By Ed Thompson
What is our competition? Is it the radio group across town? BUZZ! Sorry. Wrong answer. No Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat for you. Next contestant please. Nope. The radio group across town is only a very tiny piece of a very large, very sweet pie. Our true competition is TV, print, outdoor, web, and anything else that can communicate a commercial message from one person to another. Yet day after day after bloody day, our sales forces are out there doing battle against each other, trying to win the radio ad wars. I call that cannibalism; and no, it don’t taste like chicken.
Since I started specializing in production, I’ve come to understand that I don’t necessarily work for one radio station or one radio group. I work in radio. Period. Anything that I do must be done to improve the industry in which I work. Now before you go thinking I’ve gone soft and turned into one of them-there microphone-hugging hippie types, lemme ‘splain myself. I’m a capitalist from the word “Go” and I always collect my $200.
I hate bad radio commercials. (Hey! Who doesn’t?) So as a Creative Director for an eight-station group, I’m going to work my butt off to create the best damn campaign or spot I can. By doing so, I’m casting wide my net in the hopes that Mr. Client gets results from buying radio and starts spending more money with us instead of the free paper down the street.
But what if one of the other radio groups does nothing but cookie-cutter commercials? What if they produce crap and radio revenues start to drop? Ain’t gonna happen here, folks. And there’s a simple reason for it. Every two months, everyone from every creative services department in this market gets together for an informal lunch at one of the better Italian restaurants in town. We call ourselves the 60 Second Club. Why the 60 Second Club? Well, we tried to think of some nifty acronym based on common industry terms like dubs or specs and all we could come up with was Society of Production Experts & Creative Services. That sounded a little egotistical so someone suggested Razor Rats. Trouble was, this being the age of digital editing, only two or three of us ever actually cut tape. Besides, Razor Rats sounds like we should be rumbling with the Jets and the Sharks.
There are several reasons why the 60 Second Club meets. First and foremost, we enjoy each other’s company. And why not? We all talk to each other over the phone or email each other asking for dubs and such. Why not get together and see each other face to face? As a result, we watch out for each other. A client tried to sneak around a talent fee by asking me to send him a dub of a spot that my counterpart across town had produced. I called my colleague to inform him of the attempted dodge and the matter was resolved to my friend’s benefit.
We also discuss subjects that affect our jobs, like mp3’s. Remember how mp3’s were going to make our jobs easier? No more sending salespeople across town to pick up dubs. Well, remember how the files names of those mp3’s were so diverse that sometimes we couldn’t tell which spot was which and accidentally aired the wrong one? Then there were sample rates and mono or stereo debates. The list went on. But, during a meeting of the 60 Second Club, the subject was brought up and we all agreed on the best formats and standards to label and record mp3’s. Those standards now benefit our clients by making sure they get the best sound quality and that the correct commercial runs.
There’s also a lot of backslapping and idea swapping. One producer, whose talents I respect a great deal, told me that he had heard a spot I produced and said, “I wish I had written that.” How can you not hear something like that and get jazzed up when you head back to the office? Who benefits from that? You guessed it, the client and us. And by us, I mean radio.
By sharing our creativity with each other, we feed each other in ways the pasta and Alfredo sauce cannot. We are all subtly encouraged to perform better and to think a little farther outside the box. The result is that we make better radio, which makes us more competitive with TV, print, outdoor, web, and others. I will stack the radio production in this market with some of the best I’ve ever heard by any radio station creative department anywhere in the English-speaking world.
Now the 60 Second Club does not enjoy any official sanction or endorsement by any of the broadcast corporations with which any of us are employed. But that’s fine with us. What we are, are people who love what we do and love to share what we do with those who do it.
So pass the garlic bread and raise your glass to the 60 Second Club. Salute! Oh! Waiter? Could we have separate checks please?