Q It Up: One of the advertiser benefits of digital delivery systems such as SpotTaxi, SpotTraffic, DGS and others, as well as direct email and FTP download, is that the advertiser can get their commercials to the radio stations, literally, at the last minute. Newspapers and TV stations can take advantage of this and provide timely and topical commercials produced only a couple of hours before they’re scheduled to air. And for any advertiser, it’s possible to make “instant” revisions. These “benefits” however, can sometimes have a negative effect on your production department as it scrambles to handle last minute production orders. There’s also the increased chance of spots being missed because the commercial arrived too late, which can result in lost revenue as that avail disappears. If you use these digital delivery systems, how much are you and your department/station(s) affected by this last minute capability? If this creates problems for you and your station(s), how do you deal with them? Please add any further comments you might have on the subject.
Craig Jackman [craigj[at]canada.com], Rogers Media, Ottawa, Ont. Canada: Hey, I’m all for doing everything we can to make the advertisers life easier in getting the correct material to air. A happy client is a repeat client, and usually one that pays the bill on time. That being said, there are limits to what I’m willing to do. We have Production people in the building from 5am to 7pm Monday to Friday. There are Copywriters on hand from 7 to 7. We all have phones. We all have email. We’re actually pretty easy to get hold of to get something new or to make changes. If your spot arrives anytime when someone’s here it’s no big deal to add it or change it. There is no rush, there is no headache, there is no extra stress involved. If someone phones at 6:55, while I’ll take the information, nobody’s going to look at it until the next morning. If your commercial delivery arrives at 7:25pm, too bad, as chances are the late shift has already left. The 5am guy will take a look at it.
It’s compounded by the new radio reality. 2 years ago if I needed to make a change, I’d just write it onto the log. Live jocks 24/7 can follow instructions pretty well. Now that we use automation to some degree on all stations, it’s more limiting. Anything I change has to be on the same DCS cart number, and it has to be the same length. If an advertiser wants something pulled immediately, I have to plug something into that slot. I do have access to edit the logs, but I really have no interest to go in and re-groom an entire weekend at 7pm on a Friday because Joe Auto Store changed the creative on his 5 spots at the last second. The reality is that it’s no longer Production deadlines that limit when spots can be added to the system. It’s now Traffic deadlines that control the castle gates.
As for newspapers and TV making instant changes, all I have to say is not around here they don’t. They’re still as rigid as ever, in some cases even more so. For example, the cable system requires TV spots 2 weeks before they air for spot substitution.
Thomas Robinson [thomas.robinson [at]mail.citcomm.com], WKLQ/WLAV, Grand Rapids, Michigan: We get most of our spots sent via DGS, SpotTaxi, e-mail, etc., and although I enjoy the convenience of it for the most part, there are a few aspects that irritate me. The first is the one stated in the question — getting the spots in at the last minute, like 5 PM Friday. It seems as though the biggest culprits of this are TV stations, which should have a better understanding of the importance of getting the spots in on a timely manner than other clients. We actually get some delivered to us on Saturday! I usually farm out the production order to a weekender and have them leave me a voice-mail if the spot doesn’t come in. Then I set my alarm for about 3 AM Monday morning and call the appropriate sales rep to inform them their client has yet to send the spot that starts in two hours. Generally during the week though, I let the sales rep know if it hasn’t arrived around noon the day before it starts. That gives them all afternoon to get on the phone and get the ball rolling. Another problem I am dealing with is spots not being archived for later use. Before, with reels and CDs, just label and date them, then toss ‘em on the shelf for a year. Now when I need to “run that one spot we ran last April,” it’s not always so easy to locate, although I am trying to get the rest of the production staff to actually use the “archive” folders I have set up on the production computer (instead of just deleting them). I’m also digitally archiving a lot of them to CD as well. I think what bothers me the most is when a client gives me a 3-foot long URL address for me to type in and go to, then sort through their old junk to find the right commercial. These are usually the same clients that can’t understand why the wrong spot got on the air.
Michael McGurk [mmcgurk[at]Empire Broadcasting.com], KARA/KRTY/KLIV, San Jose, CA: Good news, bad news. The good news is the immediacy of spots these days. TV news headlines just minutes old are on air. Promos can be changed at the drop of a hat...and not every voice guy has ISDN. The home office just OKed 0% financing and we can update that car spot, ad nauseum… That’s all well and good.
