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Friday, December 19, 2014

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Jewish retailers run with distinctive radio ads

Tags: Business
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Saul Korman

“If you could do it alone, you would have done it already.”

Close your eyes and replay that sound bite in your mind.

Chances are, if you live in the Toronto area and listen to the radio, you’ll know who says it and what they’re selling.

Or try, “and if you miss it, you miss it.”

Ring a bell?

How about, “Who’s better for furniture or appliances? Noooobody.”

Sound familiar? Can you identify the store in the ad?

One more: “Soooool Korman, Korry’s Clothiers…” Well, we all know that the purveyor of that line is the self-same Saul Korman, but can you complete the ad and give the address for his clothing store? Chances are you can. (Hint: it’s in the heart of Greektown.)

There are, of course, other Jewish businessmen who do their own radio ads – think jewelry, home alarms, medical services – and the market certainly isn’t cornered by the People of the Book.

There are guys selling tax law services, cars, suits and even back supports who aren’t Jewish, but Jews seem to have mastered the shtick.

If your mornings wouldn’t be complete without the familiar refrains of a retail sales pitch, you can thank a handful of businessman who shamelessly plug their stores.

They don’t rely on professional actors, and sometimes they don’t even work from a prepared script. None of them are shrinking violets, and, for the successful ones, they get their message across in a memorable and distinctive matter. For them, that’s all that matters – that and seeing the results in monthly sales figures.

Saul Korman has been on the radio for 35 years. His 60-second spots go far beyond merely plugging the latest merchandise in his store or mentioning a price point that might entice a listener.

His delivery is all Saul, seemingly a stream-of-consciousness ramble that mentions suppliers, events, restaurants, his vacation destination and the airline he uses to get there. And of course, they all include a reference – or several – to his store at 569 Danforth Ave.

Yes, he acknowledges, he mentions other things going on in his life, “but I still sell the store.

“I help SunWing, I help a lot of people,” he said of his ads. “And I benefit from it.”

The result is that he’s assumed a larger-than-life persona. During the recent Taste of the Danforth festival, which he’s promoted for years, many festival-goers made a point of dropping in at Korry’s. “I think they want to meet Saul Korman. I’ve been around 60 years. I’m exciting. I’ve been given awards,” he said.

Many of the glad-handers who came out of curiosity will be back to shop, he predicted.

Jack Berkovits, founder of Omni Jewelcrafters, is a big proponent of radio advertising, particularly because of its “low cost-to-reward ratio. And you get a lot of rotation. You can be on the air 12 times a day, and it’s affordable,” he said.

Berkovits has been running radio ads for 12 years. Whether it’s his distinctive talmudic voice – among other things, he’s a rabbi – or his persuasive sales pitch, for the past five years he’s earned the distinction of hosting his own one-hour radio call-in show on Newstalk 1010.

He’s tried advertising on television – “you just don’t get bang for the buck” – and newspapers – you need “a big splash” to be effective – but radio offers a huge audience of listeners driving to and from work.

Moreover, the radio has an advantage over other media: it allows you to present your own distinctive personality.

“You can’t get that across in a newspaper,” he said.

“At the end of the day, when you buy jewelry, you need to trust the guy, and I’m the guy you can trust.”

Berkovits, who writes all his ads and records them in a single take, said he’s changed his approach over the years.

When he first started in the medium, he was “very raucous, screaming, yelling… that put us on the map.”

The loud approach had its disadvantages, he acknowledged: “For every friend, I made, I lost 10.”

But it was a calculated approach to get his name out there. He followed that presentation with a lower-key one. The spot that really made an impact was one that invited customers, in a soft voice, to come shop any day of the week, except Saturday. “There’s more to life than money,” Berkovits said, repeating the ad. “We close Saturday.”

That ad was particularly effective, he continued. One customer came all the way from Windsor, plunked $4,000 on his counter and said he was patronizing the store because he had “spoken for the Lord’s day,” Berkovits recalled.

