The late Stan Zemanek was the most outspoken radio personality, much loved by his listeners. Here, he speaks with Jonar Nader about advertising, customer service, and the silly things that top-level executives do to damage their business. The discussion starts out with Jonar and Stan arguing about the toll roads.
Below is a transcript of the audio file.
Stan Zemanek: It is about 17 minutes to 11, 13-13-32. Mate, Jonar Nader is on the line. Jonar, hello.
Jonar Nader: Hi, Stan. The ABC doesn’t give corporate cards, you have catch cab vouchers.
Stan Zemanek: That’s exactly right. Yes, you’re exactly right about that.
Jonar Nader: And what do you mean, you outed him. He’s laughing. He went through for free, didn’t he?
Stan Zemanek: Well, yes he did because the exit toll manager came over and he said, ‘For God’s sake.’ He said, ‘Look at this.’ He said – he pointed to me, he said, ‘This is an e-tag lane only.’
Jonar Nader: But what a debacle that whole area is. I wish I had a camera to shoot the 20 variations of lane changes they’re experimenting with. Have you noticed it used to be three, then two, now one?
Stan Zemanek: Yes.
Jonar Nader: And then it used to be slow down. Now, it’s do not stop.
Stan Zemanek: Yes.
Jonar Nader: What next, you know?
Stan Zemanek: Well look, I got to tell you that I think what they’re going to do is do what they’ve done in Melbourne and that is say to everybody as of you know, at the end of the first of June, you have to have an e-TAG
Jonar Nader: But Stan, that wouldn’t work in Sydney. You know, in …
Stan Zemanek: Why wouldn’t it?
Jonar Nader: Well, two weeks ago there was some announcement about everyone having to have one for the bridge. The thing that people don’t realize is that the – paying the toll of the bridge is a God send for the city because they can’t afford the traffic to barge right through. I will bet you right now, before they do this, they should test it by saying, let’s say, next month, everyone can go through for free. And I bet you, the traffic in George Street, Pitt Street, Bridge Street, would be so bad because there is nothing holding back the traffic.
Stan Zemanek: No. Well, what they say is that the traffic flow over the Harbour Bridge and also in the freeways could be five – the trip could be – they can put through five times the amount of cars.
Jonar Nader: But you don’t want five times the amount of cars going through the tunnel because it will jam up at the other end.
Stan Zemanek: Well – I mean, yes. Well, okay. But I mean that’s yet to be proved though, isn’t it?
Jonar Nader: Well, but it’s easily proved. Let’s put …
Stan Zemanek: Well, how is it easily proved?
Jonar Nader: Well, by saying …
Stan Zemanek: Because – because down in Melbourne, the traffic just flows so easily.
Jonar Nader: Yes, but they don’t – that that – because their e-TAG is in the middle of a freeway. It’s not at a bridge point that it …
Stan Zemanek: Then okay but it – but okay. You look at the fragment site when you get off the Tourak Freeway going into the city there. I forgot what they call that one there. You’re going into the city there, that doesn’t bank up.
Jonar Nader: I don’t know. I’ve been to Melbourne that many times but I have not quite noticed.
Stan Zemanek: Well, I got to tell you, I’ve driven that road plenty of times and it doesn’t bank up and that – that goes into, you know, one lane, two lanes into the city.
Jonar Nader: Well, I’m – all I’m saying is before they go and inflict this poor thing on everybody, just test it by saying, ‘Next week, everyone goes through for free and we’ll see if it can flow.’
Stan Zemanek: But we’ve had – we’ve had some things like that where we had because of strikes and things like that, we’ve had the bridge flowing across because there’s no toll-keepers there. I mean it stands to reason. That if you’re not having those toll-keepers, the bridge will flow and consequently, the rest of the traffic will flow.
Jonar Nader: I think we should privatize the booth and have someone like a hamburger chain there so that you don’t only need to pay but you buy and get your coffee as you go.
Stan Zemanek: Jonar, what a great idea. Now see, that’s lateral thinking.
Stan Zemanek: That’s lateral thinking.
Jonar Nader: And you know, I bet you will have more windows.
Stan Zemanek: No – well, that’s – you’re probably right.
Jonar Nader: You know, the funny thing about windows is I often think the – the only business in the world that can predict its customers – I mean, no hamburger joint, no bridge, nobody can tell you how many customers are going to be there in 5 hours time. But the only business in the world that can is Australian Customs because they know that Qantas flight has been coming in for the last seven hours from Bangkok. Yet, when that flight lands it’s like a jolly surprise because no one is ready for it.
