We last asked this question 10 years ago and it’s interesting how some things have changed and others have not. We also received some responses from folks on the imaging side as well, giving some insight into the turnaround times when the station is the client.
Q It Up: Do you have copy deadlines for the salespeople? What are they? Do you have varying deadlines depending on the type of order? For example, 72 hours for copy that needs to be written and produced, and perhaps just 24 hours for dubs and tags? How closely are these deadlines followed? If a deadline is missed, what generally happens? How does your station/company deal with maintaining quality while accommodating last minute clients? Please add any other thoughts or comments you may have.
Todd Broady: We do have deadlines, BUT they are not written in stone. As we all know Radio is immediacy. We can do things TV and Print just can’t do. Here are our deadlines: Copy has to be in by noon for it to be on the next day. I require 48 hour turnaround on SPEC. Money comes first, SPECs second. If it’s a big holiday like Thanksgiving, all copy has to be by the Monday before, or traffic has the option to move it. That goes for all holidays and long weekends. Our sales staff is good about it and they usually get copy and dubs in, so were not here until all hours, and management enforces that too. As always, there are exceptions and we do our best to accommodate. We’re not going to have the station lose money if we can help!
Gord L Williams: Maybe I should pass on this one, because I am the salespeople for my present operation. However, I am also a former salesperson for media, and I had my way of dealing with things. I tried to get copy as soon as I could, so that it could be developed and not quite composed at the typewriter (okay I go back that far). If it takes about as long to type it as it does to read it, you have to think it’s more wordplay than anything else.
This is not to say that clients don't corner you into specific things that aren't about their business. "Get a hot dog from our cowgirls" at a car dealership turned out to be a secretary donning a hat while serving hot dogs in a rather empty show room. Doesn't pack as much sizzle as we made it sound like, huh?
I remember apologizing to another car dealership because I thought I wasn't bringing them in. In fact the salespeople were scooping up the prospects and selling them so quickly nobody remained kicking the tires. They brought me back for another remote because they couldn't sell without the radio station there.
So copy deadline if I was running more than one salesperson I would not worry about so much. Honestly. Even if I was a running media.
You can always push back and say that the world will not explode without their ad running right this weekend with the deal of the century. I also remember clients coming in to ask me to save their business because they ran out of prospects and they haven't 'tried' advertising. I don't think pushing an ad through to take advantage of people in dire circumstance works, though I admit there can be an energy about it.
Vultures do exist. One advertiser did a 'going out of business' sale and did great with it, because of the perception he was going out of business and there was a reek of desperation. The fact remains he could have walked in at the beginning of the year, sat down and had a few lattes or other libations, discussed it with the salespeople and the salespeople could have walked calmly down to copy or graphic artist and pushed it through the system, in say, June. It would have made little difference because the ad drew response. I try to work that way if I can. Give enough breathing room for something good to happen, rather than bluster and blather.
There was a client who bought a lot of product off of a truck that broke down on the highway across from his location. It took several days to negotiate the deal back and forth with the head office and the distributors. Once he got it at the deal of the century, it was pushed through with the usual expediency (yesterday!), but I doubt that the advertising actually sold the coveted product at half the usual price. It did what it was supposed to, it made people aware before this perishable, perished, at great profit margins.
I am saying there are fewer cases where timely copy makes that much of a difference. I would only fault someone who did not stay in touch with the advertiser or service them when there was something timely. Seldom there are real situations in which copy timing hangs in the balance. Super Bowl ads are never an impulse buy I would imagine.
Von Coffman: Deadlines… the curse that plagues us all.
First, let me say that yes we have deadlines… or we used too. Before I get into that, let me just say without sales folks, you don’t work… without production folks, they don’t sell. A double edged sword if you will. The next thing to bring up is the all-important line thrown around this industry of late that makes deadlines a thing of the past. “Things aren’t like they used to be”
Granted, we have indeed had a lot more competition thrown at our doorstep with the advent of Digital advertising. With that being said, deadlines are a thing of the past.
