by Dennis Daniel
Hmmmm… now where was I? NOT WHERE I AM NOW!
REWIND: Many RAP readers may remember my column TALES OF THE TAPE back in the day. Wayyyyyy back in the day! Ahhh… those were the days! The days when radio was still radio and not whatever you want to call it now: Paidio? Lameio? Not the same-io?
Anyhooo… if you do remember those bygone days, I was doing production work at two major stations in New York, WBAB and WDRE. TOTT was my monthly harangue about the ups and downs and ins and outs of being “creative for commerce.” It was a lot of fun, for 10 great years, and we were all brethren behind the mic! Then, that wonderful thing called deregulation devoured any last hope for commercial broadcast radio being what it once was and led the way to what it is now… corporate run entities that do everything by statistics and focus groups and nothing from the gut. NOTHING. A death knell that sent me right back into the advertising agency scenario I originally sprang from! Well, at least it’s a job.
Back in 2012, your kind editor Jerry Vigil did an interview with me to talk about how the times had changed and what I was up to. At that time, we discussed the possibility of doing a column again, but I just couldn’t figure out what it could be about since I wasn’t doing radio production at a radio station anymore. Then, just recently, it hit me. Creativity is creativity. The same principles apply to agency radio and TV creative! I was never about the technical aspect of production… for me; it was about the EMOTIONAL aspect. Maybe I do still have something to offer the RAP pack!
So here’s my first attempt. Let me know if any of this floats your boat.
Our first subject: THE CREATIVE MUSE
If you are a Production director working in the field today, and you have creative freedom, an appreciative audience and happy clients who love your work, who are you? Where are you? I’d like to know! Because there is nary a one of the many I knew two decades ago who are still plying their craft at a radio station (except of course for Vigil… you lucky bastard!) It would amaze me to know there are still some of you out there! Or perhaps, you still work in radio but you have had your creativity cut off at the jugular and just bang out whatever needs banging. God love ya!
Well, no matter how you are getting the dirty deal done, be it at a radio station or, as is my case now for over 20 years, at an ad agency, you still have to deliver the goods, come up with ideas and make your clients a lot of money. All of it riding on the back of your own collective creative muses. I still do hundreds of radio commercials a year, as well as TV, and I go through the same agony and ecstasy every day! WHAT NEXT? HOW DO I SELL THIS SAME THING OVER AND OVER IN A DIFFERENT WAY!!! HELP!!!!
For me, the first level of attack has always been the creative pool I dive in. I am 55 years old. I come from a generation that came into being smack dab in the middle of the 20th Century, so all my influences, ideas and source materials spring from that well. People like The Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy, The Three Stooges, Abbott & Costello, The Honeymooners, W.C. Fields, Monty Python, Jack Benny, George Burns, Bob Hope, Johnny Carson… all the great comedians of that era, not to mention all the classic film actors from Charlie Chaplin to James Cagney to Marlon Brando and then some, they all fall collectively into my creative gene pool. It was a slower time. A time when you had to look at the TV guide each week to see what was going to be on and plan accordingly. It was NOT the instant gratification world we live in today where you can look anything up in a nanosecond. I absorbed all these influences! Influences that sprang from Vaudeville and beyond. Time tested. Solid as a rock. These were my teachers. Craftsmen in every way. Pure genius. I can go on and on with lists of names and influences, but you get the idea. This stuff was so fused into my DNA at an early age that I still feel their presence in me as if I saw them for the first time today. They have served me well, and I use all that I learned from them to this day.
Every one of you out there in RAP land must have the same kinds of stirrings and influences bubbling up inside you!
So, level one attack… use what influences you! Use what you love… what drives you in this life… what makes life itself worth living on so many levels! Be it music, movies, books, or some god-forsaken blog somewhere! Let the loves of your life be the 10,000-pound elephant in your creative room. There is no such thing as an original idea. It is all evolution! So if you are searching for ideas, think first about what influences you. Make a list. Study it. And then, make it essential to your overall psyche. I don’t care how old you are -- my age or decades younger -- if you’re in this biz, you must have a passion to SAY something! To communicate! And god knows it’s tougher than ever to keep anyone’s attention in this instant gratification world. Use what fires your muse!
Since I can only use myself as an example, here’s an example: I love spaghetti westerns. You know, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. The Clint Eastwood westerns shot in Italy in the early sixties by Sergio Leone. The music in these films was done by the magnificent, still going strong at 86, Ennio Morricone. I wanted to do something that has that FEEL, that feel that places you right into that genre. So I created the spot I’ve included on this month’s RAP Sounstage. It was for a car dealership called Malouf Auto Group. I have a friend who is a wonderful musician and producer, Tom Schizzano, who I have worked with now for 30 years. He knew exactly what I was looking for when I sang and read the copy to him. Listen and see. (I especially love the “breaths” added… just like Morricone!) To me, it was unlike anything I had heard before for a car dealer. And all it took was the imagination to say… how can I apply something I love dearly into my creative arsenal and make it my own!
It has to come from you! From the deepest part of your love of life and what makes that life special. The reason I can keep doing this is because I love so many many many things in life, and I can re-interpret them any way I see fit! Of course, the trick is doing something that every else will “get.” What if there are people out there who never heard of spaghetti westerns? Ahhhhh… there’s the point! Make it entertaining regardless! If they know, cool! If they don’t, it’s still cool because it’s DIFFERENT!
Being different is what makes you MARKETABLE! Strive for it! Work at it! Make a mark no one else can make so that your style becomes synonymous with your name and reputation! THIS is what will get you the jobs and the chance to ply your trade no matter the medium.
Dennis Daniel is the Senior Broadcast Creative Director at Cameron Advertising in New York. He welcomes your correspondence at