Production 212: When Less Really IS More

Production-212-Logo-1By Dave Foxx

The jury is still out, I think, on whether the much-touted “Less Is More” campaign is delivering what Clear Channel wanted, better rates for shorter commercials – allowing for more selling opportunities. Please understand, I don’t mean this as a criticism at all. (Honest, I really like my job!) I know that revenue is up and that’s certainly a promising sign, but I’m less sure that it will ultimately change the radio landscape that much. One VERY positive side effect of this policy however, is what it has done to production — especially on the imaging side. No more long, rambling promos full of movie drops and non-essential “scenes” and stupid jokes. No more seemingly endless beat-matches and best of all, a realization that you don’t have to say everything in the promo. Having to compress the message time-wise has really made producers, both inside and out of Clear Channel, realize that most of that was pure crap. Almost none of it was funny and very little of it had anything to do with the promotion at hand. Promos are sounding bright, tight and to the point, more than I’ve ever heard on just about every station I’ve heard over the last several months.

As you picked up this month’s issue of RAP, Z100’s Jingle Ball 2006 is about two weeks away from lighting it up at Madison Square Garden. So as you can imagine, I’ve been a busy boy. As I prepared to get into “Jingle Ball” mode, I went back and reviewed promos from past years to see if I could find an idea that I could put a new twist on for this year’s batch of never-ending promos. Man, was I long winded! Every promo had hooks from every artist, in some shows 12 of them. I would include one of them on this month’s disc, but they seriously embarrass me. Some of these promos went on for more than a minute! Long hooks, even longer explanations of how you win tickets and complete descriptions of that week’s grand prize!

Well, because the old promos were so bulky-pudgy-bloated-fat… I had to come up with a completely new approach to this year’s promos. By comparison, they are light years ahead of what I was doing just two years ago. The hooks are much shorter. I don’t include them all in every version, but rotate them across several promos. The message is SO much simpler: “Listen to win.” I plug in a sponsor and finish. All of that “theater-of-the-mind” crap is gone. Hey… it’s a concert. I don’t need all that stuff! My track on this month’s CD is a couple of the promos for this year’s orgy of pop. The first cut is there to show you how I get that ‘special’ grand prize into the mix, and the second is a straight-ahead promo. As you’ll hear, when I need more time for a grand prize, I take out some hooks and go with simply listing the rest of the artist’s names. When there’s no grand prize to deal with, I am freeway wide and treetop tall with music.

The bottom line for Z100 Jingle Ball promos is this: It’s a concert… a really big concert. The audience knows it’s a concert, so why should I try to ‘explain’ what it is? I shouldn’t. Let the music sell the show! Sell it? Yeah. We sold out in less than an hour with purchases restricted to Z-VIP members on our website.

Which brings up an awesome point. If you’re not already pushing people to your website for more information, get with the program! When a contest starts getting weird with rules and times and prizes and… well, you get the point – push them to your website for all that stuff. Give them the benefit of the promotion (You can win a million bucks!) and then tell ‘em to go to the web for more information. All the time you’ve given up for being creative is suddenly yours again! You can actually afford to spend more time with a set-up scene or funny bit. Make sure it’s on point, of course, but you can do it all and still get everything you need into the promo without wearing your audience out.

On the same topic of keeping things brief, what is UP with the stagers I’m hearing on some stations? You come cruising out of a stopset, slam into a stager that says “back to the music faster,” but the stager is nearly 30 seconds long! What the…? If you want to convey the idea that your station gets back to real content faster, then do it! Those kick starts need to be fast and snappy. “Z100…back to the music faster.” End of message! Stagers are generally not a good place to put all those cool new drops you’ve collected.

All right… I’m off my soapbox for now. This month’s column is a bit shorter than what I’ve been writing of late, only because I’m saving up a bit for the first issue of the New Year. I got an email a few weeks ago asking about compression and equalization for an AM station. Frankly, I didn’t have the answer right off because I haven’t worked on the ‘amplitude modulation’ side of the biz since I first got started. When I did the research, I had my eyes opened wide. As I got further into it, I realized that this is a topic we all need more information on, not just for AM stations, but for audio in general. So next month we’re going to delve into EQ. What it is, what it isn’t, and how you can use it to really sharpen your message.

In the meantime, keep those emails coming and have a great holiday season, whichever way you celebrate.

Peace.

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