It used to be “no client session on Fridays”. Now there are client sessions of Fridays.
It used to be “no Multi-voiced production turned in and done on Friday. Now, if the voices are in the house we do the best we can.
It used to be scripts were written in advance and the done usually the next day or so. Now, it’s write it now, produce it now, then present it and deal with the consequences later.
I find that now in the radio production business it’s a fine balance between quality and quantity. Since the days of bean counter ownership have come about… sales has morphed out of Ad Exec and into Time Sellers. Remember the days when the salesperson would actually take the spot out to the client and present it instead of e-mail? Ok, maybe I am long in tooth.
So to answer the question of deadlines, , yes we have them, but exceptions have become the rule because “things aren’t like they used to be”.
Michael Pedersen, 106.7 RED FM: 72 hours for copy?? ha ha ha ha!!!
Andrew Frame, BAFSoundWorks: Turnaround times would often be requested by senior management, especially after an expensive buy got messed up and the rep lost a hard-won commission.
But without exception, when those times were held up at some point in the future by the traffic or production departments, the "exceptions" would start to show up.
Once that snowball started down the hill, everything was an "exception".
After a few months, some large buy would get botched up, and the "let's review turnaround times" meeting would happen again.
So, anything said or in writing, was pretty much theory with no practice.
As a freelancer, the demands are the same. You deliver the product by a certain deadline, or the customer goes somewhere else. If the deadline clashes with something you have pre-planned, like a child's ball game, you have to decide if you can afford to lose the customer.
Dennis Daniel, Cameron Advertising, New York: In the fast paced world of retail automotive advertising, there is no such thing as a deadline. Oh yes, you can set them... you can even meet them... but things change so fast it¹s more like the old Yogi Berra saying, “It ain¹t over till it’s over.” If a deadline is missed we either move spots back, or head for the window sill. As far as maintaining quality... I always try to do the best I can, but tight deadlines may not allow enough time for as many bells and whistles. To me, a deadline is a pipe dream that occasionally comes true. Other than that, its seat of the pants time till it’s been approved and sent out. For me, it’s the nature of the beast because I also deal with TV. Radio, of course, is a bit easier without the video needed.
Dennis Mattern, WAYZ WBHB WNUZ WCBG: Basic guidelines: if it starts tomorrow, turn it in before noon today. Minor copy changes, tags, produced spots from sources outside the station, turn in as soon as possible, hopefully before it’s supposed to air! New scripts: at least a day ahead. Specs: script only, two days before presentation. Produced specs: submit at least three business days before presentation. For specs produced outside the station, at least three days, one week is encouraged. We try to “work ahead” as much as possible so that when we are presented with the challenge of “getting something done right, right now”, we don’t have to panic. We don’t really enforce deadlines, we just try to make the best of “late” situations.
Edgar Gomez, Univision Radio, San Francisco, CA: Our deadlines for in house production is 48 hours. This is for 60, 30, and 15 promowheels. 10 and 15 sec Billboards we can have produced for next day. Dubs & upload we do them the same day.
Jay Helmus, Newcap Radio, Richmond, BC: I'm probably in the extreme minority, but we don't really have many problems with our deadlines here. I'm not saying we don't occasionally get a few last minute orders, but it seems to happen so infrequently that it's never really been a battle we've felt needs to be fought. We enjoy being able to help out and 'save the day' when needed, because it really doesn't happen that often. Nobody seems to take advantage of us where I work, so when emergencies and rushed orders happen, we have no problem with doing what we can to help. I guess it's a mutual respect thing.
Tom Sheffield, Pompano Beach, FL: We have very detailed and tight deadlines which is working great for us. We even have an escalation process for rush orders as well.
Dave Cockram, Indie88, Toronto, ON: Our general motto is say yes to everything unless it simply can't be done. Most times, everything rolls in with enough time to get it to air. We get the odd strange request and we tackle those case to case.
