The birth of the Dumball Machine

One of my former gigs was an the Internet Sales manager of a radio station. It was back in the early days of traditional radio trying to embrace digital and there was a steep learning curve for most reps trying to add digital marketing assets to their portfolio of on-air sales elements.

As their first Digital Sales Manager ever, I did my best to provide them with basic sales one-sheets with helpful descriptions, screenshots, and transparent pricing they could share with their clients (I was also available to go on client sales calls with them). 

One of the most basic digital packages was for putting a client banner ad on the station website. The one sheet includes three standard banner sizes, screenshots of each banner to show where it appeared on the website, and flat rate pricing (CPM pricing sucks) like a restaurant menu. I distributed this as a physical handout in our sales meetings, as a PDF in the sales team's shared online drive, and within a 3-ring reference binder I'd given each rep that included every other sales one-sheet they could present to advertising prospects. I even taped a copy of the banner sales sheet to the cubicle of each sales rep.

To my eternal frustration, there was a steady parade of sales reps poking their head into my office to ask

"How much is a banner ad?"

Every Sales Rep, Everyday.

For more than I year I would answer each query and point them toward one of the self-serve references I'd produced for them which contained the answers they were seeking.

At some point during my six year tenure at the broadcasting company I came up with a snarky idea on how to express how annoying this question had become since the answer was so bloody easy for them to find on their own -- as simple as looking at the sheet taped in their cubicle.

I bought a used gumball vending machine -- one of those big red ones with the square glass dispenser that gave out a large plastic capsule in exchange for two quarters.

I printed out strips of paper with all the banner ad pricing on it and inserted them in the plastic capsules (like a sales one-sheet fortune cookie) and even included a small toy (one of those sticky-hand grabbers) and placed the machine in my office.

If a salesperson poked their headed in my office and asked that question  (the one that had become the bane of my existence) I would now greet them with a smirk and remind them they could find the answer hanging on their cubicle wall, in the company shared drive, and in their sales binder... OR they could use the vending machine next to my desk to get the answer (and a free prize) for the low, low price of 50-cents.

And the Dumball Machine was born!

A couple of closing points...

  1. The machine and the plastic capsules cost about $75.
  2. I had a roll of quarters to make change for the salespeople who wanted to use the machine.
  3. I made about $2.50 from salespeople who wanted to buy the answer to their question.
  4. The Dumball Machine became legend within the organization (and I ended up with a priceless story to share with others). 

Actual photo of the original Dumball Machine circa 2006.