How the Buzzard got the Duck

One of the most thankless behind-the-scenes jobs in radio is that of the promotion and marketing director. 

Promotions are expected to go well so rarely is there a formal thank you or acknowledgement for a successful event.    

To my knowledge, we were the first radio station to have a full-time promotion director.

I was the program director and Denny Sanders, the creative services director.   We already had a full plate of programming duties.   But we had to get the word on the street that we existed – especially at a time when the FM band was an optional frequency on most radios.

Denny and I prepared everything from on-air giveaways to promotions and contests ourselves with the assistance of the rest of the staff.   That meant dealing with our sales staff, clients, record labels, concert promoters and clubs.  It also involved scheduling personal appearances, delivering ad art to alternative weeklies, and providing station information to national trade magazines and local media.

It meant typing up – on an old Smith Corona typewriter with an off-kilter “e” – all promotional materials read or produced for on-air, giveaway sheets for the airstaff, weekly press releases, and a continual series of contingency plans.

As our ratings increased, so did the demand for promotion and marketing of WMMS.

Observing our plight, Carl Hirsch, who was at the time our VP/General Manager, persuaded corporate to open their purse, let the moth fly out, and give us a few extra dollars to hire a full-time promotion director for WMMS.

And we knew who we wanted.

Dan Garfinkel.    We had first met Dan when we did a unique sponsorship tie-in with Jacques Brel is Alive and Well at Playhouse Square, which wasn’t.

In 1970, Ray Shepardson, who was with the Cleveland school system, formed the Playhouse Square Association.  Its purpose was to rehab and rebuild the Palace, Ohio, and State Theaters.  Only one theater, the Allen, was functional.  The Ohio Department of Transportation and Cuyahoga County Commissioners wanted to raise the theaters for a proposed Interstate bypass.

In 1973, Shepardson staged a musical revue at the State Theater, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.  Native Clevelander Dan Garfinkel, not long out of Brandeis University, did promotion and marketing for the show, which was scheduled to run for three weeks.    But it kept getting extended.  Dan, being a rock and roller at heart, approached WMMS to do a special sponsorship of Jacques Brel, which we did, and it was a successful venture.

Coincidentally, Dan Garfinkel lived in right next to Murray Saul on the first floor of an apartment building at 2761Euclid Heights Blvd. in Cleveland Heights.  

Since everyone at WMMS was hanging out – and often at Murray’s for his never-ending parties, we got to know Dan well – and he was our one and only choice for the newly created promotion director position.

Among his many promotional feats and firsts was our innovative merchandising campaign, which included the retailing of T-shirts, jerseys, hats, scarves, and even roach clips.

Profits from the sale of most of these items went directly to specific independent charities.

Dan also supervised WMMS bumper sticker distribution.

And what happened to Jacques Brel?  The show continued for two years, which drew more attention to Playhouse Square and made Ray Shepardson’s dream to save Playhouse Square a reality.

WMMS was growing rapidly – and demands for promotion and marketing doubled every few weeks.   Dan was a stickler for attention-to-detail and picked up the nickname, “The Duck” for “quacking” whenever promotions or marketing proposals were incomplete – or deadlines were drawing close.

This in-house cartoon by David Helton illustrates a typical day in the life of the Duck.

For more on Dan Garfinkel, please turn to Chapters 11, 18, and 24 in The Buzzard  

 

 

 

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