by Trent Rentsch
I sit in front of the computer. Beside the keyboard, a list of “instructions” and “facts,” neither of which resemble a compass. Despite any real direction, I begin a journey I’ve taken, what, thousands of times by now? (I did count, at the beginning; there were so few that first year that it was easy to keep score… six months later I gave up…) Same road, time and time and time again, with a different destination every time. That’s the romantic view.
I hunch over that piece of crap that’s already crashed twice today. Beside that filthy keyboard with the yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy (damn it!) that alwayyyyys sticks, an even filthier napkin, with two or three words scrawled on it, in penmanship that would make a doctor proud. I have no idea what the hell I’m supposed to write and/or produce, but somehow I’ve pulled something different out of my ass, over and over, for years. That’s the realistic view.
I’ve been given good reason over the years to be both romantic and realist, often both on the same day. There have been “wins,” there have been “losses.” And then, there have been those that were a little of both.
I used to get very excited at the prospect of winning awards for my production. I recall driving one of my first General Managers crazy over the subject; harping on entering the local Addy awards to the point that he (jokingly, I think) threatened to fire me if I mentioned it one more time. When I finally got a job at a larger station that already had a budget in place for such things, I campaigned to get at least one of my spots on our list of entries, and was beside myself when I won, not just locally, but statewide. It really became an obsession after that. I can remember writing scripts that I was sure were “clever” enough to catch the ear of the judges in the contest, only to have my hopes dashed the following year by winning nothing… NOTHING. Looking back now, I realize why, but then, I only felt slighted.
Time passed. I started winning an Addy or two every year. I was convinced that I had gotten over my sophomore slump and finally had the formula down. A little smug irreverence, with a dash of quirky voices, maybe a drop or two of sheep sfx… BAM! Another trophy. Yeah, I really knew what I was doing. Yeah, right…
I probably shared this one a while ago, but let me regale you with my stupidity once again. The client was a small pizza restaurant. They were new to owning a business; complete virgins at advertising. Our Rep sold them a package they probably couldn’t afford, and told me to do something “Creative.” Really… other than their name and address, those were his instructions. This, to me, was the perfect opportunity to cook up another “Addy winner.” As it turned out, I did win an Addy for the ad, a “Best of Show” or some such accolade. Honestly, I don’t remember the details of the win, because of the loss. Despite my clever, award-winning ad, the pizza restaurant had gone out of business after only 2 months… months before my “big win.”
I’m not naive nor self-centered enough to think that my ineffective spot was the only reason they shut their doors, but from that day I began to look at what I produced with a new sense of responsibility. Until that time, I had convinced myself that being clever was my main goal, which was ironic, considering that I was being anything but clever.
When someone asks you to Create, whether it’s a commercial or some sort of station branding, they are asking you to share the responsibility of making them a success. Yes, the words can be funny, the production catchy, but we can never forget that the final goal is motivating the listener to shop at the business or listen to the station.
Of course you can be “Real Creative” and motivate a listener at the same time; what I’m talking about is a matter of focus. Goofy for goofy’s sake might make people laugh, but if they don’t remember the name of the business you’re putting on the song and dance for, you are missing the mark.
There’s nothing wrong with entering contests and winning awards (In fact, I’d encourage you to start thinking about your next entry for the RAP awards), as long as you never forget that you have an obligation to Create in the best interests of the customer. Yeah, it might take some of the romance out of the gig, but in the end, it’s what’s REALLY important.
Trent Creates words, voices, audio and music. His professional home is Krash Creative. You can reach him at: