‘UNDERDOG’ MAKES ADS FUN (May 14, 1986)

‘UNDERDOG’ MAKES ADS FUN
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Miami Herald, The (FL) May 14, 1986
Author: LINDA THORNTON Herald Staff Writer

You may not know his name or his face, but almost anyone who listens to
radio knows Dick Orkin’s voice. He’s the hapless underdog character whose humor
actually makes radio commercials fun to listen to, as in this excerpt from a
now-familiar ad for Hollywood Honda:

Wife: Okay, Sam, now when the car salesman first comes up, you say . . .

Sam (Orkin): I’m just looking.

Wife: And when he comes around the second time, you say . . .

Sam: I haven’t made my mind up yet.

Wife: Uh-huh, and when he comes up to you the third time, you say . . .

Sam: Beat it buster, before I break your nose!

Wife: Oh, you’re gonna be perfect. No pushy salesman’s gonna talk you
into buying the first car you see. Open the door . . . (heavenly music) Oh, my!

Car salesman: Hello. Welcome to Hollywood Honda. Is this your wife?

Sam: No! I’m just looking!

Salesman: Would you like a cup of coffee, ma’am? Sir?

Sam: I haven’t made my mind up yet!

Wife: Sam! This is marvelous, it’s such a friendly atmosphere.

Salesman: Well, here at Hollywood Honda, we don’t believe in pressure or
hype. How about some coffee for you, sir?

Sam: Beat it, buster, before I break your nose!

Commercial writer-actor-producer Dick Orkin has always appreciated the
value of humor. As a beginning disc jockey in Pennsylvania who was bored with
the then-new rock and roll, he chose instead to conduct mock interviews from an
imaginary elevator, and was fired. He studied Shakespeare and Sophocles as a
graduate drama student at Yale University, but it was a parody of Batman that
would prove to be his most famous characterization. Chickenman, a 3-to-4-minute
comedy serial that was heard locally in the late 1960s on WQAM, gained
notoriety for Orkin in major radio markets across the country.

Now, as the head of Dick Orkin’s Radio Ranch and Home For Wayward
Cowboys, a commercial production studio in L.A. that creates national comedy
spots for well-known products including Pepsi and AT&T, as well as customized
local spots for various clients (such as the Hollywood Honda ads), Orkin is
doing his part to change the image of radio’s most dreaded feature — the
commercial. For his efforts, he’s won more than 100 industry awards.

“Some advertisers feel that using humor in advertising is chancey . . . but dry, straight humor in advertising is not only folly, but also a risk,” said Orkin last week, while in South Florida to address a meeting of the South Florida Radio Broadcasters Association. “There’s so much commercial clutter in radio, and the commercials’ claims and promises are very imitative. There’s more to it than simply driving the message home again and again. Radio is an entertainment medium. You need to entertain the listeners.”

Orkin relies on the no-pressure, no-hype theory in writing and voicing
commercials. His spots don’t sound like ads; they’re more like mini-dramas.

“The message should be personal and casual, as if allowing the listener
to eavesdrop on a conversation,” said Orkin.

His voice, though heard on only about 50 percent of commercials produced
by the Radio Ranch, is unmistakable. He often plays the same kind of character,
a lovable loser. He works with a team of writers, producers and actors, some of
whom are well known for other roles (such as Florence Halop of Night Court and
Lorenzo Music, who played Carlton the doorman on Rhoda).

A NEW SOUND

For the past several weeks, I-95 (WINZ 94.9 FM) has been moving toward a
format change, gradually weeding out its Latin/ urban dance music and replacing
it with more adult-oriented rock.

Today, the station’s change in direction became official. I-95, formerly
known as a Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) station, is now calling itself 95 WINZ
and dubbing its format “Contemporary Adult Rock.”

“It’ll be contemporary music, uptempo, not wimpy, but not acid rock
either,” said Gabe Baptiste, program director for 95 WINZ.

95 WINZ is gearing its new sound toward 20-to-40-year-old listeners who
don’t appreciate disco/dance club sounds and want more than ballads, people who
do like current and recent rock and roll, but who draw the line at hard rock or
heavy metal.

“The marketplace has been saturated with CHR, AC (Adult Contemporary)
and AOR (Album Oriented Rock) for years, but no one’s taken a chance with
something different,” said Gary Lawrence, vice president/general manager of WINZ
AM and FM.

In conjunction with the name and format change, 95 WINZ started off the
day today with a new weekday morning (6-10 a.m.) disc jockey, Roger Cary.
Long-time local listeners may remember Cary from his overnight air shift at the
former WFUN in the mid- 1970s, or from his news anchor/weekend jock days at WQAM
in the late 1970s (while that station was still playing Top 40).

Since leaving South Florida in 1977, Cary has worked in several markets,
including Phoenix, Dallas, San Diego and most recently, as morning disc jockey
at KZBS in Oklahoma City.

Earl “the Pearl,” who has been filling in on the WINZ-FM morning show
for the past few months, has been moved to the 6-10 p.m. weekdays slot. Deejay
Dennis Reese, formerly heard from 6-10 p.m., has not been given a new on-air
shift and is “reviewing his options with the station,” according to management.

Etc.

* Beginning Monday, WVCG (1080 AM) will drop some of the
Spanish-language Radio Familiar programming that previously dominated its
weekday schedule and replace it with more “oldies,” information and talk.
Morning Madness, a rock and roll oldies show hosted by Jerry Powers and Roby
Yonge, will be extended two hours, to run from 6 a.m. to noon weekdays. Arnold
Henry’s Caribbean Explosion will now be heard from noon to 2 p.m., followed by
Caribbean Rhythms (co-hosted by Ron Burke and Eddie Edwards) from 2 to 4 p.m.
Alan Beshany’s Money Line will debut on WVCG from 4 to 5 p.m., followed by Ed
Kaplan’s Sports Exchange (5 to 6 p.m.), Sex With Marilyn (featuring sex educator
Marilyn Volker) from 6 to 7 p.m., and Haitian programming from 7 to 8 p.m.
Radio Familiar will be heard from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

* In last week’s column, I reported that WNWS (790 AM) management
recently offered a job to WINZ (940 AM) talk host Neil Rogers. Since then, I’ve
been told by WNWS vice president/ general manager Dennis Collins and program
director Lee Fowler that while they did meet with Rogers to discuss the
possibility of his future availability, they never actually offered him a job.

“We met with (Rogers) to determine the status of his contract (with
WINZ), to find out if he was available, but no job was ever offered to him,”
said Fowler. “From a legal standpoint, we’re prohibited from offering him a job
(while he’s under contract with another station).”

photo: Roger CARY, Dick ORKIN
Memo: RADIOEdition: FINALSection: COMICS/TVPage: 3E
Record Number: 8602070538 Copyright (c) 1986 The Miami Herald

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