We live in a very "I deserve everything right now" world. I stand to quality over quantity as much as possible. Everyone wants everything done fast and cheap. It's incredibly hard to keep up! Most people are good about allowing you enough time to properly complete a task. Even the salespeople are generally respectful of the time it takes for good production.
For us we always try for a 4 day turnaround on a new client. Longer turnaround for spec ads. One day to get it written. One day for script approval. One day for production. One day for production approval.
Mitch Todd, Sirius/XM, New York, NY: Haven't dealt with sales folk for over 15 years! I do remember I had a sure fire technique to assure the chronic late Friday submitter(s) would cease late submissions: Take money out of their pocket!
I had a GM & GSM who would allow me (after 3 late submissions) to have a 5pm deadline on Fridays for that salesperson. Period.
Submit after 5? It got produced Monday morning. Worked like a charm, and the GM was wise enough to allow me to do it. (Usually, they would then submit their commercials on time after that.)
Danny Zamarron, SEDZA, Atlanta, GA: I think it's more of a client’s choice, when the salesperson comes to me they bring me a general script I can usually knock it out in one afternoon.
There was one time that I worked with a client that wanted a jingle that took me over a week to work on.
I am very particular about the quality, and they strive to deliver a good sounding product. So yes it does take a bit longer when I work directly with the client.
If we do miss any deadlines the radio station usually runs make-goods.
I think the commercial is the one that needs more attention. If only salespeople could teach ALL clients the importance of the product, as opposed to the air time.
Gary McClenaghan, Bell Media, Edmonton, AB: As strictly an imaging producer, I wasn’t going to reply. But, I see things from a different side now (not to say I wasn’t in the other seat for the first 10 years). I have the luxury of getting info for my projects about a week or two out of a promotion (which I am aware I am fairly lucky). Being on the side of programming and promo, the people involved know the importance of getting things organized and nailed down, which in turn greatly affects the product and our ability to be creative. The elimination of sales plays a big part in this. And if there is a sale associated, the lack of allowances they receive in regards to copy speeds things up immensely. They get a name mention, and sometimes a small slogan. Our promo dept. is definitely on the ball and respects both my time and the overall brand of the station where the creative is concerned. My biggest challenge with all that saved time is that I better make it REAL good. My job pressure is exactly where it should be, on making the best possible product.
CJ Goodearl, Orlando, FL: We have deadlines. Are they followed by our sales weas- (EDIT: account executives)? Yes and No. Our deadlines are 2 full business days before air date for spots requiring full production, i.e. if the spot starts on Friday, we ask for copy turned in by COB on Wednesday, etc. Adding an extra day for multiple-voiced spots, specific talent requests, or if translation is needed for our Spanish station. Of course, often times these deadlines are ignored, sometimes accompanied by a sob story blaming the client, sales assistant, etc., or simply the honest-if-hilarious "I forgot to put this in last week." I'm sure this is nothing new to anyone reading R.A.P.! We ask that they at least ask us IF it's possible to accommodate a rush job, rather than just bulldoze it through the system, and 9 times out of 10, if we can get it done for them, we will. But we're dealing with people who are wired not to take NO for an answer; they can be equal parts pushy and pathetic. (ya HAD to ask!) Like Geddy Lee sings in the Rush classic The Spirit Of Radio: "Oh SALESmen!"
Doug Loepp, Power 104/Q103, Kelowna, BC: We have deadlines, but in the immediate world of radio it is hard to be a stickler with them. Our medium is immediate. It's what separates us from print, TV and online. In a perfect world, for a written and produced commercial, we would like 48 hours. If it's a simple dub, the deadline can be and often is 48 seconds, LOL. In terms of handling last minute clients, we are fortunate enough to be quick on our feet and turn things around in a timely manner. We anticipate these situations and create happy clients with creativity and immediacy. The challenge of turning out a highly creative product in a short time frame is really what drives us and keeps us on our toes.
Steve Wein, KTRS, St. Louis, MO: Deadlines? Funny guy. From what I hear from friends at other stations, they seem to be disappearing.
