Q It Up: How are you dealing with the challenge of being creative in 10 or 15 seconds?

q-it-up-logo2Q It Up: Have you noticed the flood of 10 and 15 second spots coming through your department lately? As a writer and/or producer, how are you dealing with the challenge of being creative in 10 or 15 seconds? Is it possible with any regularity? What tricks have you learned about the “quickie creative”? Ten seconds may work on TV, but are we serving the client well with these short spots on radio? Feel free to add any other thoughts you may have on the subject.

Dennis Mattern [production.pa[at]verstandig.com], Verstandig Broadcasting: Creativity is overrated! (kinda of joking) Give me a clear, concise :15 spot that creates the desired response over multi-voiced over-produced sfx-dripping :60’s any day! An effective spot is never clutter. While we all take professional pride in our own “creativity,” don’t let it get in the way of delivering the Client’s message. A spot that puts fannies in the seats, people in the store and moves product from the floor is all the client really wants. Creativity is not how many bells and whistles you can add on, it’s not how many tracks you mix, it’s knowing what not to say... or, knowing when to stop talking.

I feel better now. Thanks.

Bill Jackson [bjackson[at]jrfm.com], 93.7 JRfm/100.5 The PEAK: Yep... we’re selling 3s, 5s, 8s, 10s, and 15 second spots. We went down this road for a couple of reasons. One, anything we can sell to pad the bottom line gets sold. (Probably true just about anywhere) And, we also found that agencies were asking if we sold these products. It’s been going on in the US for a while now, but is relatively new to the Vancouver market.

Looks like the future of radio for many clients is repeated recognition branding. This works well for clients who are well established, have websites, etc.

Our 3s ‘dudes’ (official production term) we call ‘blinks’ and are reserved for ‘A’ list clients who have an established jingle, and brand recognition, i.e. McDonalds, Subway, etc. These run at :05 past the hour, one per hour, between 2 songs, and are sold at a premium rate. Little wonder the powers that be love them. These are not pitched to ‘Arnold Ziffel hay sales... get your hay today’. (Audio: Capital Direct example)

The 5s sales tool is packaged as ‘hour sponsorships’. Not a lot creativity involved. Mostly client name and a positioning line. Again, premium rates apply here. (Audio: I’ve enclosed samples for BCAA. The hour sponsorship supports their 30s campaign.)

8s are sold mainly as news, traffic and weather sponsorships. Most of these are ‘live’ occasions.

Although creativity can take a hit in 10 and 15 second ads, it also gives us a chance to cut through any crap. You have to get to the point pretty quick. (Audio: Coast Capital Insurance sample)

Being creative in a quick and to the point fashion is nothing new for us. We do it all the time with our imaging. Now we just do it for clients.

I’ve enclosed some audio samples, including our demo’s. Hope there’s something useful here.

Mitch Todd [Mitch.Todd[at]siriusxm.com]: My team faces this challenge everyday here at Sirius XM (although we often don’t have to drive home a location, URL or telephone number). In our efforts to minimize ANY perceived “interruptions”, we’ve aggressively embraced the William Shakespeare proverb from Hamlet: “Brevity is the soul of wit”! We’ve found over the years that MANY times, much can be accomplished within a very short period of time. “Story telling” with sound and words must constantly be refined to its essence to maximize the message within the time allotted… and THAT takes time!

Anyone can write a long winded diatribe, however it takes a lot of effort and thought to hit upon all the key elements in a highly focused manner while not wasting a second of valuable time. It can be done; you just have to use another of my favorite proverbs, that’s really very simple: “Think”! And THAT is where you should spend your time.

Alan White [alan.white[at]citcomm.com], Citadel Broadcasting, Colorado Springs, Colorado: Added value is the real buzz word when it comes to locking in a buy and that usually comes in the form of a 10 or 15. Can it be creative? Sure why not, if that’s the goal. The 60 or 30 should take care of that angle if that’s indeed the focus. The shorty just gives the client more impressions and name branding overall on top of their main message. More bang for the buck can be very persuasive for small budgets these days too.

Wally Wawro [wwawro[at]wfaa.com], WFAA-TV Creative Services, Dallas, Texas: Here’s the perspective from someone who works in TV. Our on-air promotion/creative services department has been producing in the 15 second realm for several years now. Mostly it has to do with inventory pressures. Even with the recent downturn in spot TV, we’ve retained the 15 second format for our “disposable” promos, for example spots promoting specific content in the late news or the morning show. For time sensitive, limited run content, it’s easier to create a 15 second promo! Long shelf life Image spots usually start as 30’s but are quickly cut down to 15 and 10 second lengths, once again due to inventory concerns and availabilities. I’ve seen the amount of on-air promotion time we’ve been given reduced over the last two-three years since revenue concerns are such an issue.

The local businesses we produce TV spots for also are adopting 15’s, often doubling up their spots in breaks to increase impressions and lower the cost per thousand/cost per point. I tend to think this works well for a service business. In fact, on our air it’s the pest control, electricians, plumbing, carpet cleaning businesses that best utilize the “double 15’s in a break strategy.“ For them it’s all about name recognition.

Blaine Parker [bp[at]slowburnmarketing.com]: Being that I’ve “escaped” the radio station, I haven’t been subject to the “flood” of :10s and :15s. But I have occasionally had requests for them. And periodically, back in my radio station heyday, they would be “thrown in” as value added for a new client.

Simply put: YES, it’s possible to be creative, and NO, they do not serve most clients well, IMHO.

