By Jeffrey Hedquist
In my in-person seminars I’ll often ask an audience member to tell me about their favorite restaurant. Since most of them are in radio and now “on mic,” they start to deliver a commercial. I stop them; hold my hand to my ear in the “I’m holding a phone” position. They do the same.
We start again. Simulating a phone conversation, I pretend I’m their best friend asking them about their favorite restaurant. The conversation that ensues is much more natural, spontaneous and well… un commercial-like. But you know what? It works. It’s more believable and if it was recorded just the way it happened with all the pauses, incomplete thoughts, real enthusiasm and frank recommendation it would make an effective… commercial. Hmmmm…
Can’t think of a new idea for a commercial? Stop trying to write one.
Grab a recording device. Walk into a store. You don’t want to attract attention, so you talk quietly into the mic, narrating a description of where you are, what’s going on around you, who you see, what you hear, smell, taste, etc. You capture background sounds and snippets of conversations.
What could these commercials sound like? Here are some quick examples:
“(Shouting over crowd into cell phone) Dude! Where are you? I’m here at Club Entourage. This place is packed. Wall to wall. The music’s hot, the place is hot the girls are… whoa! Why aren’t you here man? C’mon, the party’s on until at least 2 AM. Oh I can’t believe it – here come two lovely ladies who want to dance! Gotta go. Duty calls.”
“(Whispering) I’m here at La Strada, trying to look inconspicuous. Just going from table to table, following my nose. The aroma of food is incredible! But wait, I hear the sizzle of steak on a platter. Mmmm. Now I’m at a little table in the back, led by the aroma of roasted garlic shrimp on a bed of steaming rice pilaf… I’m getting just a little hungry. You would too if you were at La Strada tonight.”
“Omigod. I’m in shoe heaven. I’ve never seen so many shoes – and so many cute shoes all in one place. I was just going to give you a report, but I can’t help myself. I just have to try these on. Where am I? Hey, d’you think I’m going to reveal…
(Salesperson interrupts) Hi, is this your first visit to Sue’s Shoes?
OK, now you know. Maybe there’ll be some left by the time you get here.”
“So this is the Fiery Dragon, the so-called scary rollercoaster at White Water Park? Frankly it doesn’t look that scary to me. (Coaster SFX) OK, here we go, climbing, climbing… (Nervously) Well, it IS pretty high, people around me are hanging on very tightly, including me… all waiting for the first plunge… here we go! (Background screams) (Now shouting over the noise) Uh oh, maybe this wasn’t such a good…yahhhhhhggghhh! (Thundering sounds over modulate and the recorder cuts out) (Pause)
Announcer (quietly): The Fiery Dragon. Not scary at all. See for yourself. Only at White Water Park.”
Just go on site at your advertiser’s place of business, record your experiences, transcribe, rewrite, adjust, and use some of the original recording, SFX and people’s reactions. It’ll almost write itself.
Give listeners a sense of being there. It’s the ultimate test drive.