GETTING MORE TALE #879: Advertising & the Pennysaver
The Record Store didn’t do oodles of advertising. We had a limited budget. We usually ran ads in the Pennysaver, a free weekly ad paper. Their rep with us was a super ducky guy named Dana McMullen. He was a sharp dresser with a talent for layout. We got along immediately because he was a Queensryche fan. It was always amusing to me how you could run into fellow rock fans almost anywhere. Dana didn’t look like a metal head. His hair and suits were meticulous. But he loved his Queensryche. We were both pretty fond of 1994’s Promised Land.
We opened the store that I first managed in 1996. It was a dry period for Queensryche, but then in ’97 came Hear in the Now Frontier. I was disappointed with it, and told Dana as much, but he bought it like any loyal fan would. He was a good guy.
Dana left the Pennysaver shortly after, and we had a new rep. I can’t remember her name, just that she always called me “Dude”, which I hated. (The part of working retail that isn’t in the manual is that you have to get used to people calling you “Dude”, “Chief”, and “Bud”.) Advertising with the new rep wasn’t as smooth as it was with Dana. I remember she messed up some important details on a few of our ads. One day she was meeting with the Boss Man about these mistakes and she left in tears. Yikes! I didn’t get a “See ya Dude!” from her that day.
I know from making in-store signage that the Boss was hard to please. In 1994, I was green and just started. The first display I ever made, he hated. It was a simple enough job. We got free posters from the record companies all the time, but the Boss didn’t want plain old posters taped to the walls. He wanted them framed. One night he left me with the job to frame some of the free posters we got. The only issue was that the large posters didn’t fit the medium sized frames, so you had to chop them up and make them fit. He assigned me to frame a Jann Arden poster for her second album Living Under June. It was such a huge image of Jann that I couldn’t just trim the edges and make it fit. It was a vertical poster but he wanted the frame horizontal. I had to chop it into pieces and have the picture of Jann on one side and the name and album title on the other. The boss hated it and made sure I knew it. He couldn’t tell me what he wanted it to look like, just that what I made wasn’t it. Fortunately we hired T-Rev shortly after and he was much more artistically inclined. I was relieved of my sign making duties.
I’m sure when he looks at my site now, the Boss must still think my graphic skills still suck because they haven’t changed much!
We expanded to radio ads. I hated our jingle, but I remember early conversations with the radio people that could have taken us in another direction. Although he had a tiny office in the back, it wasn’t really good for meetings, so the Boss would have a lot of his meetings in the store. I was there when one radio guru pitched his ad concept.
“It’s Beavis and Butt-head see, and they go, ‘Hey Butt-Head, heh heh, where should we sell these awesome used CDs?’”
The boss wasn’t into that one. “I think Beavis and Butt-Head are a little passé,” he asserted.
He might have been right, but I didn’t agree with that; the Beavis and Butt-Head movie was only a year old. Their voices were recognizable. The Boss just didn’t like them. My only contention was that I could do better Beavis and Butt-Head voices than the radio guru. We didn’t need him!
While I didn’t always enjoy having these meetings going on in my workspace, and having to work around these people, it was fun listening in. Sometimes the Boss would ask afterwards what I thought of the pitch.
Later on, after we started expanding and (in my opinion) losing our path a bit, the Boss hired an expensive marketing expert. I didn’t care for her ideas. I remember he sent us one of her proposals and it just lost me. We were supposed to read it and offer our feedback. I thought we were a music store, and here’s this marketing proposal with all these empty buzzwords in it. Words like “synergy”. It felt like a huge disconnect between upper management and working on the floor. The business was simple – we bought CDs from the public, and we sold them back to the public. Now we’re spending money on marketing while I have to wait weeks just to get paid my mileage cheques.
Having said all this, take it with a grain of salt. He’s still in business and this year will be celebrating his 30th anniversary. He must be doing something right.