Stan Zemanek: Well, yes that’s an interesting point too because there is a bit of a bank up there at Customs but I think sometimes some of the flights are a little bit late and they bank into each other and say, consequently you get – that’s why you get the hold up.
Jonar Nader: There are three lines open and you look left and you look right and there are 20 more booths and you think, look just give me a stamp, and I’ll volunteer.
Stan Zemanek: Okay. Well, it would be interesting next time you get through a Custom to see how quickly you get through, Jonar.
Jonar Nader: I always get stopped.
Stan Zemanek: Now listen, you’ve got a thing coming up at Sheraton on the Park at Elizabeth Street in Sydney, haven’t you?
Jonar Nader: Yes, it’s for the …
Stan Zemanek: A seminar?
Jonar Nader: Yes. It’s all about advertising.
Stan Zemanek: Is it really?
Jonar Nader: The International Advertising Association asked me to come in and infuriate their members so we’ll have a few people there.
Stan Zemanek: Well listen, I soon to be at advertising. I should go to this thing.
Jonar Nader: Well, I wish you would and perhaps you could be one of the people in the audience who would spark some argument.
Stan Zemanek: What are you going to talk about?
Jonar Nader: Well, I’m going to talk about the notion that every fool in the world at the moment is – you attend any meeting and they say, ‘Oh, we’ve got to cut cost. We’ve got to improve customer service. We’ve got to make sure that we have fun. Let’s increase revenue and make sure gross profit is increasing.” I think, did I come all the way to Noosa, to Melbourne, to Perth to listen to these CEOs telling me the same thing each year. Cutting cost. Don’t you realize that that is the easiest thing you can do. What I want you to do is to find ways to charge the customer more but make sure that the customer is actually please to pay more.
Stan Zemanek: No, you don’t have to charge the customer more. What you have to do is to increase your top line rather than cutting the bottom line. And that I mean by increasing the top line, you find other avenues and ways and means of selling the same space that you have got for – for maybe the same money.
Jonar Nader: Well, I …
Stan Zemanek: You just don’t go out and sell advertising, ‘Okay. I’ve got a 30-second. I have to sell.’ And that’s it. You look at different ways to sell.
Jonar Nader: Yes, but I’m not only talking about advertising. I’m talking about products. You know, these companies who are only competing on price and they think that the more they advertise, the more customers they get. In fact, the telecommunications company with whom I’ve been for years, I cancelled today, because I was just sick and tired of them.
Stan Zemanek: Are you talking about the Telco?
Jonar Nader: Yes. In the stories, I just wish I could get the recordings. You know what they say? This call might be recorded for nonsense purposes.
Stan Zemanek: Yes.
Jonar Nader: I wish I could get those and sell them. I’d outdo your Chairman tapes.
Stan Zemanek: You probably would too.
Jonar Nader: And there’s me screaming down the line so I’ve given them a goodbye flick and I’ve changed. And the more they advertise, the more they remind me of how much I dislike them.
Stan Zemanek: Okay. So, you’re going to be there at this advertising seminar.
Jonar Nader: That’s right. Listen, do you want to talk tax.
Stan Zemanek: Tax?
Jonar Nader: The great tax idea.
Stan Zemanek: Yes. What?
Jonar Nader: You know how you and I pay tax.
Stan Zemanek: Yes.
Jonar Nader: Wouldn’t it be better if we did not pay tax until we died and the government took the money from our asset if supposing, we had enough assets. So, rather than pay x thousand dollars a year, I keep the money, keep reinvesting it in my business and then when I’m dead, sell my asset, take what you want plus interest.
Stan Zemanek: Yes. But all the smarties would certainly get around that very quickly because they’d divest their assets into something else.
Jonar Nader: Well, we’ll put like a mortgage on it. Tax Department would put a mortgage on your house that increases each year.
Stan Zemanek: Yes. I don’t think that’s going to work, Jonar.
Jonar Nader: But it’s good idea.
Stan Zemanek: I think you should stick to your advertising somehow.
Stan Zemanek: You call yourself – what do you call yourself? A post tentative virtual surrealist.
Jonar Nader: Yes.
Stan Zemanek: What do you mean by that?
Jonar Nader: Well, I was actually at a function once and someone said to me, what’s your title? And all they wanted to know was whether I was worthy to be stood next to or not because they just wanted to crawl to all the senior execs. And I wouldn’t tell her my title until she insisted and I just blurted that out and since then I’ve been printing that on my business cards. It doesn’t mean anything but it makes people look and say, ‘Well, he’s not a plumber obviously.’ But what I mean is a digital age philosopher. Someone who asks questions about the modern world.
Stan Zemanek: I mean, what do you – what do you tell these people?
