When it’s late at night and an ad rep at an L.A. radio station wants to plan a strategy for convincing a supermarket chain to book broadcast slots, what does he do? He calls Mary Beth Garber, president of the Southern California Broadcasters Association. She’ll get him any research material he needs for the next day’s sales pitch. As president of the Southern California Broadcasters Association, Garber serves as a consultant for 62 stations in Los Angeles, the biggest radio market in the world in dollar terms. Since joining the SCBA in 1998, Garber has trained more than 600 radio salespeople through her night courses. She has teamed up with Arbitron Inc. to produce three important studies on local and national radio audiences. Last year, she was named broadcaster of the year by Radio Ink Magazine. Her background includes stints at ad agencies, local radio stations and national sales firms. She currently serves on the boards of thinkLA, the Los Angeles Media Research Council, Equal Access and the St. Francis Hospital Foundation. She met with the Business Journal at SCBA offices in West Los Angeles to discuss the challenges of radio in today’s world of new media, and what it was like to be a radio sales exec and the mother of a hungry 4-year-old.
Question: Is there a certain personality that’s attracted to radio?
Answer: Outgoing people do well, but if there’s no brain behind the smile it becomes apparent pretty fast.
Q: You moved around a lot as a child. How did that affect your career choice?
A: I lived in foreign countries – three years in Japan, three in Germany – before the days of CNN, when the only TV available was in that country’s language. Radio was my only way to hear people speak English.
Q: How did you get into this business?
A: I was one of the first employees at the advertising agency Chiat\Day. After about six months, the media director left. So Jay Chiat dragged me in and said, “Kid, what do you know about computers?” I said, “Not a lot, but I can learn.” He said, “Fine, you’re the new media director.”
Q: How old were you?
A: When I started at Chiat\Day, 21. I became media director at 22.
Q: What was it like?
A: If you didn’t put in one all-nighter a week at Chiat\Day, you weren’t working.
Q: What do you remember about the boss?
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