Bob Alexander


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Review with Robert Alexander, President of Alexander Pearson Dawson national sales representatives Bob Alexander started with all Canada radio and television in August of 1955 as an assistant film editor in the service Division. In 1960, he became a junior radio salesman representing the company with the small radio stations. 

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And advertising agencies in the Toronto area. 

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In 1964, he became supervisor of the Radio Division for all the small stations that all Canada represented. In 1966, he switched to television as a salesman, and in 1968 he joined another Rep firm, Stephenson Tandero, as a television salesman. He became their sales manager a year later for television in 1969. 

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And in 1970 was made a vice president in charge of all television as Stephenson. 

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Soundrop he then, in 1973, became president of Alexander Pearson Dawson, which is the company that he’s still associated with and still holds the same role back in those days. In 1955, Bob, you were an assistant film editor. 

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What part of the business? 

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Was that well? 

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What we were doing in those days, Phil, we didn’t have any, any satellites or things like that. 

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So we had to send 16 millimeter film around the country with commercials. 

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On them and in those days at all Canada, they were doing such shows as the Bob Cummings Show, Sea Hunt, Luby’s movie of Movie Night and what would happen is we would have to insert the commercials into the shows and then we would put them on what we call the bicycle. 

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We would send the for the show to sue Saint Marie Sue. 

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Saint Marie would run it on a Thursday night. 

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We’d send it to North Bay to run for next Thursday. 

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North Bay would then send it to Thunder Bay for the following Thursday. 

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Thunder Bay would return it to us. 

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We changed the commercials in it and then we’d start the episode going. 

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Again, and that’s what. 

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That’s what we did with those those shows in the. 

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Early days I was running about the income. 

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Did that come from the sale of the show that come from the sale? 

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Of commercials in the show. 

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No, that came from the from the sale of the show, they made the the sale to the to to an advertiser and then he in turn sold that show to. 

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The station and the station would pay so much for the show, but it was always fully, fully had fully. 

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So it was a package. 

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On it was a package. 

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It was a package. 

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They got all they had to do was set it up on their. 

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Tell us any and run it. 

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And when they were finished running it. 

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Rewind it and then send it on to the next station. 

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Are you only talked about television? 

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In this regard, because you were a film editor. 

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So obviously you were in those in those days, Phil. I was a film editor in 55, but that was the end of the. 

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Of the radio shows going out as well, and all Canada in those days had the largest record library of radio shows in the world. 

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They had all the zip shows they had the the Bob Hope Show. 

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They did the Bob Hope for Bolivia. 

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They had all the soaps that were going, Aunt Mary and all these that were there and they were shipping those out of the same division that I worked in. 

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Well, those shows in time went off there pretty. 

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Well, didn’t. Oh yes. 

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They did. 

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In fact, I I sometimes wish that I had kept some of those old shows that that you could have had today. 

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I believe that all Canada just destroyed all the records that that they had, but they had a large, large library of. 

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Every conceivable radio show that was ever done and towards the end of that, they also brought in what they called the first format for for radio music and that was called the Big Sound. 

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And they had bought that in Los Angeles and they were selling that to stations right across the country. 

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So you were a packager and to a. 

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Large degree I was a packager and in those days you you put the shows together and you worked late and you then packaged them up, put them in a shipping box, put a label on them and most nights walk them down to the sea and or the CP and shipped them off on their way to the various stations across the. 

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Country and these were on. 

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Acetate relief. 

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No, these these were on. 

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These were on acetate, the records were on acetate, the film. 

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All the film that was done in those early days was on 16 millimeter film and the commercials were 16. 

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Millimeter yes, I meant to say that that was the. 

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Yeah, yeah. 

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When they arrived at the station then they would just. 

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Go on the air. 

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There was there was nothing they had to do with it. 

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There was a leader tape on it. 

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They just had to queue it up to a certain point and they threw the switch and ran it. 

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There was no voiceovers, there was no other insertions they would run it and we would normally run a bicycle of three weeks. 

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The commercials would stay in three weeks. 

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And then they would come back and we’d switch all the commercials around and put new stuff in and then shipping them on their way. 

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In the original, you’d have to do 54 stations the first couple of weeks so that they would all have a show, but then when the bicycle started to work, you got down to editing about 12. 

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Shows a week. 

