Q It Up: What skills and/or assets are key to creating great commercial production?

We’re doing something different with the Q It Up this month… Rather than gathering responses by email and then publishing them all later, we're posting the question online first and asking for your response in the comments section below. So far, some great responses from many of our regular Q panelists. If you have some thoughts on the subject, join in now! And thanks to all who have participated at this point.
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Q It Up: What skills and/or assets are most important when it comes to cranking out great commercial production? What tools and/or expertise do you find key to being able to turn out effective commercials that keep the audience tuned in and clients coming back? Feel free to add any further comments you have on the subject.

Comments (12)

  1. Gord Williams

Number one asset has to be desire. This begins with the client, the desire to truly stand out and represent. The desire to entertain while doing so. Secondly bravery, to be bold in the market place but not merely bold, to make a statement. Third most important trait, creativity, the...

Number one asset has to be desire. This begins with the client, the desire to truly stand out and represent. The desire to entertain while doing so. Secondly bravery, to be bold in the market place but not merely bold, to make a statement. Third most important trait, creativity, the ability to think from scratch. Okay if you have arrived at something similar to an influence, but not an over rip off. Finally a great script in hand you breathe life into it. Make it live from all aspects and on point with the intent.

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  1. Jean Hetherington

EMPATHY...the ability to put yourself into the mind of your audience. It's more important than any other tool or skill. It is the directing force for your writing and your production. It connects your work to their needs and desires.

After that, KNOW how to make it come alive with your...

EMPATHY...the ability to put yourself into the mind of your audience. It's more important than any other tool or skill. It is the directing force for your writing and your production. It connects your work to their needs and desires.

After that, KNOW how to make it come alive with your production skills.

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  1. Gary McClenaghan

I would say to think outside the box. If the box were the usual 30 with music. Assuming that every commercial should have one corresponding music bed isn't really the best course of action in my mind. The best commercial producers I feel are the ones that treat the commercials like imaging...

I would say to think outside the box. If the box were the usual 30 with music. Assuming that every commercial should have one corresponding music bed isn't really the best course of action in my mind. The best commercial producers I feel are the ones that treat the commercials like imaging pieces and aren't afraid to reinvent the content in a few different ways within 30 seconds. Don't be afraid to stop down the beds to accent on certain points. All that said, it depends on the writing, but a producer should see a script differently than a writer, so I wouldn't be afraid to expand on the script, adding the ambient sound that the writer may not have taken into account, or isn't familiar with.

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  1. Bill Carroll

Well hello folks! Bill Carroll here, Production Director at Centennial Broadcasting's WBQB/WFVA in Fredericksburg, VA. I love this question because it really is what I teach and guide my voice people for great production on all levels.

I approach an Ad with 3 levels, to make it as effective as...

Well hello folks! Bill Carroll here, Production Director at Centennial Broadcasting's WBQB/WFVA in Fredericksburg, VA. I love this question because it really is what I teach and guide my voice people for great production on all levels.

I approach an Ad with 3 levels, to make it as effective as can be. This is going to be a bit broad and of course each level has its own degrees of what needs to be done but my 3 levels are these:

1) The Actual Script - Probably THE most important part of the Ad as you're creating the foundation of the commercial itself. What's your concept? What's the message? All of this determines what kind of voice you're going to use, how many voices and what kind of delivery it will need to get across the point of the Ad in the 1st place.

2) The Voice Actor(s) - Extremely key and to me the most critical part of the process. You can get anyone to read anything but if you don't pair the right voice and delivery to the words and message you're trying to convey, then it'll fail and won't be as effective as it should be. I'm extremely picky on the voice delivery of each and every spot that comes across my console. If I'm limited in voice talent and of course I can't keep voicing everything, I make the best of it and actually coach and lead the voice talent to where the spot should be and how their voice and delivery can be most effectively portrayed.

