Wednesday, February 6, 2008

WLW and Sponsor Stunts

One of Crosley Broadcasting's biggest moneymakers was Ruth Lyons. On radio, and later on television, her show commanded network rates from advertisers, so huge was her following. The sponsors didn't mind, because when she spotlighted a product, people bought it. She would often involve sponsors' products in stunts--more so on television. In the 1950s and 60s she gave away cars (Hello, Oprah!), threw sponsors off the show (until the next day), and made sure everyone in every audience went home with a nice prize.

Paul Dixon, who preceded Lyons with a morning show, did similar things, but in his own way. Which is to say, he did stunts for their own sake. He had a gimmick called "Kneesville" that he used to get women in the audience to wear short skirts and displaly their legs. When "hot pants" came into style, he designated one show "Hot Pants Day," and had all these lovely young women in the audience wearing extreme short-shorts.

Today I happened across a reprise of a Tyra Banks show in which she and a bunch of women took off their jeans. I was immediately reminded of Lyons and Dixon. Why? The incentive for the strippers was a new pair of custom-fit jeans from a specific (and oft-mentioned) manufacturer. It was a great gimmick. For the cost of a few dozen pairs of jeans the sponsor got lots of valuable expsoure (just like Pontiac on Ophra and Chevrolet on Ruth Lyons' shows). And as with Paul Dixon, the audience got a show--men in one sense, women in another. (To round things out, Tyra Banks is carried by NBC, of which network WLW was a founding associate.)

(If Dixon and Lyons are unfamiliar to you, you may want to have a look at the book Cincinnati Television, by Jim Friedman.)

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