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OK, Bob, you went from that position to junior radio salesman, so you’re on the other. 

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Side of the coin was on the other side of the coin at all Canada it was. 

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It was some fun times selling radio in those days was a was a more of a personality situation than it is today. 

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You sort of went in and saw the buyers and it was really bought on personality. 

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You’d take your station guy in when he came to town and the station guy would take the buyer out for lunch. 

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And that’s when most of the business would be done. 

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I was fortunate to work with some great people at all. 

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Canada, the late Bob Tate, Harold Abernathy, Rio Thompson, real founders in the selling of of of advertising time. 

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And these people were a big influence in in my career. 

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I you know, I neglect to mention the late Stuart Mackay, who I knew from 1955 until he passed away some years ago. 

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But he again, these were in those days, they really relied on personalities to move their time. And from 1960 to. 

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196465 selling radio in the Radio division. 

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Was probably the most exciting selling time that I have ever experienced in all my years. 

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Of selling. 

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You weren’t worried about numbers about ratings. 

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Ratings had very little to do with it, Phil. 

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It was the fact that you would go in and and you would have a creative package or a promotion money, trees. 

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Shopping sprees. You were doing more of that type of selling and they didn’t really care that you’re you might have been #3 or #4 in the marketplace if you had a creative way in which to move. 

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I remember my greatest sale was to Lever brothers. 

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We put a deal together in the Maritimes that we called I spy with the sunlight eye, and we had it on, I think, 20 radio stations. 

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They bought it for 13 weeks. They ran it for a complete 52 weeks each morning for 52 weeks. 

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And it was a very simple thing, but it was running in the Maritimes and Fred Arenberg was at CHNS in those days, and he helped put it together and it was just exciting times. 

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It was the year of The Beatles. 

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I can remember selling. 

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Five or six beetle packages where The Beatles were coming to Toronto or Montreal, and there was a whole package that if you bought the package, you got airline tickets to go and watch The Beatles or tickets to watch The Beatles. 

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It was that type of selling numbers had no effect in it. 

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At all. 

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Let’s be specific for the benefit of the uninitiated, a national sales firm. 

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They called Canada and like your present firm, what is their purpose and what do? 

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They do. 

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We are the in between man, fill between between the station and the advertising agency rather than each station have. 

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Of a person situated in Toronto where about 85% of the national sales are done, we are representatives for that station in this market and we call on advertising agencies and then the Agency tells us what they would like to do in a certain market. 

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And then we go away and put a package together and present to the agency, who in turn presents to their client. 

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And gets approval to buy that particular package on one of my particular client stations and they could be large or small stations. 

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They can be larger, small stations, radio or television. 

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I’ve sold both frankly, at this point, Alexander, Pearson and Dawson is only in the television business and that’s the way we’ll. 

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Stay forever I. 

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Think to stay with you in the days of yore. Yes, 1964. You’re a supervisor for the small stations. 

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That was right. 

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And and there were some great characters in those days. 

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There was the Orville copes and the Johnny Mccalls from Lethbridge and Medicine Hat and and you had people that would come to town and you’d take them out on calls and. 

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I was fortunate to have all of the smaller stations and these small stations. 

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If you showed interest in them, they were really gratifying to get a little business for them and I had great success in, in, in working with people like Norris, Nathanson out of Sydney, who’s still there today and and making calls with them and getting little pieces of business. 

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Because as in 1964 or 1988, the major stations were getting the largest portion of the dollars and in 64 we were able to put a few things together for the smaller stations and and we had some great success and and really success. 

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Friends that have remained friends for for my whole life, that I still get a kick out of seeing. 

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Small stations back then, did they? 

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Tried to tell you about their programming or just the fact that they were in. 

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That town they just tried to tell you that they were in that town. 

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The programming had very little to do with it. 

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Sometimes they’d like to talk. 

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About their farm shows and and. 

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The fact that they they used to catch a lot of lobster in the Maritimes, we tried to get them out of that. 

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We just tried to get them to talk about their. 

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Their radio stations, they always had an air check with them that you could play on a on a little wall and sack tape recorder. 

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I remember carrying most things around. 

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But they were in the midst. 

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They were. 

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They were just trying to sell their marketplace. 

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And I think that lots of the advertisers were impressed that they would come to Toronto and spend the time to talk to them. 

