Q It Up: Do you ever deal with advertising agencies that bring you 4-voice scripts loaded with sound effects and expect it all for free? These are typically the smaller agencies who do not use an independent production house for their work, but instead believe the radio station’s production department and voice talent is there for their use, at no charge, because “they’re bringing the buy” to the radio station. Sometimes they just deliver a script and coach you from a distance; other times, they lock up hours of your studio time “directing” the production themselves. How do you deal with these agencies? Is this a service radio should provide for free? Do you have any policies or guidelines in effect for these situations?
Cooper Fox [
Andrew Frame [
The only control I had over the situation was to require an advance appointment be made.
Should it be provided for free? In a competitively balanced world, no. It completely discounts the time and skill of the producer to develop the product. It is no more different than going in to the client and requiring a significant amount of material or labor to be “value added” to the purchase of their widget.
I’m not saying we have to charge egregiously for it either. A modest fee to help the client understand that what we do has a value is all that would be needed.
Blaine Parker [
Travis McGinnis [
That said, Agencies are not another station group. Though we do free production for them anyways... so long as they are making a buy with our station group. On a personal level, I believe that every station should charge for production and voice talent. Not because I want to get paid for my spots, but because it adds value to our service. This should be true especially with agencies.
A few years back, one of our sales reps got a call from her client regarding an invoice they had received from their ad agency. The client was being charged for “Script, Voice Talent and Audio Production.” However, our creative department had written, voiced and produced the spot for that client... for free. The only reason the client asked about it was because the script was sent to him on our station’s script template, and he recognized the voice as one of our jocks. When the rep explained that we had done all the work on that spot, the client was livid. He ended up firing the agency, and we have since been doing all of their creative (for free) much to the client’s delight.
That’s an example of a horrible experience we’ve had with an agency. It’s not to say that every agency takes advantage of our free production, or that they charge their clients for our free services. However, I would say that overall, our experience in dealing with agencies is more negative than positive. Many agencies tend to come across as know-it-alls and give the impression that we’re just the “stupid radio people who don’t know anything about advertising.” Because if we did... we would be working for an agency by now, right?
At the end of the day, the decision to not charge for production, albeit for an agency or a regular client, has come from the top. Since everyone else in our market does free production, the concern is that if we start charging, then our clients (and agencies) will take their business where they’ll get it for free. The station who does the production tends to get more of the ad budget. So it’s really all about dollars. If doing free production means the client will spend more money with us, then we’ll do it for free.
I can’t say I’m entirely in agreement with that sentiment though. At the very least, I think we should charge agencies for production costs. Most of them are probably passing those costs onto the client anyways, so why can’t we get a piece of that pie? I’ve heard from friends in the industry whose stations do charge for production, agency or not. And they had the same concerns that we do: will the client spend less if we charge them for production? And the definitive answer from them is no. Clients do not spend less money when they’re being charged for production. In fact, many spend more money. When production has a cost to it, it has a value in it. With value, comes a sense of “quality” (I hate that word, but it works).
Our clients are business people too. They understand value. Anything that’s free has no value. When you’re paying for something, there is value there, even if it’s a perceived value. So the clients who care about getting a great spot, will come to the station that can offer some value in the creative. Is it worth investing a couple hundred bucks to get a spot written and produce by broadcast professionals who know what they’re doing? I think so.
Jeff Berlin [
These kinds of scripts often got produced by many stations in the market – turning it into a contest between stations when the agency chose one spot to run market-wide – paying for the production (nothing went out unless we got paid. The good old days.) I’m proud to say at Kiss108, the deciding factor on where to place the buy was often the perception that we had the best commercial production department – small agencies knew we’d make them look good to their clients. (Of course this was many years ago, before CC chose to cannibalize its radio stations by cutting to the bone.)
Mitch Todd [
Generally we would act as an in-house agency, crafting a campaign that had an end goal in sight vs. just a single ad buy. This worked with direct clients or with small local “agencies.” In the 1980’s in San Antonio, I created a “free jingle” program for customers that committed to $12,000 or more in a year. This was before every bloke with a Casio could create “jingles”! My out of pocket for a catchy jingle was $1,000 to $3,000 which we’d build into the ad buy.
Producers & talent were happy with their extra beer money, the Sales Manager got a good buy and usually a lifelong client. I still think many local or regional clusters could build an in-house Creative Services team to deliver higher caliber creative, and re-coup there costs for it (if not actually have positive cash flow).
There’s also one more thing to keep in mind: Most radio spots that are produced for “free,” sound like it! You could use that as a positioning tool as you seek to develop campaigns that produce results for the client. After all, that’s what you should be selling… not just “time”.
Chuck Matthews [