Well, we didn’t have many responses to this month’s question, but we did get some interesting ones! Thanks, guys!
Q It Up: Political ads. Don’t you wish you had them year round? Right. How do you handle these special advertisers? When they want to come to your studio to cut their spots, do you treat them differently from the average advertiser? Do you restrict them to certain days of the week to come to the studio? Certain hours of the day? Do you require absolute deadlines for reserving studio time? Are there special considerations when they use station announcers on tags or other parts of the spot? Do you restrict high-profile personalities from appearing on the spots without talent fees? What are your station’s policies regarding political ads? Please feel free to share any further thoughts on the subject.
Andrew Crothers [andrewcrothers [at]mac.com], MediaCorp Radio, Singapore: Political Ads? What are Political Ads?
Bumper Morgan [bumpermorgan [at]comcast.net], bumperproductions .com, Cape Cod, Massachusettes: Political spots are always fun to work on — many of the candidates bring in coffee and donuts, posters, pins and personalized pens, whatever it takes to get name recognition and keep us pumped up for the session.
If they are unprepared, choosing the right background music can take a while to negotiate. Way too often, they want their spots to run dry. All depending on how boring they are, they can really drag down a music station. Network Music has a very good selection of political scores.
Our policy is that they provide their own stable of talent. Political ads are a separate entity from our commercial campaigns. We try not to mix air talent with politics. Usually, someone from their office is dragged into the studio for a tag.
My job is to listen carefully, and take direction. Remember, this is a foreign environment for many of them — try to make them feel comfortable.
It’s good to know that the spots we produced have a great mix, solid edits, and just enough compression and EQ to hopefully bring out the vote.
One of the greatest voices I’ve worked with recently is Michael O’Keefe, the Cape & Islands District Attorney. He has that Joe Friday dragnet sound. Someday, I’d like to see Mr. O’Keefe and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson appear on the TV show Boston Legal. [Audio on CD]
Steve Stone [sstone[at]zrgmail.com], Zimmer Radio Group, Joplin, Missouri: We normally have very few politicians come to the studios; most of what we run is from out-of-house. We did, however, have an unusual situation arise this time around. What would you imagine to be the most offensive content for a political ad? “My opponent cheated on his taxes in 1979!” or maybe “My opponent kicked a dog once.” You’ve heard just about all the slams, smears, lies and yea-well’s, but the recent ads for a certain person running for Congress in Missouri blew my mind.
This guy’s platform? HATE! The ads spoke of white pride, white rights, and labeled anyone not of the Arian race a “mongrel.” Wait! It gets worse. He went on to say how “We need to send the sluts who lay with these mongrels to breed more mongrels to Africa or Mexico.” Absolutely unbelievable.
Our owners and our Operations Manager opted not to run them based on the offensive nature, but the client insisted we were obligated, having already agreed to run ads for his competitors. After some investigation into the regulations, the spots went into the system. I did put a tag at the end stating that the opinions in the ads did not reflect those of Zimmer Radio, its agents, affiliates or advertisers.
We received many calls and e-mails from listeners who couldn’t believe we were running them. More than resentment of the stations for airing them, the listeners were shocked by the hateful platform this guy was running on.
I wonder if his Mama is proud? [Audio on CD]
Craig Jackman [craigj[at]canada.com], Rogers Radio, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: A political ad is just like any other ad. The difference I’ve found is that generally the flunkies are better prepared to guide the candidate through the spot compared to the car dealer and his wife. I limit access to studio time as portions of my day are limited by programming commitments, and access to other studios and voices. Within those restrictions I only ask the Sales Reps that I know ahead of time when studio time is required. At our stations, announcers are available by request and are not guaranteed. Rarely, when an announcer requests not to read a certain spot for any number of reasons, we will get another announcer to read the copy. Talent fees almost never occur here anyway, so they are not an issue with political ads. Other than respecting the electoral laws in this country concerning advertising in an election campaign, we have no other policy on political ads.
Andrew Frame [andrew[at]baf soundworks.com], BAFSoundWorks, Lehigh Acres, Florida: How do you handle these special advertisers? The same as the rest. With utter disregard... :-P Answers are based on experience from the last couple if stations I worked with.
When they want to come to your studio to cut their spots, do you treat them differently from the average advertiser? No, they have the same status as any advertiser. Money does not discriminate. If they’re paying the bill, they are treated as a valued customer. Sometimes station management would make it clear we should be extra nice due to an internal political affiliation.
Do you restrict them to certain days of the week to come to the studio? No. Sales reps had the ability to bring anyone in at any time. To their credit, they would usually check at least a day out, and make a ballpark time-of-day to expect the client.
Are there special considerations when they use station announcers on tags or other parts of the spot? One of the off-air Production Directors would handle the tag, keeping the air-talent “clean”.
Do you restrict high-profile personalities from appearing on the spots without talent fees? No, unless it was in their contract. Production was part of their job requirements. They could request of the Program Director that they be waived from appearing on a spot they weren’t “comfortable with.”
What are your station’s policies regarding political ads? They were treated like any other commercial, but with the necessary special handling in traffic to make sure all was in compliance with any laws or regulations. From a production standpoint, it was another job.
Ian Fish [Ian.Fish[at]chrysalis.com], Heart FM, West Midlands, United Kingdom: We don’t run political ads in the UK. We have so many rules regarding political activity, once an election is called, we’re really not allowed to mention it in any context... even if it’s just encouraging people to get out and use their vote. Crazy! Still, at least it means we don’t have to do those political ads.