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And we had great. 

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Success with them. 

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Can you think of a small? 

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Station that you worked with. 

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Oh, I many of them as well. 

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I guess the the the one that that sticks in my mind is is Lethbridge Medicine Hat, which was we call southern Alberta and Orville Cope was in Medicine Hat and Johnny McCall was in Lethbridge and they would come down in tandem. 

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And we would make 6 calls a day with these two fellas and they would have a little dog and pony act that they would go through. 

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And it was it was very successful. 

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We made a lot of money for those stations by just being here and making. 

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Calls they were selling against television weren’t. 

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They they were selling it, not so much against television. 

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They were trying to get more of the. 

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Calgary radio dollar they were trying to get into that situation in in those days we were we were selling Radio Alberta which would give them Edmonton Calgary Medicine Hat to Lethbridge and some of those things we had Radio Maritimes which. 

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Was Che and S in Halifax CHJ and Saint John CCB in Sydney and CFY in Charlottetown. 

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We packaged that way, but sometimes when they didn’t buy the package and they only bought the major stations, then the little guy would get squeezed out, so being able to bring the little guys into the marketplace and make. 

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Calls with them and we had we had great success. 

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Did did the little guy offer a really low price? 

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He offered the the price. 

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Wasn’t that different, really. 

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It was. 

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It was a lower price than, say, the Calgary market, but. 

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Price really didn’t have anything to do with it. 

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I mean cost per thousands and cost per ratings. 

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And I watched my young people here at Alexander Pearson and Dawson work today. 

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It was a different thing. 

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I mean, we had and I guess I still do have fun doing what I’m doing, but when I was a. 

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Salesman in 64. 

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Gee whiz, we had some great salespeople, but God, we had some fun. 

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We really we enjoyed selling. 

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It was a pleasure to go to work. 

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Every day when you switched to television, which you did. 

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1966 I believe yes. What was that like for you? It was it. 

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Hard to do. 

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No, I’ve always maintained that that a good radio salesman will be a great television salesman. 

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And it wasn’t hard for me to do. 

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I wanted the experience and I will ever be in debt to Don Smith, who’s now the President of ABC TV. 

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Because he was the sales manager at all Canada and he went to bat for me in the Rep business, they don’t like to move you around too much because it gives them a little grief with their with. 

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Their clients and Don Smith went to bat for me and got me into selling television at all, Canada and. 

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I’ve always said it was like shooting ducks in a barrel because in those days again they were buying programs they weren’t buying cost per ratings. 

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If I could deliver some good programs, people would buy them and we were only basically in those early days of selling television, selling prime time. 

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Now we’re selling 60% prime, 40% fringe cost per rating point cost per point. 

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Is so much different I come into my offices now some mornings coming home on the on the train from Montreal. 

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I get in here about 10 after seven. I’ll have seven or eight sales been working here. I leave here most nights at six 15630. There’s still 7 or 8 salesman here. There’s so much more detail. 

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Will be done. 

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There’s so much younger and they’re so much brighter and in their approach to selling, as I said to you earlier, Phil, we we did a lot of selling on personality and in in those early days, even up into the. 

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When we started a P&D in 73, we were still selling a lot. 

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Of personalities. 

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When you started to sell television, Bob, what about the quality of the product that you had? 

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How did that compare? 

00:14:37 Speaker 2 

Or the quality was not as good, there was more strip programming to explain that. Well, strip is a is a is a show that runs every night to Monday through Friday 7:00 to 7:30 like in those days you had the Lucy strips and you had strips that were running that you tried to get into. 

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There wasn’t such a big emphasis on news. 

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News was not a big a big seller for us. 

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It was sort of an afterthought. 

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You sold movies a lot. 

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There were a lot of movies in those days that we sold. 

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There was always the Friday night movie or Saturday night movie. 

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But the quality of the shows I mean, if you go to comedy, you know, Jackie Gleason in those early days was. 

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I mean, I can still watch it today and it’s still great quality. 

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Lucy was great quality. 

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Of the. 

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Early adventure stuff. 

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Mission Impossible Perry Mason. 

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That stuff is is was top quality material, although it was black and white, most of it certainly. 

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Could deliver audience and there wasn’t as many television stations in those days as we’ve got now. We always usually had a a CBC and a CTV and that was it. There was no independence up until 1973. 

