By Trent Rentsch
As a China Marker-carrying member of the Old Fart Producer’s Club, I think I’ve survived long enough to have a fair idea of what works and what doesn’t. Deadlines work, last second, thrown together spots don’t. Real testimonials work, fake testimonials voiced by the client’s mother’s neighbor who wants to break into “the business,” don’t. Humor in commercials works, humor in commercials, doesn’t… but that’s another column for another time.
Of all the truths this old Splicing Tape-carrying member of the Old Fart Producer’s Club knows, this one is the truest… simple works. We could be talking about copywriting, producing, hell, even shopping for toilet paper. Simple works, complicated doesn’t.
Since we’re discussing Creative radio production and not personal paper product perusal, I will, of course, use Charmin as an example. When they started using it, I thought that the “bear in the woods” branding they came up with a few years ago was cute, clever, and attention-grabbing. As it evolved, the little bear was added… still cute, still attention-grabbing (if you have kids, you can relate to dealing with a child’s bathroom, uhm, habits). More evolution… now, they live in a, house? OK. THEN, a tag line is introduced, “Enjoy the Go.” The first time I heard it, I screamed at the TV. I don’t recall the exact words, but I’m sure there was a “WHAT,” followed by something not ready for prime time. I mean, there’s a bear crapping in the, bathroom (?!), bears have trouble with toilet paper sticking to their fuzzy butts, and I’m supposed to ENJOY THE GO! The last straw (though, I seriously doubt it), was the new, sub-tagline… “We All Go.” Obviously, we’re all too stupid to understand what “Enjoy the Go” means… by all means, muddy the waters some more while trying to make your point more clear (“muddy the waters” was a poor choice of words, wasn’t it?).
Of course, in my entire life I won’t have earned the money Charmin made in the time it took me to type this rant, but that doesn’t mean this convoluted mess of a campaign they’ve gotten themselves into is right. Mr. Whipple has got to be spinning in his grave. Yes, there were hundreds of spots with the mustachioed Grocer, in many scenarios, but it all came down to one man, passionate about his squeezably soft toilet paper. I mean really, would Mr. Whipple have allowed his bag sacker to walk pantless out of the bathroom, showing all that cheap toilet paper sticking to his backside? (“bag sacker” wasn’t quite right either, huh?)
Yep, if there’s one thing this Old, Cart-carrying member of the Old Fart Producer’s Club knows, simple works. One strong message, simple and clear, will always… ALWAYS… be more effective than a LOUD mash-up of 47 seconds of multiple thoughts, multiple voices, and multiple sound effects and music beds, all crammed into 30 seconds.
While we’re on the subject, who was the damned fool that told Sales and/or Clients about time squeeze? As a 45 Adapter-carrying member of the Old Fart Producer’s Club, I remember when the phrase “speed up the voice track” wasn’t used in polite society. Ever since some idiot spilled the beans (probably in exchange for $25.00 in Applebees trade), it’s been, “Oh, we forgot about being open Noon to 1 p.m. on Sundays, May through Mid-April. Just SQUEEZE THE VOICE-OVER A LITTLE.” Like it’s ok to add senseless, “after thought” information, and make the rest of the message impossible to understand, just because we can… really? That’s like saying Nickelback should put an entire 74 minutes of their “music” on a CD, just because they can… but that’s another column for another time…
Honestly, it’s not all that hard to be simple. Take a provocative message; add voice, music, sfx, stir gently… done. If you feel the urge to add “w.w.w.” to the web address, pull back. If the locator information includes the words “across from…” followed with turn by turn directions to the Taco Bell eight blocks away, slam your hand in the nearest door. If you agree to insert a sentence or two about the client’s sideline knitting supply store, when you’re doing an ad for their cigar bar, do us all a favor and reconsider that telemarketing career. Yes, of course, by all means, embellish the message with all the bells and whistles and Ha Ha’s that will grab the listener, but keep the message simple and easy to understand. The casual listener may have to hear a message a few times to get it, but they shouldn’t have to. At least that’s what this Old, Take-up Reel-carrying member of the Old Fart Producer’s Club thinks.