The Bad News I: there is not always someone here at the last minute who knows how to access every delivery system that is being used. The systems seem to be going through the same growing pains as FM did in the early ‘60s and AM stereo—which way is best. Everybody has a different way they send spots and sooner or later the one board op who doesn’t know how SpotTaxi works is going to get that last minute spot after everybody has gone home and we’re going to miss a spot.
The Bad News II: We do not allow spots to be emailed directly to the DAW in our production studio. They have to go through Traffic first for a couple reasons: 1 - We need to make sure Traffic knows about the order. 2 - A LAN situation that has our production room DAW on an internal only email list. So, if a spot comes in after everyone in traffic has left, it’s not going to get forwarded to production to get on air. (Not a perfect system, but we’ve missed only one spot in the past few months).
The Bad News III: And back to all the different Internet delivery systems for a minute…what’s with the passwords? Why does everyone need a password? Somebody’s gonna steal that ‘California Cheese’ spot and play it without permission? Pretty silly and a pain in the rear. I know browsers can be set to remember passwords, but it’s still pretty silly (not to mention a pain in the rear)
The bad news (or worst news) IV: the technical quality of spots is going in the toilet. I especially notice this with TV spots. The medium has long felt audio to be a necessary evil, but listen to the produced tags on most TV spots and tell me if they don’t sound like they were MP3ed to someone who mixed and MP3ed them to someone else to mix and MP3 to the station who MP3ed it on air. I love MP3, but it’s not always the best way to go. One generation of MP3 ain’t bad, but mix it and build another MP3 file and you have problems. Some clients are actually offering a choice of downloading an MP3 or WAV file. Now that’s cool—if it doesn’t confuse the overnight board op…or require another password.
Greg Schweizer [Gschweizer[at] amfm.com], Jammin 105.1 WTJM, New York: I was just talking with someone at the station about how the fax machine, the microwave oven and the cell phone were all designed to make tedious tasks and long distance communication easier and ideally give us more time to kick our feet up. As you know, these inventions have only raised our expectations of what can be done in a single day and subsequently made our leisure time virtually non-existent. (Is there anywhere you can’t be reached? Think about it.) With SpotTaxi, FTP download and emailed mp3’s a spot can now be delivered in the time it takes to move your mouse. And while the fax, microwave and cell have taken away our leisure time, these spot delivery systems have taken away deadlines for the agency and advertiser. It’s true, that one of the advantages of radio is the flexibility to revise and change copy more quickly than say newspapers, but if you’re just sending a spot that airs at 3:20 PM at 3:15 PM, you’re booking things way too tight. Spots are constantly being missed at my station and made up in later stop sets when possible. So these late arrivals not only affect Production, but the Traffic department as well. It’s unfortunate, but we can’t drop everything to accommodate one advertiser who couldn’t get their commercial produced in time for the 3:20 break that day. It also makes no sense to reward them by dropping everything you’re doing at 3:00 to fire up the sirens and lights and get their spot downtown with only seconds to spare. Because right now it’s only one or two spots being delivered close to air time, but what happens when it becomes ten? What happens when the entire 3:20 break is due to be delivered that day by 3:00 and from different sources? I wish I had an answer, but as yet I don’t. We do the best we can for last minute arrivals and as fast as computers are now, we can’t hold up spots from clients who handed their homework in on time. As Production people, we’re accustomed to dealing with last minute situations, but these new “drive-thru” spot delivery systems will make us further slaves to the agencies unless we set bounds. They always screw you at the drive-thru...and who gets screwed? Production! May you be home before the salespeople this holiday season.
Ron Harper [ronharper[at]fuse.net], The New 96.5/ESPN 1160 BOB: Well, that happens a lot, especially during football season or TV sweeps. However, the way things are configured, my studio is also my office, and I have one computer that is my SAW, my e-mail and my internet connection, and another next to it that is the Enco. So I’m usually right in front of the screen, I have Outlook minimized, and can see when I get a message. So it really doesn’t take a minute to fire things up and change it. With smaller staffs now everywhere, AND all the digital things flying everywhere, you have to be able to multi-task.