Q It Up: Do you have copy deadlines for the salespeople? What are they? Do you have varying deadlines depending on the type of order? For example, 72 hours for copy that needs to be written and produced, and perhaps just 24 hours for dubs and tags? How closely are these deadlines followed? If a deadline is missed, what generally happens? Please add any other thoughts or comments you may have.
Pete Jensen [PETEJ[at]kxly.com]: Our traffic director Jolene Longwill gives the following: “At the KXLY radio group - 7 stations - the production orders must be emailed to traffic by noon the day before they start - Friday and Saturday spots are due by Thursday noon, and Sunday-Monday are due Friday at noon. The majority of production comes in before the deadline and we try to be flexible. If we [meaning the traffic department] don’t receive the production, or at a minimum, some communication from the AE by the noon deadline, we are authorized to drop the spots for the next day. They will not be added back to the log for that day if the copy comes in later that day; they have to be rescheduled as avails allow. We try to avoid this because we lose revenue and it usually causes more work in the long run, but it is very effective.”
In my view as the Production Director, the noon deadline means that the production still has to be processed by traffic, so I still see a majority of the production - no matter what type - the afternoon before it airs. As a result I work 11am until 7pm (or much, much later) to accommodate the production flow. The biggest problem this creates is that my voice tends to be on far too many spots, because most of our voices are available earlier in the day. There are three of us whose voices are on many, many spots, so we are constantly trying to mix it up. We have lots of voices available, but only if we have time to use them.
Bill Downs III [billdowns[at]clear channel.com], Clear Channel Radio, Little Rock, AR: The only way I ever applied a deadline in production was to see how long the deadline would last before it became more of a “guideline.” In this world of “every dollar counts,” enforceable deadlines are pretty hard to come by. The reality is, “starts tomorrow” is still alive and kicking. However, if I had my druthers, I’d ask for three days for written spots and a week for specs.
Sean Bell [seanbell[at]nypd.uk.com]: My day tends to follow the same pattern. I write in the morning, and produce through the afternoon, and then sometimes return to writing later in the day, once all the ads are produced and sent to the various stations. I try to clear my “to write” tray each day, as I’m now producing for 14 stations and a few ad agencies, so I can’t allow a back-log or bottle neck to build up. Most often, whatever’s written comes back for production within a couple of days, and again, I get the spot made and out the same day I’ve received a signed production order. Having said all of that, there are times when things drag out for far longer, like when a client chops and changes their mind (script version 8 is my record - and yes, I did manage to remain patient), or when the script has to be re-written from scratch several times, or when it has to go to the RACC for clearance.
On the other hand, there are some spots that get turned around very quickly, when a sales exec has forgotten to action something, or one person thought another was dealing with it, etc. The quickest I’ve ever turned a job around in full was 40 minutes, from receiving the brief to writing, clearing, making and sending the MP3 out! I couldn’t work at that speed all the time. Friday afternoons always get frantic, as do the last few days of any month, as the sale execs want to close as much business as possible to boost their bonuses. I have one sale exec in particular who always calls me around 10 minutes after sending me the brief to ask “have you done it yet?” I’d like to think I’m good, but not that good!!!
Craig Allen [craig.allen[at]citcomm .com], Citadel Marketing Group, Saginaw, Michigan: Around here salespeople observe deadlines the way most people observe the posted speed limit on the freeway - as a suggestion, not the law. “Officially,” our deadlines are 3 business days to write and produce (including specs). Our daily deadline for production orders is 2pm Monday-Thursday for the next day’s log, and noon on Friday. Unofficially (i.e., in the real world), if it’s got dollars attached to it, the deadlines are nonexistent. There have been many days when Traffic and Production have been waiting until 4pm, 5pm, even later for a piece of missing copy. Maddening? That’s putting it lightly. What we’ve resorted to is checking our daily Missing Copy Assignment reports, and harassing the usual offenders as far in advance as possible. Right now I’m too busy fighting the Quality Control War to be at my desk fighting the Deadline War.