For years I've argued on behalf of the benefits of deadlines for making Sales and Production happy campers. At most stations, the idea of deadlines has faded since deregulation, and production staffs have gotten smaller while they are still expected to keep up with the increased amount of production because of longer stopsets.
I've been Air Talent since Marconi and Program Director for a quarter century before concentrating on Production. Because I was accumulating ADDY Awards, I felt safer in Production from downsizing due to the effects on our industry due to deregulation. Too many good personalities were being blown out and replaced with voice tracking, and the remaining talent had to cover longer airshifts as standalone radio stations were clumped under one roof.
I have found that the radio stations I worked at that followed deadlines were happy places to work in. Among the basic list of deadlines, one station had a rule that if a salesperson tried to get Production to do a spot after the deadlines, that salesperson had to stay until his spot was done. He or she couldn't just toss something into the "in basket" while running out the door. Another station had a party fund that the salesperson had to kick a few bucks into if they wanted it done post deadline. And we had some great parties! But of course, I've worked at stations with no deadlines where it seemed sales could dump torn legal pad paper with hastily scrawled "copy" into the basket at the end of the day and expect an award winning spot to be on the air the next morning. That is a sure morale killer.
The best regimen of deadlines in my experience follow: If the copy is already written, it should be in by noon the day before it airs. If it's a dub, it should be in by 3pm the day before it airs. If it has to be written and produced: it should be in by 5pm two days before airing. What that means is a salesperson would have to hand in copy points by Monday at 5pm for a Wednesday AM start if they expect a fully produced spot with time to send it out for approval and begin airing Wednesday morning. This gives Production time to be creative in the copy, find the right voice, and have time to fully produce it properly, instead of just cranking it out. For approaching Holiday weekends, deadlines are moved up so there is no massive dump of production orders at the last minute. Lousy production detracts from the overall sound of the station, giving listeners even more reasons to bail on the station and go elsewhere. And don't we want to keep listeners?
Deadlines act as an agreement between sales and production that is recognized by both, with no hard feelings due to abuse. Another benefit is the amount of lead time deadlines create. Doing quality work takes time, to write, to voice, and to produce. It also gives Production time to be sure the "nuts and bolts" of the process, such as correct cart number and proper information are done correctly. It also gives both Production and Sales time to rectify mistakes, such as wrong copy or mispronunciations.
Here at KTRS, we still have deadlines, but as we know in this business, "caa-caa" happens, and we're quite flexible about last minute production. But luckily here, we don't feel abused because both Sales and Programming know it's a two way street, and there is respect for the process.
Geron Scates, Western Texas College/91.1FM KGWB: When I was working in commercial radio, at a small radio station in a small market, my deadlines were pretty much self-imposed. Orders had to be turned in, at least, a couple of days before the spots started for traffic, and the actual spots were turned in as soon as possible, but hopefully at least 24 hours before they began to run.
A larger station with more staff would need to have earlier deadlines due to the increased traffic and number of clients.
Scott Shafer, iHeartMedia, Waco, TX: Deadlines... what’s that?
Talking with and reading about other creative and production directors across the country, I find we all have a lot of the same issues. With that said, do we have deadlines? That's a good question! Yes we do and no they (Sales) don't... well, a lot of times. I recently had someone say: "We have deadlines? When did that start?" Initially we set up a 48 hour deadline for copy that needed client approval, 24 for non-approval. Since we have no copywriter, sales writes most of the their own copy, (don't even get me started on proof reading, spell check, punctuation, etc.) and most of it is turned in 18-24 hours prior to airing. With the company going to skeleton crews in some markets, it makes it a little more challenging to produce quality production in a short turnaround time. Sales gives us very little time to be REAL Creative. It's more Rip-N-Read! However, we somehow still manage to get some decent spots knocked out (Addy award winners even). Usually most spots get produced, but there are times when a deadline has past, and the spot may miss due to the lack of staff on hand to produce, like requesting someone already gone for the day, or for those spots needing 2 females, a kid, etc. Just 2 days ago, a sales rep turned in a promo to start the same day... Really? And to top it off, it went to the dub center because they turned it in as "Needs Dubbed" instead of "Needs Produced". For dubs not needing a tag or piggybacked, those must be in by 3PM (CST) and go to a dub center. Anything after that comes back to us (or should I say me). If it needs a tag, we usually get those turned around in 24 hours. We do our absolute best nevertheless, with what we have to work with. In closing, I'm happy to Q It Up... mine just has a little Q burn. (Pun intended!)
