Welcome to the newly created Virtual Ad Club Interview Series. Whether you’ve been in the business for 20 years or 20 minutes, we can all learn something from each other’s experiences. And that’s our goal here.
Our own Ami Cadugan sat down with William (Bill) Phenix, Senior Marketing Consultant at The River (WXRV-FM, Boston’s Independent Radio station), to chat about his career and learn his thoughts on the state of the advertising industry today. We hope you will find his insights to be beneficial, especially for our readers who are new to the industry.
Q: How did you get started in the advertising business? What sparked your interest?
A: As a kid I found TV commercials to be far more fascinating than the shows they were sandwiched between. I’d worked in the retail, hotel and food service industries, prior to becoming an ad man. But one Saturday I met a guy straight out of “Jersey Shore” in a bike shop and the following Monday my career in radio sales began.
Q: How many years have you been in the business?
A: I’ll celebrate my 15-year anniversary in 2018. And I had no delusions that it would last. 90% of salespeople don’t make it past the first year, because it’s an uphill battle and the rejection is difficult to handle. Only those that are self-motivated make it.
Q: What skills did you learn in your first few jobs? How have you been able to use those to move your career forward?
A: There are three things you can’t teach people: to be passionate, to care about your clients and to be detail oriented. Everything else can be taught and learned. Fortunately, I started with all of these qualities. I’ve been able to move forward by keeping up with industry trends, having a wide range of personal and professional interests and writing creative radio spots for my clients.
Q: Did you have mentors over your career? If so, who was the most influential?
A: I’ve enjoyed a grandfather/father/son style of mentoring over the last 15 years. The Grandfather was Charlie Dent, a life-long radio professional who loved the business and passed that love down to Steve Friedman and subsequently, to myself. I started working with Steve 13 years ago and we’ve worked together, on and off, ever since. Both instilled in me the importance of honesty, caring and helping our clients to grow their businesses.
Q: What was your favorite / most challenging / job where you had the best growth opportunities?
A: The River (WXRV-FM, “Boston’s Independent Radio”), both the first and second times around. I’ve been fortunate enough to work my mentor there, Steve Friedman, as well as our current owner, the brilliant Steven Silberberg. My former General Manager, Mike Trombly gave me the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” It contains a test, which teaches you to identify which qualities and talents will help further your career. According to the test, I am strategic, engage in individualization, enjoy learning and being taught, take in the world around me and am an “ideas guy.” Pretty spot on.
Q: What about Networking? What do you do, either in person or online?
A: I attend a lot of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce meetings and a variety of charity events, along with the occasional trade show. The number one rule is: always be prepared. Always carry business cards, because you never know when you’ll meet a prospect. It could be the guy sitting next to you at Starbucks. I also make notes on the business cards that I collect. Then I make two piles. Prospects go in the first pile and get entered directly into my contacts. Suspects go in the second. Of course, I’m also on LinkedIn. It’s a great tool to research people.
Q: Is there something that you’re passionate about that has driven your career path?
A: I really like helping my clients to succeed. Being honest. Knowing that it’s okay to say “no” if a client asks for something that you can’t deliver. Keeping everyone’s expectations realistic. It takes a minimum budget and level of frequency (as well as good creative) to make a radio campaign successful. Clients need to understand that upfront.
Q: What do you do to keep yourself “fresh” in our constantly evolving industry?
A: I read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction. I like to use my creative side by writing ad copy. Radio is “theater of the mind,” so I’m able to stretch myself by crafting messages that work. Getting the right message across in thirty seconds, or less, can be quite challenging, but rewarding at the same time.
Q: How has digital media impacted what you do on a day to day? How have you helped your clients to transition their marketing plans over the years?
A: Digital is an important component of any marketing campaign, but shouldn’t be the only one. Many people think that they need to put 100% of their ad budgets against it. But advertising has always been about a media mix. There’s no one media that works 100% of the time for 100% of the clients. If a magic formula existed, then everyone would be using it. But, I like the trackability and sound components of digital/video ads. My clients have actually seen their digital numbers increase when combined with a radio campaign. Which proves my point above about a media mix.
The VAC would like to thank Bill for his time and insights. If you’d like to make his virtual, or actual acquaintance, click on his LinkedIn profile. Bill is based in New Hampshire, as WXRV-FM’s signal stretches all the way from Boston to the Lakes Region. Bill is always up for a good cup of coffee or glass of wine!