Media Scene

Oddball ad secrets told in Oakley book

BooneOakley executive David Oakley with one of the distractions in his South End agency.
BooneOakley executive David Oakley with one of the distractions in his South End agency.

Charlotte has a big imagination for a community of its size and a good bit of it comes from the city’s beehive of ad agencies.

There are agencies known for serious campaigns, corporate campaigns, design leaders and then there’s BooneOakley, which around here is synonymous with zany.

Offbeat approaches are its thing, and one of its principals, David Oakley, has just published a book about some of its exploits, “Why Is Your Name Upside Down?”

That’s an easy one to answer. When Oakley and partner John Boone launched the agency in 2000, they weren’t sure who deserved top billing, so they inverted one of the names. Top billing depends on which end you read from.

Oakley tells several great stories about the agency’s exploits, but its first adventure is still recalled in marketing circles hereabouts – and will be for a long time to come.

In mid-October 2000, with George Bush and Al Gore close in the polls, a billboard went up on I-485 West, near the I-77 interchange in Pineville. It had a picture of Bush … beside the Gore 2000 logo. It went up on a Friday afternoon and quickly attracted national media attention as a huge goof.

“Charlotte advertising guru David Oakley, who won’t disclose who hired him and partner John Boone to create the billboard, said it’s a mistake that slipped past the proofreader,” the Observer reported that Sunday. “This is the duo’s first week of working for themselves, Oakley added. ‘I’m almost laughing. But not quite.’”

No, Oakley wasn’t laughing until Monday, when a banner went across the billboard for a Charlotte job-listings firm, which was in on the prank from the start.

Said the strip: “Today’s job opening: proofreader.”

In another story in his book, Oakley tells the story of making a pitch to the TNT network in Atlanta when it was rebranding itself as a destination for drama in 2001.

They were in a conference room talking about the things they’d bring to the account when a group of firefighters got on a loudspeaker, instructing someone atop the building to step away from the edge.

When the TNT executives gathered at the window to see what was happening, confederates pitched a mannequin off the roof, which went speeding past, hit a net held by the firefighters and bounced up and into the parking lot.

Then the firefighters flipped the net over to reveal the slogan: “TNT: We Know Drama.”

To this day, they can’t believe they didn’t land the account; it went to the agency Goodby Silverstein, which suggested the network just go dark for a day – to create drama, of course.

In the end, TNT couldn’t afford to miss a day of broadcasting, so the approach was never used.

Media Movers

WBT-AM (1110) cancels the up-and-coming “Brett Jensen Show” that aired 7-10 p.m. weeknights and replaces it with the nationally syndicated “Dave Ramsey Show” offering financial advice. Jensen, whose day job is sports reporter with, was building an audience following the cancellation of Brad Krantz and Britt Whitmire. Jensen was conversant in sports and general lifestyle and rarely was the switchboard empty. …

Liz Foster joins WSOC (Channel 9) as reporter and weekend morning anchor in April. She comes from the ABC affiliate in Springfield, Ill., where she has been for five years after starting her career in Macon, Ga. She interned at WBTV (Channel 3) after graduating from Georgia Southern University. …

WDAV-FM (89.9), the classical music station at Davidson College, takes a play from old Top 40 radio for its spring membership drive – it asked listeners for their requests and they will be aired beginning this week. “Classical music can be passionate, emotional and inspiring – and, on occasion, is best experienced loudly – whether it be a thundering symphony or subtle adagio,” says general manager Frank Dominguez. Also going on air during this season’s drive to drum up donations will be Robert Moody, music director of the Winston-Salem Symphony, and John Boyer, president of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. …

Anniversary of note: This month, Morgan Fogarty marks 10 years with WCCB (Channel 18). …

“Strange Inheritance” host Jamie Colby tells the story next week (9 p.m. Monday, Fox Business Network) of Wilmington’s Ed Pickett, who inherited a trunk of relics that belonged to his ancestor, Civil War Maj. Gen. George Pickett. He sold them to a collector for a pittance, unaware they were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. …

Duke University’s Christine Drea is among wildlife experts appearing on Smithsonian Channel’s “Killer IQ: Lion vs. Hyena” (8 p.m. Wednesday) about how the two top predators approach complex problems differently.

Washburn: 704-358-5007;

Twitter: @WashburnChObs.

Charlotte newscasts

Estimated viewers reached by key newscasts during the February sweeps and percentage change from last February as measured by Nielsen.

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*Program is less than a year old.

WASHBURN’S ANALYSIS: Two major snowstorms boosted overall ratings mightily this February, demonstrating how weather remains a prime driver for television news and explaining why local stations go bananas over every flake. … Channel 9’s 6 p.m. newscast hits new highs in audience this sweeps period – it outperforms every network prime-time series aired in Charlotte except CBS’ “NCIS.” …

Channel 46’s 10 p.m. newscast reaches the one-year mark, meaning year-to-year gains are against same product from last year. It also benefits somewhat from a powerful lead-in from “Empire,” Fox’s break-out winter hit that is performing particularly well in Charlotte. Channel 46’s 6 p.m. newscast is less than a year old – in 2014, reruns of “Two and a Half Men” ran in that time period. Its 6 p.m. audience – newscast vs. the rerun – is down 58 percent. … In the 6 a.m. hour, Fox 46’s “Good Day Charlotte” continues to draw miniscule numbers, but it is up 539 percent vs. infomercials aired in the time period last year. …

Channel 36’s numbers this year go against last February’s Olympic coverage, which always means a loss year-to-year.