Q It Up: Finish this sentence: “I do my best commercials, and/or promos/imaging when…” Please elaborate. For example, if you do your best commercials when it’s raining, explain why. Basically, we’re trying to find out what helps you do your best work. Is it environment, a mental attitude, a special production library, a favorite plug-in, getting the right info from the sales rep, a special brand of coffee, when the boss is out of town? When does it all seem to be clicking for you?
Allen Bailey [atbailey[at]midwest info.net], KEYL/KXDL, Long Prairie, Minnesota USA: I do my best commercials when I’ve got a bunch of them to do in a short amount of time. You’re not thinking about anything else except producing commercials. You think about it and one idea may not work for one, but may work for another. It’s fun every once in a while.
Brian Whitaker [brian1025[at]qwest .net], KSTZ/KAZR, Des Moines Radio Group: I do my best promos/imaging with a triple-venti mocha from Starbucks… in the morning, with freshly defragged computer, after a good night’s sleep, with no PDs or salespeople knockin’ on my door. I work better before noon with no interruptions. If it’s the end of the day and I’m trying to assign spots and wrap up everything for the day, it’s harder to concentrate on making a good promo or sweeper.
Sean Bell [seanbell[at]yahoo.com], NYPD, United Kingdom: When I’m under pressure. I don’t know why, nor can I understand it, but I seem to find I both write and produce better when I know there’s a deadline looming and I’m up against it. Perhaps it’s because I’m more focused? I love the feeling as the adrenaline’s rushing and things are being created. But when it’s all over, the studio looks like it’s been hit by a tornado! (And I always ask myself, why don’t I just put the CDs back as I go along?)
Rich VanSlyke [richvs[at]bellsouth.net], Rich VanSlyke Productions, LLC, Suwanee, GA: ...when I’ve just received a compliment as I’m working on a new project for a first time wealthy client while the sun is shining during my first cup of coffee.
Dave Foxx [DaveFoxx[at]clearchannel .com], Z100 Radio/New York City: I do my best imaging when I’m cut loose by the PD to see what I can do. Being able to write, voice AND produce promos and sweepers opens all kinds of possibilities. If I decide I need to use a drop from South Park, I can tailor make my VO response so that it’s right to the point of the promo. I hear a lot of people use Cartman in their work, but most of the time it’s only funny because he has a funny voice and it doesn’t really speak to the promotion. I can also really match the voice to the track when I know what the track is before I cut the VO.
Even more important than being allowed to totally carry the ball, is having enough lead-time to really create. We make it a point to plan our promotions two or three weeks in advance. This gives everyone a chance to get on the same page before anything real happens. Often, we’ll discuss what we WANT to do long before we’ve even talked things over with a label or venue, just to get the creative juices flowing. Even if a group’s management doesn’t approve everything we want to do, we usually have something that runs in the same direction, so it only takes a minor modification to finally bring it off.
A great example of making things fit the way they should was a recent promotion we did with Good Charlotte. I had enough notice to actually write the lines for them to pre-record before I loaded in the first track. (Hear the finished version on this month’s CD.) Benji and Joel really picked up on the vibe I wanted to create and ad-libbed several lines that fit in perfectly. The label got so excited about the promotion, they even provided the acoustic version of Girls And Boys before it went into general release. The net result was a promotion that really got our listeners excited and kept everybody entertained. We started talking about this one almost a full month before a promo hit the air.
Jeff Berlin [JBerlin[at]jberlin.com], Kiss 108, Boston, MA: I do my best commercials, and/or promos/imaging when I get inspiration from the brilliance of other people’s work. Thanks RAP!
Steve McKenzie [smckenzie[at]wtmx .com]: I do my best work when 1) I have ample time! (Most important) 2) A positive mental attitude. (If I’m slightly depressed mentally, things don’t click, I don’t have the good work ethic, and my voiceovers lack energy/punch.)
Johnny George [jg[at]johnnygeorge .com], Susquehanna, Indianapolis, IA: I’m finding that the best way I can create is to work backwards. Our promotions department and my PD bring the fact to the table. Prior to this, we have found a few sound effects or bits or drops that are current and catch our ear for the period and we write answers or questions to fit the bits/drops — kinda like listening to your music beds or sound effects prior to a writing session and being inspired. You have to envision a mood or scenario that you can wrap it all around. We find that writing to the listeners’ perspective, “what will they get from this” attitude, is paramount to effective promo writing. I try to stay away from the typical “drops”, for the sake of drops, and the ‘quick edit’ fancy work that so many times is to impress other producers. <G> I think we, as producers, can get lost in the quagmire of losing sight of the objective just to hear how clever we can get with sound. It can then turn into such “inside” producing that completely goes over the heads of our listeners. They may say, “Wow...that’s cool!” But did we make our point and did we sell an effective message? Sometimes I think not.
