by Richard Stroobant
It’s something we’ve all done, and we’re not very proud of it. No, I’m not talking about watching an episode of the Golden Girls. I’m talking about putting a commercial on the air that was voiced by a client over the telephone. Now, let me state this from the beginning:
1. I hate clients voicing their own spots. I think in most cases, it is detrimental for their business and can make the client sound unprofessional, nervous and not trustworthy.
2. I also hate phone calls on the air. Unless it is a listener winning something, or a breaking news story, the sound quality is like nails on a chalkboard to me.
So, with that said, I would rather scratch my eyes out with a rusty screwdriver and then pour battery acid in the cavity than listen to a client voicing a spot over the phone. The reasons are many:
1. Telephone quality is inferior to studio quality, so right off the top the ads are inferior to every other commercial on the air — bad for the client; worse for the station.
2. The listener has to work harder to listen to his ads and understand them, if they even want to try to listen.
3. The quality of a phone line is so annoying and thus causes mental, and eventually, physical tune out, benefiting nobody.
4. It gives the listener the perception that if that client’s radio spots sound crappy, how might they be treated if they went to his business.
5. If his business is not important enough to make the extra effort by going and recording the spot at the station to make it sound professional, is he professional enough to have my business.
Do I REALLY need to go on??
But sometimes, you have a client who wants to voice his own spot, but is too busy to come to the station to record it, so he wants to “phone it in”. What do you do?
First thing I do is try to convince the client (with every ounce of energy I have) that this is the worst way for him to advertise. It’s like mailing out flyers for your business that were created by your 4 year old using crayons. I try to convince him to let us voice the spot in-house with one of our professional trained announcers, I even try cutting a spec spot and play it to him to show him how much better it would sound.
However, when they do come in to voice spots, one trick I use is, give an in-house announcer a script before the client arrives and tell him to read it over in some other room. Then when the client gets there, I spend half an hour trying to make him sound decent, and I always keep his first take.
When we’re done, I say “let’s try something”, I then call that announcer, and give him the same script in my studio. Tell the client, “He’s never seen the script before; let’s see how he does.” The announcer goes in, does it in one-take and then leaves. I play the client’s first take and the announcer’s first take, and the client sheepishly agrees that the announcer sounds much better, and then I say, “And that was only his first take. Imagine how much better it could be if I spend half an hour coaching him.” That one usually works.
If he still wants to voice his own spots over the phone, I use the reasons I listed above to tell them how bad the quality of “phone-in spots” is and try to convince him to make the effort to come in. I try telling him if he records his spot with me, I can then email his spot to any other stations in his buy. This way, him coming in would amount to less time than him calling all of his stations and recording them. I try to get the sales rep to meet the client for lunch next door to the building “Hey, and while you’re here, let’s go for a tour and record that spot.” I tell him I’d like to hear more about his business. “Can he bring me a sample/demo, and we’ll record the spot while he is here.” I even tell him I’ll come work for him, for free (OK, maybe I don’t but that’s how bad I hate “phone in spots.”)
So when none of that works, and no matter what, he STILL wants to voice it over a telephone, do I give in and let him? Well yes, sort of. I compromise.
I say, “OK, if you want to do ‘part’ of the commercial over the phone, why don’t we turn it into a telephone conversation type spot, the client and the announcer. If that doesn’t work then I say we could also do a produced intro and extro, and the client then fills in the 15 second donut.
And if none of that works, what do I do? I tell him our engineer can’t make the phone come up on my board and he’ll have to come in and voice it instead.
Do you have some ideas on how to handle clients who want to phone in their spots? Please drop me a line and let me know what you’re tricks/thoughts are. Hopefully, we’ll get enough good ideas to do a follow-up article. Send your gems to me at