Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Clear Channel Pulls a "Big One" in Cincinnati

They say timing is everything. This is certainly true for a blog like Talking Radio.

On Monday we posted a story about how Clear Channel’s Cincinnati Operations Manager, Darryl Parks had challenged our accusation that he was instrumental in the purge of the Liberal talk radio format in three Ohio markets -- WSAI/1360 in Cincinnati, WTPG/1230 in Columbus and WARF/1350 in Akron.

Parks, who identified himself as "the Grim Reaper to ‘progressive’ talk radio," claimed on his blog that he was "not that powerful," and "if the radio sucks, the program will be on a suicide mission all by itself. "

Then on Tuesday we posted a story about the launch of a syndicated talk radio show. The Mario Solis-Marich Show debuted yesterday on two Entravision stations -- KHRO/1650 in El Paso and KNVO-FM/101.1 in McAllen-Brownsville, targeting the booming Hispanic market in an English language format.

Now, today we are reporting on the strange confluence of these two stories. It seems that Parks and rest of the nutty Clear Channel management team in Cincinnati decided to pull down about a dozen billboards that contained a blatantly offensive message that offended many members of community in general and virtually all Hispanics in particular.

The billboards, created by Clear Channel’s marketing department and the Lamar Advertising Agency, were intended to promote WLW/700, which is referred to in Cincinnati as "The Big One." So what those creative ad guys came up with were billboards showing a donkey and a man wearing a sombrero with the slogan "The Big Juan." (Get it?)

The response from the Hispanic community was swift and indignant.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Alfonso Cornejo presented a hand-delivered letter to the WLW station management last week demanding that the signs be taken down. The letter also demanded that Clear Channel offer a written apology to the Hispanic community and an explanation for the "hateful campaign" by the area's top-rated station.

"Perhaps someone at your station believes there was humor in this hateful campaign. But rest assured, this is not funny in the least," said the Chamber's letter.

Copies were also sent to Clear Channel corporate executives in San Antonio, Texas.

Chamber board members also have discussed a possible boycott of the station and its advertisers.

Although no written apology has been issued, Chuck Frederick, Clear Channel’s Cincinnati Market Manager told the Enquirer that all of the signs would be removed by yesterday.

A spokesman from Lamar Advertising, says one billboard could cost between $5000 and $7000 a month. However, since Clear Channel is the largest billboard operator in the U.S., it is likely that were able to get a better deal than that.

Now does anybody really think that Clear Channel executives, even Parks, the self appointed "Grim Reaper," really thought that this promotional campaign would not produce a public outcry? Of course, they knew it would, and that is why they went ahead and did it.

Since the controversy erupted last week, WLW has received tons of free publicity in the local newspapers and on all of the TV news stations.

John Kiesewetter, Enquirer radio reporter, summed it up on his blog:

Was anybody surprised that the Spanish-language billboards were put up by WLW-AM? In phase two of the campaign, there's a Mexican fellow, "The Big Juan." But we already knew that WLW-AM was the ugly American.... This helps build ratings? Only by having people talk about WLW.

Right wing talk radio blogger, Brian Maloney, also feels that there was a ratings strategy behind WLW's racist campaign:

Cinci's megatalker has enraged ethnic separatists at the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as radical leftists at the area chapter of LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens. Was it really that easy to trick them?...just in time for the spring ratings book

And WLW aging conservative white male audience ate it up. Here are a few comments from WLW radio listeners:

Absolutely hilarious billboard. Keep it up, Clear Channel. This stuff is a riot.

I get tired of all the Mexican crap. My birth certificate says Ohio, not O-Mexic-O. If the Mexicans don't like it, leave!

To all of you who are sooooo outraged about WLW and the billboard campaign, thanks. It's tools like you who are the reason Speedy Gonzales cartoons have been banished from the face of the earth.

This appears to be the m.o. of talk radio stations in the post Imus era. They seem to follow the formula that it is easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask permission. That’s why JC and Elvis are profusely apologizing to the Asian community for their five minute bit insulting several employees of a Chinese Restaurant.


Anonymous said...

"They seem to follow the formula that it is easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask permission."

That is the watchword of former WLW/Jacor/Clear Channel boss, Randy Michaels - the first person I ever heard use the phrase.

They also follow the old saw, "There's no such thing as bad publicity."

Anonymous said...

It was a dumb ad. Stations do dumb promotions. Hosts say dumb things on the air.
And then the some group or grandstander starts ranting and the station caves in.
OK, this time it's a minority group taking a position to which many on this board will be sympathetic.
Tomorrow, it's going to be Jerry Falwell or some right wing lawyer.
Do we really want the Al Sharptons of the world deciding what can be on the radio? I don't.