This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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Sold on Radio, 3rd Ed.
by Jim Cox
bibliography, index, 322 pp.
Paperback, $ 25
McFarland & Co. , Box 611 ,
Jefferson, NC 28640
800-253-2187 (order line)
Book review by Hank Ickes
(From Radio Recall, October 2013)
Something strange appears to have
happened between the first publication of this book and this edition. More on that shortly. As
Michael Hayde reported in his December 2008
review of the first edition, Jim Cox is well-known in
the Old-Time Radio community for his prolific
output on various aspects of the hobby. This
2013 paperback edition lists 12 of his titles on
OTR. You'd think: he's done a lot of research
over the years, so he probably has much to
contribute on radio advertising.
In Part I of II, Cox guides the reader through
a history of oral advertising from ancient
Babylonia to the 21st Century. He covers both
the actual "pitching" of wares by voice and how its
effectiveness has been analyzed over time. And
as before, Part II looks at the histories of firms
and conglomerates which had a major impact on
network radio (and occasionally TV) advertising
over the years, offering examples of the
commercials they aired. One appendix discusses
100 smaller advertisers; another looks at the
impact that contests, testimonials, voiceovers,
sound effects, premiums, and other refinements
have had. And there's a glossary of terms
specific to advertising on radio.
Anecdotes from people who were there give
a more human face to what is nearly a textbook
and a section on how writing for radio differs from
print media offers useful examples. There's also
a look at audience ratings services and practices
to help de-mystify that arcane science (a
comparison graph or table or two would help the
reader keep those numbers straight).
Quibbles? Here's where I'm baffled about
possible differences between the first edition
which I didn't have access to at the time of writing, and this latest. Errors may have crept in
which editors should have caught
- The 2013 edition omitted one service which
was important to radio audience ratings in the
latter 20th Century - The Pulse, Inc. Dr. Sydney
Roslow began providing audience estimates
called "The Pulse of New York" in 1941 , based on
a personal interview roster-recall method he'd
developed. By the early 1960s, "Pulse" was
publishing reports in 250 radio markets around
the country and was the dominant local radio
audience measurement service. Eventually,
though, the American Research Bureau carne to
dominate the field, and Pulse went out of
business in 1978. 1
- In the discussion of effective use of soundeffects
he missed mentioning the famous Stan
Freberg spot "draining" Lake Michigan and filling it
with hot chocolate, plus other fun. You can find this
on YouTube if you wish to enjoy it.
- He also left out mention of humorist Jean
Shepherd's unsponsored "commercial" for
Sweetheart soap over WOR in New York City
which, while triggering unexpected product sales
surges, also demonstrated to station
management his effectiveness as a pitch man
(and saved his job).
Nowhere else have I seen Patty, Maxene,
and Laverne's family name spelled "Andrew": it's
always been"Andrews" And why not include an
internet link to some actual old ads?
My recommendation - if you want a more-than-casual review of early radio advertising,
check around for someone who has a copy and
read that person's.
1. "TheAudience Measurement Business," from
Ratings Analysis: The Theory and Practice of Audience Research. James G. Webster, Patricia
F. Phalen, Lawrence W. Lichty (3rd. Ed.,
ISBN-13: 9780805854107, Publisher: Taylor &
Francis, October 2005, also Pub. Date:
20051031 , by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Hank Ickes' interest in Old-time Radio began as a
child living in and near New York City when his
father was an Associate Director at CBS Radio
and WCBS. Visits to his father's "office" got him
re-creating shows at home with siblings using
castoff copies of scripts. He studied broadcasting
and advertising at Syracuse University and
worked at Cunningham & Walsh and Grey
advertising agencies in New York.