Production 212: I Think I’m Covered

Production-212-Logo-1By Dave Foxx

Having spent a few hours listening to 31 promos about the same thing, over and over, I’m feeling a bit bleary at the moment, but time is short as the deadline looms. Off the top I can say the VO on every single one of them was awesome. (I had to say that somewhere, so I just got it out of the way.) Seriously, it’s given me a great deal of satisfaction hearing these, as I know now that the level of production in our industry is a lot higher than I thought it was. In the past, I have critiqued a number of people represented here and I am pleased to report that I see a ton of improvement on some, others…not so much, but then they were pretty good to start with.

I have to admit that this little experiment turned out to be a lot harder to write about than I thought it would be. First, if I have to give a grade on these, I’ll be very up front and let you know that I do NOT grade on the curve. Fact is, every single piece of production would get an A just for being here. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it really isn’t. I’m reminded of my father when he’d speak of his favorite dessert, “There’s no such thing as bad pie. Some are just better’n others.” Every single piece has something in it that made it interesting and/or fun. Two pieces made me choke-up. If that sounds weird, let me just say that this is my “over-the-top” meter. Some people get goose bumps… I choke up. I can’t even begin to explain that. I’ll talk about those two pieces in a moment. First, a few trends I noticed.

Most pieces used a scream or dead silence as a reaction to the high price of gasoline while more than a few used drops – some working better than others. As you will no doubt hear, I went with the scream crowd. Don Elliot went with the unusual choice of using the word “priceless.” I can’t imagine where he got that idea.

A few of you added a TON of material, making the promo a lot longer than its original 30 seconds. Understand, I’m not being critical here. These long versions held my attention all the way through, so no marking down on that. A few nailed it at 30 while most fell in between. SOME actually ran shorter! Chad Mandichak got it done in 27 seconds, which honestly blows my mind. By the way, I love the music choices on Chad’s piece, with the little ding at the end a perfect ring-out.

Speaking of music, the most exciting part of almost every promo to me was the choice of music. A lot of you went with the electric surfer sound, some tried to emulate the music of the MasterCard™ spots and some used other less obvious choices. Drake Donovan used almost NO music, which made his stand out from the crowd. Carl Hitchmough, from the Gold Coast in Australia was frankly, brilliant with the use of the Black-Eyed Peas Pump It. In retrospect, a song that makes absolute sense, given the topic.

Humor got a BIG nod from some. Roy Hall made me laugh out loud with the bizarre commercials interspersed at the beginning. Mike Wade took drops from The Simpsons and made it sound like this promo was written around those drops, an amazing bit of work I must say. Scott Fisher used drops to great advantage as well. The “Can we not joke right now?” line was right on target.

The effects choices people made was very interesting. Some used old fashioned cash registers (ka-ching), while a few went electronic. Almost everyone used the gas station bell at least once. On the electronica side, Sakis Korovessis takes top prize, but considering he has his own effects library, it’s not terribly surprising. The ramp he used to break into the meat of the promo was simply perfect.

As I mentioned earlier, two of these promos choked me up. They bring every element to the table with style and grace, keep the message clear and make the promo about as fun as it can get. I know this is just my opinion, so nobody needs to get a gigantic head about it, but frankly, I think they are clearly better than what I produced. One, I talked about before was from Carl Hitchmough. The music flowed throughout and breaking up the narrative to fly between the “Pump It” refrains just made everything flow!

The other standout promo was from Daniel Sandroski. Starting off with the big horns (sounding a lot like A Fistful of Dollars music by Enrico Morricone) seems like an absolutely bizarre choice on the face of it, but they so totally work in context! Then using the gas station bell as a percussive instrument going faster and faster while the guy cries inconsolably just knocked me out.

Now comes the hard part. I have to let you hear how I put it together originally. {sigh} Having heard 31 takes on this promo, I present it with the knowledge that I would have done it a lot differently if I were doing it today only because I’ve heard how it could have been better.

I stand in awe of all of you.

Seriously, you ALL did a tremendous job. Some did better, but there isn’t one I would hesitate to put on the air. My favorite email of the last couple weeks came from Jim Kipping with Emmis in Austin, Texas, who put it best when he wrote, “Just wanted to drop a note about this month’s RAP CD where producers put together your bit.Now you can give your PD 30 versions to keep him off your back for... at least this week. ;) Brilliant!”

I have to admit I hadn’t thought of that before, but next time Z100 gives away free gas money, I think I’m covered.

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