00:15:57 Speaker 1 

When you talked, talked a moment ago about the young people in the business and their attitude, how about the people when you started and the people today, is there a great deal of difference in the the make up the attitude? 

00:16:07 Speaker 2 

Ohh, I don’t think there’s a a difference in the makeup or the attitude. 

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I I I I think in in our day we sold hard, we did a lot more, we did different things we we had a lot more pranks we did. 

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You know different type of things that our people just don’t do today. 

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My people here today are more businesslike in in, in what their approach is. 

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I have more university students working like guys with MBA’s and that that than than what? 

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We had, we. 

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Really, in those early days flew by the seat of our pants and. 

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As I said, personality had a lot to do in, in in the success of of what you were doing. 

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All you have to do is look at the at the heads of all Canada in those days and the people that were selling. 

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I mean Stuart Mackay, Rio Thompson, Bob Tate. 

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These guys were all characters and you know, I can remember meeting Harold Carson and he was a character and and these people. 

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Built it that way and we don’t have. 

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That many characters, as we had in those days. 

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In fact, if we’ve got anything that’s the problem with our our broadcasting today is we’re really short of people. 

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We just don’t have people. 

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Coming along that are going to make the difference, I’ve just instituted something here in the past two years where we have two juniors working here continually because we have to develop people or we’re going to be. 

00:17:35 Speaker 1 

In real trouble, the way you said it. 

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I got the image of in the beginning. 

00:17:40 Speaker 1 

You were in sales, but you also were in presentation in promotion. 

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They were in programming even. 

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Yes, we did. 

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We did a lot of a lot of presentations, a lot of promotions. 

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It was the era of the big supermarket promotions sold a lot of end dial displays with all your radio and and and some television, but more radio than any. 

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And you did a lot more programming you you talked to the program director about different things. 

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Could he do this? 

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Could he do that? 

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Even in the television days, I can remember sitting down in my early days with Dave Mintz at Cava OS. 

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And you know we, we we would have a real say in what was going on in programming today. 

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Our people don’t have that opportunity to get involved with programming. 

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It’s all done pretty well at the station. 

00:18:30 Speaker 1 

So you’re a salesman today? 

00:18:31 Speaker 1 

Salesman today. 

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Still, salesman forever. I’ve been in this business, as I said, since 1955. 

00:18:39 Speaker 2 

Great memories, great people would not change anything. As we sit here today in the 31st floor of the of the Hudson Bay Center, I pinch myself a lot of mornings. Hard to believe that this has happened to me. I wouldn’t change a minute of it. 

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I’ve been married to the same woman for 27 years. Both my children work for the company. 

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If anybody has an opportunity to get into broadcasting, I advise it completely. 

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I have. 

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I’m originally from Thunder Bay. 

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I have people come up here and visit me and they just can’t believe what’s happened to me, but I owe a lot of it to to, I guess, a number of people. 

00:19:25 Speaker 2 

Stuart Mackay, Bob Tate, Rio Thompson. 

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Alan Slate, who I worked for five years at Stephens in town to that’s who hired me there, who taught me more about people and about presentations than I think anybody ever knew. 

00:19:41 Speaker 2 

And I’ve just really enjoyed it and wouldn’t trade one minute. 

00:19:46 Speaker 1 

Of it you said. 

00:19:47 Speaker 1 

A cute word you have to know about people. 

00:19:49 Speaker 1 

Be a sales Rep don’t you? 

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And to be a. 

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Broadcaster ohh yes, it’s still a people business. 

00:19:54 Speaker 2 

As I say in my presentation, I was just down to CBS last week, making a presentation to them in New York. 

00:19:59 Speaker 2 

And I said frankly, gentlemen, I don’t have any magic computers or anything. 

00:20:02 Speaker 2 

All I really have is what comes up in the elevator in the morning and what goes down in the elevator at night. 

00:20:07 Speaker 2 

And it’s basically that hasn’t changed from 1955 to 1980. 

00:20:12 Speaker 1 

8 Thank you. 

00:20:13 Speaker 2 

Bob, thank you, Phil. 

00:20:14 Speaker 1 

This has been an interview with Robert Alexander, President of Alexander Pearson Dawson, conducted by Phil. 

00:20:19 Speaker 1 

Stone in Toronto, June 1988.