bombing or 9/11 or Katrina, is sad and pathetic. On the other hand, I saw a quote from a PD in Omaha who was talking about that city’s tragic mall shooting two years ago. His line was, “we’ll continue to be a part of the healing”. Translated: We’re not doing shit. What an idiot!

With the economy the way it is nowadays, what are some cool promotions radio stations can do that are cost effective?

Bit Marketing. One bit after another after another. Movies, concerts, a charity drive, a morning show stunt, something based around a Hallmark Holiday and then back to the start of the line up. One thing after another, one ends, and the next begins.

What’s the biggest mistake a radio station makes when it comes to implementing promotions?

Over-thinking it. With an ode to David Byrne: “stop making sense.” Promotions are about people noticing you. That’s all.

What advice would you offer to owners and GMs that are continually cutting their promotional budgets?
 
Focus on being local. You can’t cut that from a budget. And the station across the street with the guy from California with the nice cheekbones, can’t do that either. Paper Moon was an outstanding film. In the Depression, people sought solace in entertainment. Movies and Radio. This could be our Finest Hour. And when the course is corrected, hopefully we’ve reminded people of the legitimacy and place in their lives that this medium can have. Oh, and I’d tell the GM to hire me. Less than the cost of a van driver and I can work with the sales to vacuum up the revenue crumbs left on the proverbial carpet.

*** QB Content by Bob Burke ***


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