Craig Jackman [craigj[at]canada.com], Rogers Media, Ottawa, Canada: I do my best commercials/promos/imaging when I don’t over-think things. My best works are usually the ones that are complete in my head before I finish reading a script or fact sheet. The ones where you just know it has to be this voice with that bed and those effects. 20 minutes start to finish. The ones where there is only one way to put things together, rather than trying several approaches and settling on the one that seems to work the best.
Rob Garcia [rob[at]jrscreative.com], JRS Creative Productions: I do my best commercials, and/or promos/imaging when… every one leaves me alone. It never fails, I fire up the computer, grab the script, do some brainstorming and start my imaging and BAM! The phone rings and the fax machine starts spittin’ stuff out, and my instant messenger goes off. By the time I put out fires and get back in front of my DAW, my brain is totally lost!! Note to stations: Leave me alone.
Tim McKee [Tim.McKee[at]cox.com]: I guess I’d have to say it’s when the client gives me full realm with the creativity. I know this isn’t always possible, but if the account executive has conveyed the fact that our production “gods” can do their magic for you if you let them, to the client, then hey, who am I to let them down? Most of the time however my creativity is used on either men’s clubs or adult video establishments.
Ironically, the one spot that my former partner Ric Gonzalez and I won the Best Commercial Medium Market RAP award for last year was a car dealer. Ric wanted to do a spot that didn’t sound anything like your typical screaming head “get down here now before my voice quits” type of spot. I suggested to Ric that we do a parody of all the disclaimers that the dealers have to put in their ads. Ric wrote a masterpiece. Then we produced it. The account executive loved it. She sent it to the agency. The man who owns the agency sat on it. We pleaded with him to air the spot so that we could qualify for the RAP awards. WE believed in the spot that much, so should he, we thought. He finally agreed, after we said we’d “comp” him the ad time. The spot ran a couple of times late at night. Great, it qualified. After we won the award, the account executive called the owner of the agency to let him know that our spot had won an “international” award. He only then, let the client hear it. The client loved it. I guess what I’m saying now is don’t give up on your ideas. But I’ll save that for another “Q It Up”.
The best time for me to write is early in the morning. The phone hasn’t started ringing off the wall and the account executives don’t show their faces around here too early. I have a clear mind, and I can really go at it. This morning, for example, I wrote 3 scripts before the business started in. Now, if I could just get the furniture and clothing stores to let me have some fun with their ads. I’ll keep trying!
AJ McKay [production[at]wabb.com], WABB-FM/AM, Mobile, AL: I do my best commercials, and/or promos/imaging when me and the cleaning lady are the only two people in the building.
Most of the time it is hard to focus on a project without being bothered by a salesperson who needs something yesterday, your boss who wants you to join in on a meeting at the last minute, or knowing that in thirty minutes you MUST stop what you are doing because an all new, exciting episode of the Sharon Osbourne Show is about to hit the air. :-)
I do my best work when the sun is out, the skies are blue, and there’s a full bottle of Jeagermeister that’s been nice and chilled in the freezer! Oh yeah, and when there are no/few interruptions, but then again, aren’t those the ideal conditions for most people?
Ian Fish [Ian.Fish[at]chrysalis.com], 100.7 Heart FM, The Midlands, United Kingdom: I do my best promos/imaging when I’m in the shower. Almost guaranteed that if I’m struggling for an idea during the day, I’ll get an idea in the shower when I get home, which is great, until you want to write down the idea. Solved that when I went on a diving course and discovered an underwater writing set with a chinagraph pencil (remember them?).
I think the shower works for me as a “quiet place,” which I don’t get at the office. If I divert the phone away, people just come up to the studio, and the Red Light trick doesn’t work anymore. The shower offers a combination of: no phone calls, no salespeople, no presenters, nobody from marketing (apart from my girlfriend whom I live, and work with — but then I come up with a whole other set of ideas... most of which don’t need writing down).
Brain Kelsey [jbkbounce[at]aol.com], briankelsey.com: I do my best work after I listen to somebody who does great production. Nothing inspires me more than hearing someone who kicks major ass. I think, “Man, I want to do something as cool as that!” I hardly do, but sometimes...