or... 60 Seconds of Brilliance from 10 Seconds of Bullshit
or... How to Just Get It Off Your Desk
By Nic Natarella
We’ve all encountered the AE that turns in a business name, address, phone number, and product category and asked for a commercial or a spec for tomorrow. We’ve dealt with 2” by 2” newspaper ads stapled to production orders with the instructions, “Just Be Creative” in the comments section. We’ve seen a dark photocopy from the yellow pages with the business circled and “Starts at 11:00am” scrawled in the margins. Hopefully, you’ve learned getting mad and asking the GM or GSM to instruct the salespeople to do their job, has no effect. Here are a few sure-fire ways of coming up with an award-winning commercial* that will put a smile on the client’s face, spots on the station’s log, tons of money in the AE’s pocket, and mounds of revenue in the company’s coffers.
The first and most fun approach is the Dan O’Day Bad Commercial Generator: www.danoday.com/bcg. When I’m too frustrated, or angry, or it’s late in the day and I’ve just finished producing a 48 hour moonlight madness sale campaign with hourly updates, I just click on the above link. All you have to do is supply the name, product or service of the client, and their phone number (obviously the three most critical elements in any commercial). Then, answer a series of multiple-choice questions (none of the answers are really wrong, you’re just choosing the answers that “best fit” this particular situation). Press the “Click Here” button at the end, and Voila! One Bad Commercial generated just for your AE and their client. Head to the production room you Prod God you!
For the more considerate AE that includes a laundry list of pricing points that must be included, you will have to delete a few sentences to make room for the more pertinent information. Copy the commercial from the website and paste it into any word processing program.
Another technique I have used is what I call the “Type What You Got” approach. Take any and all information the AE has given you, whether it be the newspaper ad, yellow pages ad, menu, etc., and type it all in. Don’t worry about punctuation; don’t worry about ending sentences with a preposition or any other grammar for that matter. Just type what you got.
Let your fingers recuperate from their 22 second workout, and take a look at the words, phrases and clichés you have on your screen. You may notice a pattern or sections with similar subjects. For example, I received information for a furniture store and in two separate and distant areas were the comments “Free Delivery” and “Same Day Delivery.” Go ahead and group these similar phrases next to each other.
See if you can’t find any other words or phrases with similar topics and group them. Of course you’ll want to name the sale at the beginning, and mention the address and phone number at the end, so move those to their respective and relative locations. You will magically see a “commercial” appear before your eyes!
Now, add real subjects and predicates. Follow grammatical rules, and make complete sentences out of the phrases. This is where the “commercial” blooms.
The final touch will be the “bridges.. When you finish one topic and segue into another you’ll need “bridges” to make that transition. Some of the key bridges that must be in any good Production Director’s arsenal are: Hey! Well… You Heard Right! But Wait! That’s Right!
Bridges are an essential component to any “commercial,” but they must be used sparingly. What I mean is, you’ve typed everything, you’ve done all the grouping there is, you’ve turned the clauses and phrases into sentences and you’ve only used 48 seconds; you still have 12 seconds to spare. That’s when the bridges are most effective. Not only do they add absolutely nothing to the commercial, therefore not doing any harm, they also eat up that spare 12 seconds. Bridges. Powerful. Be careful.
To really make the AE feel like you’re a genius, you could use two voices to deliver alternating lines, or turn it into a scene. Using famous people or characters adds a level of credibility to the “commercial.” Batman and Robin, Churchill and Stalin. Just pick the first two that pop into your head. So what if they’re discussing the kiosk of sunglasses in the mall. That’s what makes it creative.
The next time an AE comes to you with little or nothing to go on, and little or no time to do it, you don’t need to get angry. You don’t need to waste the heartbeats on higher blood pressure. Just smile and say, “Sure.” Tell them to put their notes in your mailbox and leave the money on the dresser.
Good luck, and happy copywriting!
*The “Production In A Pinch” award: A handsomely gold spray-painted CD with a nail pounded through it to mount it on a 2 x 4. An engraved gold plate below it reads: (your name here) is presented with this Production In A Pinch award. On (date), an idiot AE turned in shit information, and it was turned into gold-plated shit.“Stick this in your CD player and smoke it!”