Brian Whitaker [dmrgproduction [at]qwest.net], Des Moines Radio Group, Des Moines, Iowa: Here at our group, we try to enforce these deadlines: Dubs/tags: Noon the day before it starts. Produced spots: 48 hours (script is already written). Specs: 3 business days. Scripts: Give copywriter at least 24 hours. (We have a great guy in house, and he’s quick.)
We make the sales rep turn in everything with the production order (instructions/script/run dates), so after it goes through the continuity dept., everything is stapled to the order. I used to spend 3 hours every Friday tracking down traffic and dubs; I never got any producing done. So we make it the sales rep’s responsibility to do this so we’re not making 45 phone calls every day. Hey, it’s THEIR client; its probably better that they talk to the client instead of a clueless producer. :)
At least once a week we get someone trying to bend the rules, so when that happens (depending on the situation), we stick to the deadlines, unless it was something out of their control. Hey, we’re all working hard here, why should we stay late and cover their error, while they leave at 5 and hit the lake? With six stations and 3 producers, people can get spread thin real quick.
We also put out a production/traffic handbook this year, outlining all the rules and regulations of the production department, and it was reviewed in the weekly sales meeting. Plus, our director of sales feels our pain, so this helps in enforcing the rules knowing he is in our corner. After presenting the handbook, and having these set deadlines on paper, things started running MUCH smoother. We all go through less Advil, and can get out of here at a decent time on a Friday!
Jim Harvill [JimHarvill[at]clear channel.com]: When I became Production Director here 7 years ago I set up deadlines of 3:00 P.M. Monday through Thursday, noon on Fridays, and even earlier before holiday weekends. I stress to salespeople that 24 hours is preferred for commercial production and 48 hours is a minimum for spec spots (because business on the books comes first). And the first question I’m asked by other Production Directors is “how do you get salespeople to follow them?” And the easy answer is “I don’t always.” Bottom line, at least in my opinion, is if you have no deadlines no one will ever make an effort to follow them.
John Melley [jmelley[at]boston.cbs .com], WBMX, Mix 98-5, Boston, Massachusetts: I think we have a pretty generous copy deadline at Mix 98-5. Perhaps I’ll see differently when I read this column.
This is a great question in that it’s something that we (Traffic and Prod) are always having to re-ENforce.
Our copy deadlines are posted on the Traffic Department door and the Production studio door and every salesperson is given a copy of them.
The copy deadline for Monday - Thursday is 4:00 PM for simple dubs and tags. Problems with getting copy into traffic have to be communicated to the Traffic Dept. before 4:00 PM, or else it gets bumped.
Friday’s copy deadline is 3:00 PM since we’ve got Saturday, Sunday and Monday to take care of. If there’s a 3 day weekend we move up the 3:00 PM deadline to Thursday, partly to create a sense of urgency for the Sales Dept. so they understand that even though they’ve submitted the order, there are still a few steps to go through before it’s actually ready to air.
We TRY to make the Fridays before holiday weekends a processing day. The goal is to get as much of it in on Thursday so Traffic can spend most of the day sorting through the orders for the long weekend and inevitably chasing down a few remaining pieces of copy that you just know are going to arrive.
Anything that needs a pre-approval by the client must be handed into Traffic and Production a minimum of 2 days prior to the scheduled air date to give us time to work on it and make any necessary revisions. We stress that the more lead time the better... for them and their client, because we can produce a better spot for them.
I try to meet with the new salespeople during their training period to give them some idea of what happens in our departments after they get an order. I try to set the tone up front that we (Traffic/Production) work hard to meet their deadlines, and all we ask is they provide us with the same consideration. I think it goes a long way toward avoiding problems down the road.
I’m fortunate to work with a great Traffic and Continuity team that is pretty proactive in anticipating problems for me and enforcing the copy deadlines. Our sales managers are good about backing us up on the policy, so that when problems do arise, it doesn’t become a regular thing.
The important thing is to be consistent with the policy with every salesperson. There are always going to be unexpected orders and last minute changes, but if you have a good policy in place, you pretty much anticipate that something will come up, and at least you’re not surprised when it does. It makes the last minute changes and problems a lot less disruptive.
Part 2 Next Month!