A :10 or :15 can be excellent for supporting an existing brand. For a new advertiser, one without any kind of brand awareness amongst the listenership, it’s typically a waste unless it has been integrated into a proper strategic plan. And in a local radio environment where so many advertisers are running direct response messages, it’s almost impossible to do well with such a short spot.

If you’re El Pollo Loco (a popular chain of fast food chicken restaurant with over 200 outlets in Southern California alone), and you use a :15 in PM drive to promote the $11.99 family meal deal for dinner tonight, there’s certainly some rationale to support the value of that commercial. El Pollo Loco has proclaimed their allegiance to and reliance upon radio specifically because this strategy works for them. They move a lot of chicken during their radio promotions. I don’t know if they use :10s and :15s, but the general strategy is proven successful. It’s really valuable in eliciting impulse buys from people stuck driving home in evening traffic. (Anybody interested in reading a relevant article on the Southern California Broadcasters website can visit http://scba.com/article.asp?id=177719)

However, if you’re Bob’s Mortgage, and you’ve been convinced to come on the air because your account rep is “throwing in” a bunch of :10s, it’s (a) a waste and (b) calculated to shoot everyone in the foot because it won’t deliver. It’s impossible to present a proper DR message for an unknown mortgage broker in a :10. Bob’s Mortgage doesn’t have enough brand recognition to find value in those :10s, and really needs the pitch power of a :60 to gain any traction. Even for the big boys, it might prove worthless. I know one former radio rep with a small agency who says he’s spent a lot of time analyzing response rates for his clients who’ve used those alleged value-added :10s and :15s, and found absolutely no difference in the call volume when they were combined with a strong schedule of :60s.

I’ve always thought that radio sales departments were doing most of their advertisers (and by extension, themselves as well as radio advertising) a disservice by pitching these :10 and :15 spots to advertisers for whom they were utterly inappropriate.

As for creativity, that’s easy. Be pithy and creative and make people sit up and take notice, and you can kick ass for the right advertiser.

Clear Channel proved that you can even make a :03 make sense for an established brand. Some years back, they launched their version of the Max Headroom blip-verts (which, if you paid attention to your late ‘80s TV wasteland, were quick commercials so loaded with an intensity of content that they made viewers spontaneously explode). The one that sticks in my mind particularly was for Mini Cooper. Incorporating the sound of a car horn, it said, “(BEEP BEEP) Mini!” It was a commercial as compact as the car it advertised, and made perfect creative sense. But you just can’t do that for Bob’s Mortgage.

Johnny George [jg[at]johnnygeorge.com], Johnny George Communications, Inc.: Yes, I am getting a lot of :10’s & :15’s from both my TV & radio clients. Since I only cover the voiceover, I usually don’t worry about the creative. However, I’m noticing, from what my clients have shared with me, that they are using established music themes of that client to assist in tying in the recall. Leading with the phone number, website or location and following it with the “sell” seems to be more effective recently. Additionally, a unique sound effect to lead the short :10 or :15 or sound design to grab attention is also being used quite a bit.

One station in particular seems to run quite a few :10’s and/or :15’s back to back by the same Production Director’s voice with no production at all. I find this to be very lazy. You may get a bunch of these production requests and thus you “crank them out” to get them off the proverbial plate, but when they play back to back ON AIR, you can’t tell where one ends and the next begins. It lends itself to some very comical train wrecks. “This week at Lowes, get 50% off rodent spray to kill those unwelcome pests who seem to never know when to quit.” “Trying to quit smoking? Get the all-new Nicotrol at your neighborhood pharmacy and look forward to a new smile in just a few short days.” “Why are you smiling… didn’t you just wreck your car? No worries -- head to Church Brothers for a repair to make it all just like new!” “Have you heard of the new way to lose weight? Call 577-7500, that’s 577-7500, 577-7500. Lose weight now. 577-7500, 577-7500!” “Call me when you need… etc., .etc…

These can become quite funny. But I’m sure the clients aren’t laughing or coming back to your station for future buys.

Jay Philpott [jaydio[at]aol.com], WARH, St. Louis, Missouri: Agencies and account executives need to be reminded about the finite laws of time. They need to learn how to write the proper length of copy - no more, no less. This is crucial for stations that run syndication or hard-timed broadcasts. :10 is TEN and :15 is FIFTEEN seconds. While some time squeezing is technologically possible, it comes with the price of reduced audio quality, an unnaturally rapid pace and a poor sounding spot that does no favors to the message or the client.

Frank Scales [fscales[at]kloveair1.com], K-Love & Air 1 Radio Networks, Rocklin, California: This question actually hits home in another way. The last time I was actually moved to action by a radio spot was hearing a message in a :10 spot. I needed some computer repair at the time, and the spot basically started: ”Having computer problems?” Dry, no music, just addressing what these guys did and their phone number a couple times. I actually took my computer in; they fixed it. Do I remember their name after a few years? No. But they did get my business because it was the right message at the right time.

Andrew Frame [andrew[at]bafsoundworks.com], BAFSoundWorks, Lehigh Acres, Florida: I don’t worry about “creative” when using a small canvas - unless the client is buying based on long-range planning, and this is part of an overall strategy.

I’ll stick with a solid opening hook, then hit offer, name, location, phone/website. If it’s a :10, you’re looking at offer and name.

If the client is using these as part of a strategy, I’ll go for the creative, maybe a quick vignette, or something reinforced with good sound design, closing with their name, usually in the form of a website if available.

It really depends on what level of airtime they bought.

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