Zach Gilltrap, RadioPharm LLC, Denver, CO: In my experience, in the world of commercial production, if you put “deadlines” in one corner and “cash” in the other, revenue will always win. That said, in the sands of the battle arena also known as the production director’s office I will always fight the good fight in favor of soft deadlines and or prod rules. There are just too many reasons why we, tribe members of the production room, are so in favor of them, but the biggest, is quality. If I have to quickly churn out or press spots like a factory, I can almost always guarantee it will be in my voice. I won’t have time to go around asking for more voices, looking for the one that fits your “turkey bacon flavored gum”. I may not be able to “visualize” a set of sound effects versus just a piece of music. I may not have the time to sift thru hundreds of shitty commercial music beds to find that “right” one. Hell, I may be tired from the previous day’s “exceptions” as well. I like to remind some of my favorite salespeople that there are twenty of them and one of me, and that if they all needed an exception at once, it could cripple the entire system.
Now, putting down my production helm (blinders) and shield for a couple of minutes, I can totally see why sales staff will always push these boundaries. We are not privy to what management is telling them, and we don’t know the stresses of being a salesperson on the street, cold calling, begging, borrowing, even stealing from our competitors. We have a check that comes in twice a month that is the same amount, whereas our sales sisters and brothers do not have this luxury. It’s time to eat when it’s time to eat and that means getting a spec or a completed spot on the air in rotation or in the hands of a pliable advertiser YESTERDAY.
That’s when we have to know when to bend, IMO, when we see that “exception” to the rule, when we understand that our normal timeline must be malleable. Normally I like to give two days (which is really a day and a half give or take T&C cut off) for a full produce. Dubs, tags, fake “live” remote call-ins… they can be turned around for next day as long as they make T&C cut off. For larger campaigns i.e. a prod order that has more than 4 full produces, I may ask for an extra day, or if the client wants approval of a spot before air I will make sure we have buffer time for that as well.
We all know clients mean well, they “mean” to make time to listen to their spot(s), but that can mean the night before start date and they will still ask sales to adjust a few things. So I always say, “of course you can do whatever you want”, it’s your spot, your brand. The only thing I will charge you for that approval is “time”. We need a day to make said revisions, get them back to you AGAIN and have you put your client stamp of approval on them, and that could take another day. Now, If talent is requested, they need to know when the spot needs to be on the air or in the clients hands so they can correspond with the production department, not just show up at 6pm with four pieces of copy that start the next day. I never feel guilty for a host that is making $50 a read; he or she can get their butts in the prod room before their show or before their remote and knock that bad boy out in minutes. If not, then perhaps they should not agree to do paid endorsements. It’s not like we make extra money for doing more spots per day right? But, even this rule has a caveat (of course you say). It is my pleasure to work with some of the most talented hosts, voice actors from around “radio” world, and if you “bend” sometimes to help them make extra cash, they will assist you when you need more voices on the station. So I have made exceptions in this world as well so our stations don’t sound like market 363, not that there is anything wrong with that but I think varied voices in a stop set sounds like major market product.
Before I get accused of being a complete and total production rule “waffler”, we also have to think about our friends in Traffic and Continuity, and that opens another can of potential “waffling” of rules and guidelines.
