Garry South and Radio

Unlike most baby boomers his age, Garry South wasn’t raised on TV; his parents didn’t even buy one until he’d left for college. Instead, he grew up mesmerized by the radio, including such children’s radio dramas as Peter and the Wolf, the Grasshopper and the Ants and The Lone Ranger. Radio programs like “Grand Ol’ Opry”, “Don McNeill and the Breakfast Club” and evangelist Oral Roberts’ “Healing Waters Broadcast” provided the family entertainment.

This early exposure to the medium of radio had a lasting impact on him. In the early 1980s, South founded EarWorks, Inc., a company that specialized in creative radio communications for candidate, issue and independent expenditure campaigns across the country. He served as President of EarWorks, Inc., until 1996.

South wrote and recorded his first radio commercials as a college sophomore – a series of student endorsements for a young Democratic Lieutenant Governor running for, and elected, Governor of his home state of Montana. (Mercifully, he says, none of those early efforts survived.)

In 1978, South managed a hotly contested U.S. Senate race in Illinois, one that – improbably for such a major campaign – came to revolve around a single radio spot described by National Public Radio as “one of the most controversial bits of political advertising to appear in years.” He later wrote a chapter about this episode, titled “Anatomy of a Spot,” for a Democratic National Committee candidate media manual. This long-ago commercial also was featured in the 2006 book “Going Dirty” (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.) by David Mark, the then Editor-in-Chief of Campaigns & Elections magazine.

Later, as Vice President for Political Communications of the National Association of Realtors, South wrote and directed many radio commercials for independent expenditure campaigns in congressional and U.S. Senate races undertaken by the Realtors. A Government Research Corporation analysis of media in independent expenditures praised South’s spots as “almost uniformly superior. The spots had a sharpness and a clarity of message [that] hit the nail on the head whatever point was being made.”

Several of South’s radio spots over the years have won Pollie Awards, the political equivalent of the Oscars, awarded semi-annually by the American Association of Political Consultants.

Listen to these award-winning commercials.

Listen to narrated demonstration reel (TRT 26:03 mins.) of many other radio spots written and produced by South, including descriptions of the context in which the spots were used here.

Below are several articles Garry South has written on the use of radio in political campaigns:

Anatomy of a Spot

Better Heard Not Seen: The FCC’s Recent Requirement of Prominent Disclaimers on Political TV Ads May Change the Mix of Broadcast Campaigns

The Mind’s Eye: It Doesn’t Matter What You Look Like On the Radio