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Adman's Advocate 

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To the editors:

As someone who actually crafts those dastardly pre-recorded commercials for once-pure WFMT, I'd like to offer the devil's viewpoint on the whole business [Hot Type, January 26]. (You will understand why I must take the craven step of remaining anonymous.)

Basically my response is, get something real to worry about. I can understand the fear, that WFMT by taking pre-recorded spots is soon going to be as raucous and noisy as the Loop or WGN. But I can assure you that neither WFMT nor your friends in the advertising profession would ever allow that to happen.

A station like WFMT pulls in only a tiny share of the Chicago radio audience--but what it gets is choice. It makes a lot of money and it is discriminating in its tastes (which means it pays $12 for a pound of coffee). That audience does not want to hear ads about MONSTER TRUCK RALLIES AT ROSEMONT HORIZON THIS FRIDAY AND SATURDAY--BE THERE! So firstly, the people who make those kinds of commercials would never buy time on WFMT. It's just not their demographic.

But even if they did, the other advertisers wouldn't want their ads running next to them. It doesn't matter how much I paid Gene Hackman to do my United spot if he's preceded by an Oxy 5 commercial ("This is the sound of a zit . . . about to explode") that annoyed the hell out of you or, god forbid, made you turn the dial. So WFMT has guidelines which keep any single advertiser from disturbing the serene, easy-listening-for-PhDs atmosphere of a commercial classical radio station.

Ah, but you say, any pre-recorded spot is by its nature more annoying than a live-read script. Could be, though I must say having written for them I find it hard to work up much enthusiasm for the commercial delivery of WFMT's announcers. Wanting not to sound hucksterish, the WFMT guys have developed this weirdly emphasized, snoozy style that sounds like Garrison Keillor with a couple of six-packs in him. Given a choice between their straight delivery of one of those pompous financial services ads ("You work hard for your money, selling junk bonds and dismantling America's infrastructure. That's why you need the financial expertise of Boesky & Milken") and Gene Hackman doing a nice, crisp United commercial (no, I don't write them, damn) with Gershwin in the background, well . . . selling out to pre-recorded spots doesn't sound like such a bad deal.

If you want something to get angry about, anyway, ask yourself why classical radio has to have commercials at all. Why is there only one truly citywide public radio station in a city of Chicago's size? The middle-sized city I came from had no less than three stations playing classical, jazz and NPR. WFMT has gone to pre-recorded spots in order to survive. If the friends of WFMT want to save it from that, it won't be by returning to live-read only; do that and it'll be oldies rock a week later. The only way to have a "pure" WFMT is to find a way to get it out of the advertising market entirely. (Many of its longtime sponsors support it more as a public service than as a financially evaluated ad buy anyway; odds are they'd stick around.) But of course I didn't say that.

Anonymous Ad Guy

Chicago

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