By Trent Rentsch
A straight-faced, remorseless liar, who MIGHT tell you part of the truth, but bends it around lies so cunning that even Sherlock Holmes would have a tough time separating fact from fiction. Even worse, you cannot expect them to come clean, because the fact that they’re lying would be as great a shock to them as it is to you. Trust me on this. I’ve known liars in my day.
April 11th, 1987, a Wednesday. I was asked to write a commercial for a florist. OK, got it, flowers, and..? “Oh, they’ve heard your work, just come up with one of those silly things you do… they’ll love it, they just want their name out there!” Fine… unusual, but fine. I was in that “MY stuff is really funny and different” phase, so I was always attracted to projects that let me “do my Creative thing.” I write and produce and…
A week goes by. The sales rep comes to me in a panic. “Oh, that spot you did for my client last week! What a MESS!”
“What, they didn’t like it?”
“No, no… well, I mean, yes, but, well, no… sigh. See, they wanted something about their gift registry…”
“Wait… GIFT REGISTY? You didn’t tell me about that… and, aren’t they a florist?”
“Oh yes, they do flowers, but they have this lovely gift shop… that’s what the commercial was supposed to focus on!”
“Maybe you should have told me that…”
“Oh, it all got mixed up… anyway, they start next Monday. Can you do something about the gift…”
“… Registry. Fine. So, what exactly..?”
“JUST like last time, just like last time… they love you, just be silly and talk about gifts and registering for weddings and stuff… you’ll be great, like always!”
I suppose I should’ve demanded more information, but I was in my “I’M really CREATIVE and everybody loves me” phase… a phase she had just stroked, I might add. Back to the word processer, then the studio, then…
I’m on the air when the rep bursts into the studio. “I know, I know… you can’t talk now, but this is a DISASTER!!”
“Disaster? What disaster?”
“That SPOT!! It was ALL WRONG!”
“What was wrong? They didn’t like the bride and groom joke..?”
“What? Oh, no, no… yes, they thought that was FUNNY, but it wasn’t supposed to be about BRIDAL gifts, it was about GRADUATION GIFTS!”
“Perhaps you should have mentioned that…”
“SIGH!! Oh, this WEEK!!” So, when you get off the air, you’ll change it, right? I HAVE to get this done by noon TOMORROW… they’re leaving town for the weekend, and…”
“… And it starts Monday, I know. This is a real problem. I mean, I have a remote, then other spots to cut…”
“Yeah, yeah, but it should be really quick for YOU, right? I mean, just take what you have and change it into a graduation spot instead of a wedding… you’re SO GOOD at this stuff, and they LOVE you!”
I know it seems like that would’ve been a good time to demand some sort of production order with all the facts on paper, but being in my “I’m busy being an ‘Air Talent’ AND ‘Creative Director’” phase, it felt like the path of least resistance was simply re-working what I had already done and moving on to the next thing. So, I scribbled out something during the last few songs in my shift, dived into the studio before my remote, and heard…
Nothing. Nothing all day Friday, nothing Saturday when I did my afternoon shift. Traffic ended up crossing off the spots for Monday morning, as the rep seemed to be AWOL. I was annoyed, but figured that the client just hadn’t been available on Friday after all, and that we’d deal with it at the beginning of the week. When Monday morning turned into Monday afternoon and I still hadn’t heard anything, I went hunting for the rep. When I found her in the break room, she seemed surprised that I was upset.
“What? Which client? I’m not sure who…”
“The FLORIST WITH THE GIFT SHOP? The one who HAD to get on the air TODAY…”
“Oh, THEM! Don’t worry about it. I had traffic write them back on the log. They’re running a spot that morning guy across town did…”
“They’re WHAT? WHAT was wrong with what I did?”
“See, this is why I didn’t tell you… I knew you’d be all upset…”
“I am NOT UPSET! Sigh. Really. I just want to know what happened.”
“Well, the bottom line is, you just didn’t do what they wanted at all.”
“NOT sure how THAT could have possibly HAPPENED. We had zeroed in on the graduation thing, right?”
“Yes, yes, but you made it all silly, and they wanted it touching, with a deep voice. And frankly, they LOVE that morning guy’s voice… the one across town..?”
If I recall, that was the beginning of my “Throw coffee mugs into walls” phase.
Not blaming that rep, not really (much). I also don’t blame the client. The real issue was, and still is at many radio facilities, a disconnect in the flow of communication. It’s like a bad game of Telegraph at a birthday party… what’s whispered in the first ear is rarely what comes out of the last mouth. Nobody is lying on purpose, but the truth gets mucked up in the translation, causing extra work and headaches for all.
Now, more than ever, with more demanded of Creatives in radio groups, complete and well thought out production orders are essential if commercials (or promos, for that matter) are going to be right and hit the air on time… honest!