Kmtt: Go Sell It On `The Mountain'

Radio station KBRD-FM wanted to find a memorable way to promote its changing call letters, music and nickname.

So it bought ads - on several competing radio stations.

"They pulled a real fast one," conceded Chuck Maylin, general sales manager at KBSG, one of the snookered stations. "I'm not running their (ads) anymore, but I'm keeping their money."

Welcome, all you dial-twisters, to Seattle radio, where lately the slogan might as well be "less music, higher jinks."

Last week, KISW switched for several hours to "classical rock" - wink, wink - mixing in Verdi with its Van Halen. The April Fools' Day gag grabbed some free publicity and pulled the plug on several weeks of rumors that the venerable rock station might dump its format.

Now this.

KBRD (103.7 mHz) did pull a legitimate switcheroo. Yesterday at 2 p.m. it became KMTT - "The Mountain" - with "mellow rock" cuts squeezing out Barry Manilow and the rest of KBRD's easy-listening music.

The joke came over the weekend, when four other stations were airing advertisements for "The Mountain."

"A cinematic adventure is about to begin," went the ad, written to sound like a movie promotion. "Set to a soundtrack of the rock-'n'-roll music you grew up with."

Sharp listeners might have heard the name of the station's owner, Entertainment Communications Inc., squeezed in at the end. "We talked a little faster in that part," confessed KMTT general manager Michael Donovan.

Last Friday, Donovan bought several thousand dollars' worth of time on KBSG, KISW, KZOK and KSEA. By Tuesday, all the hornswoggled stations had figured out the ruse and yanked the commercial.

"For the same reason you don't see Union 76 promotions at a Chevron station," said Bob Weiss, KISW's local sales manager, "we don't like to tell our listeners to listen to someone else."

Several radio trade publications caught wind of the chicanery earlier this week, but Donovan and the handful of other insiders in on the switch kept mum. For secrecy's sake, program director Chris Mays even built KMTT's new library of CDs by buying them at local record stores instead of asking Warner Bros. and other labels for freebies.

Mays and Donovan hope the new format - mellow cuts from such artists as Chris Isaak, Van Morrison and Bonnie Raitt - will snag listeners in the profitable 25-to-45 age group. KMTT also figures to pick up old KEZX fans who abandoned that station last October when it dumped its "progressive music" format, which featured some of the same artists.

KMTT doesn't count on winning any boosters at the stations that it bamboozled. Good thinking, that.

On Tuesday, KBSG aired its own tongue-in-cheek "movie review" to plow The Mountain down to size. Like the ad that inspired it, the joke probably made sense only to radio insiders.

"Song after song you don't remember . . . by artist after artist you're trying to forget," went the Siskel-and-Ebert-like review. "The Mountain is a molehill. We give it two thumbs down."