Another ad recounted his mother’s death around Mother’s Day and invited people to consider that moms won’t always be around to receive their gifts.

There were plenty of people who didn’t like that ad, but many more who did, he said.

At Bay Bloor Radio, where if you miss the sale, “you miss it,” the Mandelsohn family has been doing radio ads since 1990, said Mark Mandelsohn.

His father, Sol, started in the medium and was a natural: “He was lyricist, a professional actor and a poet, so he had a gift for writing.” He coined the signature phrase, “If you miss it, you miss it,” Mark said.

At the time, it wasn’t uncommon for the heads of companies, such as Chrysler’s Lee Iacocca and Loblaws’ Dave Nichols, to be on the air.

The ads are effective. “At the end of the day, the cash register rings, so you know it works,” Mandelsohn said.

It’s just the kind of boost a specialty retailer needs: “Radio allows you to transmit a message,” unlike print, where retailers communicate price, he said.

“What radio allows you to do is talk in your own voice to the customer and be personal.”

It’s more effective to run your ad on one or two stations with greater frequency then to have them appear on six stations less often, he added.

Mandeslohn has travelled to Texas to study under “the wizard of ads,” Roy Williams. “He’s my guru.”

The good ads have a familiar structure. They “grab your attention at the beginning” and they “get the name mentioned early,” he said.

He’s learned “you have to have something to say” and you ought to “use creative language.”

Everybody can claim they have a great price or service, so you have to find a more creative way to say the same thing, he added.

Korman has canvassed people entering the store and found that half have heard his radio ads.

The ads have helped make Korry’s “a destination store.”

Harvey Brooker, founder of the Harvey Brooker Weight Loss Program for Men, has been doing radio ads for eight or nine years. He started recording them after an appearance on a Newstalk 1010 talk show hosted by John Oakley, who’s now with AM640.

“It stimulated me to think about doing ads,” said Brooker. “I saw there was a response… People were interested enough to call me.”

Today he attributes 95 per cent of his business to radio ads.

It’s taken him a while to find the winning formula that prompts that sort of response. “In our business, if you don’t say the right words to the people listening, they won’t respond.”

Testimonials from actual clients are particularly effective, but even there, the wording has to be right, he said. “You have to give history, some background.” That includes their name and address, as well as a short story on why they needed to lose weight, he said.

Unlike other radio pitchmen, Brooker doesn’t write his own copy, though he did come up with the signature line, “If you could do it alone, you would have done it already.”

He works with a professional writer at Newstalk 1010 who crafts the ads for him.

Lori Beckstead, associate professor and associate chair at the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University, said she uses Korman’s ads “as an example in my class on radio ad production.

“Most students react to hearing it by rolling their eyes and asking if it’s a joke. And it’s true that the production values and polish of the ads are fairly low. But if you put one of those ads in context, in amongst a bunch of highly polished ads with slick voice overs and music and sound effects, it actually stands out,” she added.

“It’s an interesting way to get the attention of the audience. And the big thing that Saul Korman has going for him is a great personality. He speaks in an easy-going way and tells little stories about who has dropped into his store. Over time, he starts to feel like an old friend who’s popped in to update you on what’s new and you actually want to hear what he’s going to tell you.”

So do all these radio guys have anything in common?

“Ego,” said Korman. “You’ve got to have a big ego to do it.”

Brooker believes it’s because Jewish men, in the early days of immigrating to Canada, went into their own businesses. “Only two things count,” he said, “customers and marketing.”

Korman has already recruited his two sons, Shawn and Michael, to do the ads. Mandelsohn’s son, Danu, is also an on-air voice, while Sam, his other son, is an occasional contributor.

Former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman, with his trademark “noooobody” tag line for the Bad Boy furniture chain, has long been joined by his son, Blayne, in his ads.

When it comes to radio ads, it appears the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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