As a guy who loves his T&C directors, I will always defer to them out of respect. They are for the most part, the only barrier we have against repeat offenders and “last minute Lucy’s”. They are our golden parachute during the peak production weeks. They are the guardians of my Friday evenings. They are our biggest friends and allies. So if they say “no”, I will always stand behind them. But as I said earlier, if a $140K buy comes down and it’s studio sponsorship, legal IDs and spots that all need to mention “Joe’s Big Ass TV World”, we can gamble all of us, including T&C, will bend and work late to make it work. This compromise can come with a couple of benefits: we don’t have an angry Program Director stumbling weakly into our room wearing the bruises of a long drawn out argument with the sales manager, or worse, the GM. We are generally treated to lunch of our choosing, maybe some free product, a gift card… lastly and most importantly we are given the one thing we all love the most. Peace. We can come in the next day to a peaceful work environment and do what we love to do, make great product, get that product on the air and make loyal customers to radio.
Long story longer? Yes. I love me some rules and guidelines. I also love making the best sounding product I can within a breathable timeline. I love my golden shields in T&C. I love using air quotations in my writing. I love it all, but I also know I have to bend or I will go crazy. Nothing can be in “stone”, but exceptions have to be exceptions not the rule.
Lisa Keys, Edmonton, AB: I'm not in production, so I don't do anything with commercial production and deadlines. I do work in promotions however, and we need all details confirmed by at least a week out of promo start to ensure we get everything to our imaging producer in time. If they don't get us the details in time, we push the start of promo and they start losing value.
Chris Diestler, Hutton Broadcasting, Santa Fe, NM: Official policy here asks for 48-hour turnaround on any spot which is a no-brainer, read-over-music. Anything involving multiple voices, external actors, sfx, segues (like a concert spot), we ask for at least 72 hours.
Spec spots we ask for 5 days. Agency dubs and downloads still have 24-hour deadlines so traffic can catch up. Of course, deadlines are blown on a regular basis, and we always scramble to do what we can. My philosophy on that is it's not really fair to the clients who booked within deadline parameters to forego their work orders and whip something half-assed together for a Johnny-come-lately, and it doesn't do the late client any good either since they don't get the attention to detail they would have otherwise. When deadlines are (inevitably) missed, and we are just unable to hack something together at the last minute, traffic will bump the schedule as necessary. I don't think a single week goes by without someone missing a deadline though. We have 6 stations and 6 sales agents.
Michael Shishido, KUMU, Honolulu, HI: We don't have any strict copy deadlines other than "earlier is better." The reason is, reality takes over. We have deadlines for production. Full produced by our station means 48 hours prior to air. No deadline for dubs, tags, etc.
I've tried to train/educate our salespeople as they come in that good production takes time. To conceive, write, re-write, get approval, then produce a spot could take anywhere from 30 minutes to a full week, depending on what else is going on.
What I mean by "reality takes over" is that in this day and age of radio, the buy is king. Money speaks. If it's Thursday the 28th of the month and the GSM needs a spot on today to get it in the books for the month, that scenario speaks loud and clear. Get the spot done.
I've basically given up on deadlines. 48 hours is nice, but it feels like it's more the exception rather than the rule. And I'm tired of fighting it.
And then there's this. I view Production as a service. We aim to please. Need that spot now? We'll do our best.
Here in Honolulu, there was an old advertising guy who said to me once, "The answer is always yes." What he meant by that was, yes, we can make that happen. However, you may not get exactly what you were expecting.
So when the AE comes screaming down the hall at 4pm with copy in her hands saying she needs this on the air tomorrow, the answer is yes. We'll get that on for you. But at 4pm, the conditions change. You're limited to voices on hand and the best sounding music bed we can find in a severely limited amount of time. Sound effects? Highly produced voice effects? Those are probably not going to happen. And then we in production need to follow up with "if you had gotten this to us on Monday or Tuesday, we may have been able to produce what you want. But at this late stage, you're going to get what time will allow."
