R.A.P. Interview: Ed Brown

JV: How does this philosophy apply to imaging?
Ed: It’s the same. Most of this stuff is the same stuff that I did when I was doing imaging. I always said KSHE was my most important client. Marketing, imaging… we all read the books from Ries and Trout and all that, and we all got heavily into the idea of marketing and that imaging was really just advertising for your radio station. I took what I was doing with commercials and applied it to the imaging of the radio station at the time. Today I’ve stepped back, but I sample our stations constantly, and maybe once or twice a year, if I hear something, I’ll make some notes and pass them along to our market PD. In some cases it might be something that we’ll make a little adjustment in with regards to the imaging.

Every once in a while we might forget that we should be marketing in our imaging. It’s easy, as an Imaging Director, to get lost in the bells and whistles. It’s easy to get lost in trying to impress your peers across the street. Sometimes in doing that we don’t do the best job of getting the message out to our audience. So every once in a while I’ll listen critically to our stations just for that purpose; to make sure that we’re doing that with our imaging as well as with our commercials, that we’re actually reaching out and tapping that listener and dealing with them on their level. And that’s harder to do with the adult stations. With the Point, those guys do a fabulous job because they live that life; they know how to reach that young person listening to the music. But I think for KSHE and K-Hits and even our talk station, it’s tough because the audience is so broad that sometimes there isn’t just one way to talk that reaches everybody.

JV: Tell us about your studios.
Ed: We’ve got three image rooms for four image guys, and then we have three commercial studios. We have a fourth production studio that is in the process of getting put together that we’re going to use for part-time commercial production and for show prep for a couple of our high-personality shows. Then we have one other room that we call the closet studio because it basically is about the size of a closet. It used to be used as a call-screener room for our talk station before we moved it into a different area. It’s used primarily by our interns and by our Public Affairs Director. He does his public affairs shows in there in the morning. Then in the afternoon we have an intern come in everyday doing production out of that studio.

We’re all using SAW+32 as our primary software except for the Point image guy who uses Pro Tools. He’s got a Mac. We inherited that with the Point and so we kept that system. When Emmis bought the first two stations to go with KSHE in the market, those two stations were using SAW and were really comfortable with it. So KSHE went ahead and adapted to it. This was back in ’92, and I was using the Korg SoundLink in imaging, and the commercial guy was still using analog machines. SAW was a great addition for him. So only one person had to get up to speed on SAW. Everybody else was already there, and it just stayed that way because everyone’s been comfortable with SAW, and we’ve never had any mass movement to get away from it. Some of the young guys, especially our young Point guys, have home studios as a lot of young guys do, and they’re all using Audition. In fact, the engineers went ahead and put it on one of the machines. The Point production machine has SAW but it also has Audition on it so that one or two people who like to use Audition can use it when they want to.

JV: How’s your company Innovative Productions doing?
Ed: It’s doing OK. It slowed down over the last few years primarily because I don’t have time anymore with my duties here. I find that I take new customers as they come to me as opposed to me looking for them. I still work with a few agencies here in town. I find that I’m also doing a lot of sound design work with my company. There’s a company here in town called Halloween Productions that started out doing haunted houses. They have evolved into doing different types of rides and attractions for theme parks, and they do them all over the world. So, whenever they come up with a new attraction, a lot of times they’ll come to me to do the sound design work for it, and I’ll also do the voices. For instance, there’s a Spider Man ride and an Incredible Hulk ride at Niagara Falls. I’m the voice of Spider Man and a couple of the villains. I got a few other people to do other voices, and then I did all the sound design work for the ride.

Tombstone, Arizona, Old Tombstone — they turned that into a walk-through attraction, and as you walk around the Tombstone ghost town, the ghost of Doc Holiday follows you around. You’re in the funeral parlor and Doc Holiday’s there telling you about that part of Tombstone, and then you move over to the saloon and he joins you there. I do the ghost of Doc Holiday and also created the sound design work for that. Halloween time is a big time because they have three or four haunted houses here in town, and I’ll do that sound design work as well. But those things are labor intensive, and so I don’t really have the time to do as much as I used to like to do with Innovative Productions.

JV: You’re doing some seminars as well, aren’t you?
Ed: On occasion I do go out and speak. I do it through the Missouri Broadcasters Association. The Missouri Broadcast Educators Association is sort of an offshoot of that, and we’ve partnered with them to help them. Once or twice a year I’ll go to some kind of convention setting where I’ll do something on copyrighting or effective advertising. And now I have a PowerPoint presentation that I’ve taken on the road that’s basically about effective advertising and effective copyrighting. But again, it’s not stuff that I’ve thought up on my own. It’s stuff that I’ve gleaned from a lot of different sources over the years. I’ll read something that somebody says and I’ll say, “That makes sense,” and I’ll use that until it either doesn’t make sense anymore or until I find something else that makes more sense.

One thing I’ll say in my seminars is this: I used to think that winning awards meant I was doing a good job. After 50+ production awards over the past 26 years, I can honestly say that some of my least effective spots were the biggest award winners. Effectiveness and award-winning have nothing to do with each other. Today, I am much prouder and more satisfied with a simple, effective ad that drives traffic like crazy, than one that wins every award the industry has to offer. Not to say a creative ad can’t be effective. Dick Orkin proves that every day. But for most of us, we get caught up in the creativity and totally lose sight of the effectiveness.

I always tell young writers and producers to look at your copy or listen to your final product and ask yourself — or a third party — “does this spot really sell anything?” I mean really sell? Does it drive traffic, make the phone ring or increase hits in a major way? If the answer is “yes,” you’re done. Turn out the light and go home feeling good. That’s the only award I need anymore. When the client tells you how great the spot worked, that’s your award — one that can actually put money in your pocket!

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