Jonar Nader: Well, I first try and find out what their heart desires and you generally find they desire these innovations, they desire to grow their business, they really want good staff and customer relations but they stuffed it up at every opportunity. And so, I just say to them, ‘Look, just open your eyes and have a look.’ For example, I give them a little test and I say, ‘Go to the whitepages.com.au. look yourselves up. And then see if there is a phone number that anyone can call and speak to any human.’ I bet you not. Is there a postal address for these telcos on their website? Not on your nelly. I challenge anyone to find the postal address of a CEO, whoever is up there at the moment or call his PA or even get an address for his PA and ask, ‘Can I write to him?’ You can’t. The other challenge I say to the CEO, Write a letter to yourself, Mr. Stan Zemanek, Care of 2UE, Open Address Only, and see if it ever gets to you especially if it has a complaint in it. There are these filters of people who are guarding these CEOs to the point where they don’t know how their companies are hemorrhaging.
Stan Zemanek: I had a client many years ago who was – started this terrific advertising campaign. Anyway, three weeks – just three weeks into the advertising campaign, he said, ‘I can’t understand this. We’re not getting any calls.’
Jonar Nader: Yes.
Stan Zemanek: So, I ring up – because we had a special telephone number to refer everybody to. Anyway, what had happened was, he had taken his telephone number and they’d hooked it up to a fix modem. And it was just obviously just ringing out because the person was there and because he just saw a spare lead and he though, ‘Oh, I’d whacked it in the computer or something.’
Jonar Nader: Yes, exactly.
Stan Zemanek: For three weeks, this bloke did not even bother to ring anybody up, did not bother to say anything. For three weeks, he ran the commercials in the newspapers and TV and all that and didn’t get a telephone calls because he didn’t even check to see if anyone was going to answer a telephone number.
Jonar Nader: What about the stupidity of people who send you a little coupon and you fill it in but it’s on a reddish paper and they expected you to fax it in the good old days and when you fax red through a fax, it comes out as black at the other end.
Stan Zemanek: Right. That’s right.
Jonar Nader: And we – and you think – just test it. I say to people who own hotels, ‘When did you last sleep in your hotel? When did you last eat your own food?’ You know, we have these wonderful young kids who are yearning to learn but they’re so disconnected. They don’t even know the service they’re selling. I went last night to King’s Wharf one of the most expensive seafood restaurants there and the lady wanted to sit me next to some noisy people. I said, ‘Can I just sit at that table?’ which was just one table to the left. She said, ‘No, that’s close.’ Even though it had the glasses and the cups, I mean I thought, well there you go, you know.
Stan Zemanek: Well, so that’s stupidity.
Jonar Nader: But she doesn’t care. The boss isn’t there. He’ll figure in a month’s time and say, ‘Oh, the cold weather must have turned customers away.’
Stan Zemanek: Yes.
Jonar Nader: Yes.
Stan Zemanek: So, that is stupidity. It’s so easy to service people these days and look after them with a little bit of kindness and TLC.
Jonar Nader: Yes.
Stan Zemanek: Alright. So listen, the seminar is going to be on this Thursday, May the 6th, 12:15 to 12:45 at the Sheraton on the Park and you’re going to talk about advertising.
Jonar Nader: Yes, and more how to lose friends and infuriate competitors really.
Stan Zemanek: Well, which you can – which you do very well because you’re written a number of books along those lines.
Jonar Nader: That’s correct. And I think everyone is trying to compete in this world but I find success is so easy. Competing is so easy but it is so easily tricked up as well.
Stan Zemanek: Yes, okay. Alright. David Ogilvy who was the founder of Ogilvy & Mather recognized you for your insights in the marketing and advertising.
Jonar Nader: Yes. Years ago, he and I used to correspond a lot. You know, he used to live in Harris in the Château and gosh, have you ever seen that Château of his? It was just like something out of the Von Trap Family. And he once offered me a job and then I went for the job interview here at Ogilvy & Mather in Sydney and I was so young and the managing director said, ‘You know, I’m not sure I want you.’ And David got to hear about it and he wrote a letter and he said about the manager: ‘Bloody fool.’ So, that’s something I put on my resume.
Stan Zemanek: Very good indeed. Alright Jonar, I’ll see you on Thursday at the Sheraton on the Park, 161 Elizabeth Street in Sydney and I look forward to learning some things.
Jonar Nader: Thank you, Stan. See you later.
Stan Zemanek: Right oh mate. There he is, Jonar Nader and if you want to know about all about advertising, get into the Sheraton on the Park on Thursday. It is 5 minutes to 11.