By Trent Rentsch
Let’s begin with a quiz. Which of the following statements is true:
A: Writing and producing a Creative commercial will take as long as it takes.
B: “As long as it takes” is defined as the amount of time from when a salesperson hands in the production order (generally after 5:37 p.m.), to the point just before sanity and/or wedded bliss unravel.
C: Said salesperson should be duct taped to the hood of their Lexus and driven into the nearest large body of water.
If you answered, “Why can’t I pick all of the above?” you have some policy issues at your station. You also have some other issues that I cannot help you with; I suggest professional help. Only they can assist you in getting the duct tape REALLY tight.
Funny how different departments of the industry have adopted differing definitions of the term, “The Immediacy of Radio.” To some it means, “There is a severe weather warning, we can break in immediately and alert the public.” To others it means, “My client wants 5 rotating spots, multiple voices, funny, how about a jingle, oh, and they’re on the log next hour.” While it’s obvious to me that the first definition is more accurate, I don’t believe that the second is embraced because of some secret sales society bent on the increased use of anti-anxiety medications by Creatives. Just like a young producer who is introduced to flanging and is then left to his own devices, a novice sales rep hears chestnuts about the industry, and left without explanations, is forced to some less than accurate conclusions.
Frankly, Creatives add to the confusion. Commercial A is written and produced in less than an hour—funny, a few sound effects, a couple of voices plus an announcer tag. Commercial B, however, is barely ready before it is to air, with no time for client approval—and it’s just a voice without music, good writing, but nothing fancy. Nice mixed message to someone whose only experience in production is being screamed at by the Creative for more copy points… or sometimes, less copy.
You might think that I’m picking on salespeople, or perhaps Creatives. Well, yes I am. When both groups have the same ultimate goal in mind, it seems incomprehensible to me that there is so much confusion, sometimes hostility, between them. Oh that’s right, both sides are usually left to define that goal for themselves, but I digress.
There’s a bold process that could improve the situation. You may have heard of it, perhaps in some broadcasting class years ago, but wondered if it would really work. Its called “Communication.” Yes, Communication, the act that should be taking the communications world by storm. With communication, everyone in the station will work smarter, understanding how their job affects the others in the building. For example, with Communication, everyone will understand why deadlines are important, and why they should be followed 99% of the time. And with Communication, that 1% of the time that deadlines are not followed, everyone will understand why an exception needed to be made. Imagine a station where the entire staff understands how many words make up a 30-second ad! It could happen with Communication. Imagine a sales rep who knew and could explain to a client why adding their phone number 5 times in one spot is a waste of advertising time! Yep, another benefit of Communication. And how wonderful would life be if Producers were advised every time a client was coming in to record their own commercial? Wow, thank you Communication!
Here could be an actual testimonial from a subscriber to Communication: Before our company started using Communication, I hated coming to work. I went through antacids like Billy Bob Thorton goes through wives; even that job waiting tables at the biker bar was looking good again. But thanks to Communication, our station has realistic deadlines for Production. Sales understands that some ads just take longer than others, that I am not a supplier of “Creativity on Tap.” Moreover, I understand what the salespeople are dealing with. I was convinced that their entire day revolved around 3 hour power lunches and making my life a living hell. With Communication, I now know that their day is spent making clients happy, which can make their lives a living hell… and which sometimes trickles down to me. Now I love my job, I’m engaged to one of our sales reps, and the biker bar is now a client of the station! Communication has changed my life. Your results may vary, but by now I suspect that you see the powerful implications of Communication.
You can’t buy Communication in any store, it is only available by word of mouth. That’s right, Communication is only available through TALKING. Talk to the General Manager, the Program Director, the Sales Manager. Tell them that you want Communication at your station. Make it clear that everyone at the station needs Communication, that Communication will make your station run more smoothly, and with a lot less misfires and noxious emissions. Suggest frequent meetings, where everyone on staff can enjoy the power of Communication, and respectfully demand that the policies that are created by Communication be enforced.
The single greatest joy of my professional life is when it all comes together… all the copy points fall into place in a well-devised script, the execution of that script in Production makes the words come to life, the client is excited to get it on the air, and is even more excited by the response. Every time that it’s happened, the sales rep and I had open lines of communication. The rep understood what I needed to make my part of the transaction work, and they did their best to provide it to me, and that included leaving me alone until the time we both agreed that the spot would be ready. Every time that I’ve had open, honest communication with sales, our success rate for the station, for our clients, has been outstanding. The times without communication? Let’s just say that I keep a roll of duct tape in my desk.