How many times has that happened? Too often. We bang out spots. Rip and read. Slap some music under it. Done. It happens too often. It's a product of a lot of factors: financial pressures at the radio station, clients who don't really have a handle on their marketing, radio salespeople who are not willing to walk away or help educate their clients. The list goes on.
I worry about local businesses who "have to get their ad on tomorrow." Really? Mr. Business owner, are you sure you want to take that shotgun approach to your livelihood?
Deadlines? No because the answer is always yes.
Matt Fogarty, Island Radio | Jim Pattison Broadcast Group, Nanaimo, BC: We ask for a 3 day turnaround as a general rule, but our department is very flexible and will try and accommodate last minute requests if we can. It's very rare that we can't get a spot done and on air, even with a next day start. In return, I ask our reps to respect that when we do say "no", they know it's truly not possible.
We have a great team and the lines of communication always open. Of course, we'd prefer as much lead time as possible, but understand in our industry, sometimes quick turnaround times are necessary.
Earl Pilkington, Coast FM, Mandurah, Western Australia: Deadlines – now that is a huge question. I have worked at one station that had a ‘No Deadline’ policy. That’s absolutely right, NO DEADLINES! 5pm on a Friday, rep’s just sold a package, and the copy needs to be written, approved, produced an on-air within 30 minutes. Yup, we did that, every single day!!
At the station I work at now though, because we are on the west coast of Australia, our deadlines are 11:30am for on-air the next day (unless it’s a Friday or long weekend). This allows time for scripts to be written, approved, and sent out to be voiced over east, then produced to be on-air the next day.
We are a very small station with only 1 producer (and I back him up when he is away or has a massive over flow of work), and one copywriter (me). We can, and do, turn around tags within half an hour of receiving the copy, dubs within the same time. But commercials usually sit in the in-tray waiting to be produced until a couple of days before hand, especially if we have had a massive in-flux of copy coming in.
Everything, and I do mean everything, is date and time sorted for when it is needed and prioritised appropriately. This helps to alleviate the pressure of the deadlines, and sometimes yes we are actually producing material which is on air in the next half hour (usually due to a voice not being back in time or available until a certain time to record).
We even produce demos so the reps can show a client what they ‘could have’ if they just sign up -- but only when we have time.
Personally, I aim for a turnaround time when writing scripts of no more than 30 minutes to an hour per script. This allows for a good balance between the ‘Sausage Factory’ scripting and time to come up with something creative. Although I have sometimes had to push that out to a couple of hours writing when stuck with a particular ‘creative issue’.
As a freelance copywriter, I aim for a 24 hour turn around with any copy requests. These jobs tend to be much more creative and specific with far more details (and longer scripts, i.e.: 60 second to 90 second scripts – instead of the majority 30 second scripts I write where I am currently employed). Also, the 24 hour turnaround is helped by the fact that I am writing for other countries outside my time zone.
My biggest issue with deadlines is trying to make clients understand why we have them. Our traffic department, producer, sales staff and even jox all know our deadlines. So when they want something done outside our normal duties, they wait. But clients, they just don’t get it and ‘that’ is our major deadline issue.
Heikki Wichmann, NRJ, Helsinki, Finland: Deadlines are very important for me since I do a lot more than just "produce audio". I'm administrating radio-automation & music management software just to mention a few.
Our VO talents visit our studios about 1-2 times a week, so scheduling all VO activities is very important.
I advice salespeople that our deadline for scripts is 5 working days before final audio has to be in traffic. It gives me enough time to schedule VO talents visits, etc. And it gives some time for salespeople to send final audio to customers for approval.
In most cases production is done "on next business day" after script has arrived.
Generally we try to plan beforehand as much as possible, and so do salespeople since they're selling a cluster of more than 7 different radio stations.
In history, I remember my tightest deadline was less than 1 hour from the moment the sales guy had put the telephone down to the moment final spot was aired.
Juliette Nicholls, The Heart Network, London, UK: At Heart we have a 5 day turnaround for sponsored promotional trails and 3 days for co-pros. That's from when we get the brief with all the details, to getting it on air. It helps to have a day to write a promotion, a day to produce and a couple in between to agree the script with the client. We are pretty flexible with this though, within reason. It really depends on workload as to what we can do, and if we've got less on, we'll always try and turn it around quicker.
Adam Venton, UKRD, Bristol, UK: We run the production department (imaging & branding/S&P, not commercials) on a 3 day turnaround basis. Given that 3 of us producers look after 20 stations across the UK, all with different VOs, that’s pretty damn quick! We have set VO sessions during the week, but will try and accommodate those last minute jobs if we can – but it’s not a guarantee. If we’re lucky with VOs, we can get some jobs turned around in a day (depending on size of course – a tag is more likely than an imaging package!).
We’re clamping down a bit at the moment on quality control issues. Some execs punt through tags at the last minute regularly, which is just due to poor planning and lack of professionalism. We try to be more than fair and accommodating to them and their targets, but we do expect some fair treatment in return. Sending us a tag at 4.50pm on a Friday and needing it for Monday (and then leaving the building while you try and sort out their balls up) – is not fair.
George Davis, Withers Broadcasting, Sikeston, MO: We typically have a 72 hour deadline for commercial production. That is from the time the order is placed, copy is written (generally by me), and it is sent to production for voicing and producing. On rare occasions, a salesperson will get a last minute order in and we get on that ASAP to have ready for approval if needed and ready to air. I am one of the main commercial copy writers and with other hats I wear here, sometimes get things just at deadline. I utilize several sites for production music such as Free Creative Content, Production Vault, Alien Imaging. I also have a home studio that I use to produce in as well.
Elizabeth Draper, Bell Media, Nelson, BC: I would be shocked by any station that does not have deadlines… haha. Deadlines for copy that is written and/or produced in house is 3 business days. For dubs I must have the supplied audio before I will place it on the log for the next day, so typically 24 hours.
In my 17 years in radio, spent at several different companies, I have found deadlines are pretty consistent across the board. Now this is in a perfect world, but we all know nothing is perfect and sometimes these deadlines need to be tossed to the side. Does this affect the quality? Well sort of. I have pulled out some of my BEST creative last minute, BUT I have also been so overwhelmed and taxed that I end up with garbage, and worst of all, TYPOS!!
And let’s look at the other side of last minute orders… R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Most writers don’t like last minute creative because it demonstrates a lack of respect for our deadlines. Now, I understand some stuff HAS to be last minute, but a spec for a client that someone needs the next day because they promised it is just WRONG! In my years I have seen a lot of last minute requests that were not necessary, and those my friends are the ones you fight, the ones where you enforce the deadlines, the “battles you pick” shall we say.
It’s seems where I am now I have VERY VERY rare cases of last minute requests, and the ones that are last minute are usually water flow change advisories or power outages. Now when we speak of last minute requests, I always love the classic rep line, “Well you can bang out a script in 5 minutes”. Yes, yes I can, but guess what… while I am in the middle of checking logs or trafficking instructions, this last minute request is going to derail me and guess what happens to the error margin? It becomes HUGE; a lot of last minute orders result in some type of error happening somewhere. We are no longer “just” writers. We also have been trained to do trafficking and have more administrative duties then we had years ago.
Radio is known for its quickness to get a message out there. Last minute orders will never end, so we just need to pick and choose our battles. And remember at the end of day, as much as we LOVE what we do, it is only Radio ;)
George Johnson, Voicebox Productions, Edmonds, WA: I don't have the traffic that a Radio Station has, so I can give the client options, and spend more time with them... I'm just a one horse operation, and old school, when it comes to dealing with a client. The customer goes where they are wanted, and stays where they are appreciated. Clean up the grammar if they wrote the spot. Make them comfortable behind the mic, direct them if necessary, and always say "Thank you" when they walk out the door.
Thanks to all who responded. Your input is valuable and appreciated. If you have a question you’d like to see posed to the RAP Q It Up panel, email it to