3) The Post Production Process - I hear so much bad production of agency spots and "hey I produced this in my basement studio with my laptop with zero experience" that I have to sometimes re-master the spot as best as I can to make it "sound" audibly delicious on the air. But, if I'm producing in house, the music bed and layering process is also key in making this spot stand out and sound the best that it can be. Layering the music and any sound FX is crucial to make it sound believable to the listener. Unfortunately there are so many bad producers out there that work real cheap for agencies that they don't take the time to properly match the music with the voice, style, feel and genre of the ad/client and don't care enough to take the extra time to make it sound believable and audibly great to listen to. Just as someone's voice delivery, music and sound FX creates the mood of the spot. It creates emotion and most people are driven by how they feel where they are at that particular time they're listening. Knowing this is what fuels my production to be the best that it can be. Sound is a very powerful thing. And what does someone's emotional state do? It makes them spend money or not spend money with that specific client. No matter what format the station is and who your core audience is. It touches their senses. Sound is Theatre of the Mind, we all know that. I just think some people forget that while in the automatic mode of trying to get as much production done as possible in a given day if their load is heavy.

Bottom line is if you take the time to create effective spots on all levels, the more the client will buy because you're giving them the tools for ROI and you're giving the listener a reason to keep listening. I mean, that's why we do what we do, yes?

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  1. Gary Lee Michaels

I'm enjoying reading the responses. Lots of passionate production people here! I would say an intimate knowledge of your target listeners lifestyles, needs and desires...and a general knowledge about almost everything so you can relate. I write for five stations so my approach will vary. ...

I'm enjoying reading the responses. Lots of passionate production people here! I would say an intimate knowledge of your target listeners lifestyles, needs and desires...and a general knowledge about almost everything so you can relate. I write for five stations so my approach will vary. You have one opening and/or opening line to grab the listener and pull them through the message, which has to be compelling and based on your target listener. The bad spots I do are the ones clients 'make' me do...you know...the 'holding the brochure up to the mic' spots...all things to all people. Ineffective and the client says 'bye'. You must learn to pick your battles and excel with that rare spot the client lets you take off with. Over time your reputation will bring more of the later and less of the former.

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  1. Alan Peterson

Understand the psychology of the typical consumer.

When writing copy, consider that you are really selling an APPEAL, not a product; Something that makes the consumer more handsome, more healthy, more desirable, more sexy; and perhaps less of a failure. There is a reason why 15-year-old boys...

Understand the psychology of the typical consumer.

When writing copy, consider that you are really selling an APPEAL, not a product; Something that makes the consumer more handsome, more healthy, more desirable, more sexy; and perhaps less of a failure. There is a reason why 15-year-old boys bought Axxe deodorant when it first came out: spray your pits, and 20-year-old women will break down cinderblock walls to get with you. It has always been that way in advertising.
So how do we apply that? Take a kitchen cabinet center: its never really about how nice your kitchen can look -- its all about how much better your kitchen can look than the one the lo-ser next door has. Change that up a bit and you've got the foundation for a fitness center, a clothing store, a financial planner ... you get it.

When delivering copy, I'd give some thought to a bit of theater training. We all are born with a functioning larynx and can emit sound, but which words on the page are the ones the get the sparkle? And how can we deliver them without sounding like an AM announcer from 1977? I believe only by working with someone skilled in interpreting the written-to-be-spoken word can a production pro leap a full magnitude ahead and make commercial copy come alive. Having that skill also helps you coach other talent in how the copy should be approached. Community theater groups are a greater resource than one can imagine, and often have affordable (and deductible!) classes that will help you.
Why theater training and not voiceover training? The former is a lot more plentiful and (IMO) a lot more liberating, while the latter can be more scarce and a lot pricier.

I would also avoid Cliches That Must Die in your copy, but that's a topic for another day.

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  1. Randy Spicer

Every great ad begins with crafting the message! So never stop honing your writing / story telling chops. (All the sound-effects in the world won’t save a poorly conceived ad.) Secondarily, really listen to other creative. Try to analyze what makes it so incredible. You can glean a lot of...

Every great ad begins with crafting the message! So never stop honing your writing / story telling chops. (All the sound-effects in the world won’t save a poorly conceived ad.) Secondarily, really listen to other creative. Try to analyze what makes it so incredible. You can glean a lot of knowledge about placement of effects, layering, the use of subtlety, dynamics, and even where to use a full stop effectively. “Yes,” there IS great POWER…in “the pause.” Work on coaching talent so that you get the acting performance you’re looking for, but just as importantly…give the talent room to adlib after they’ve given you the line as written. You’ll be surprised how many times an actor can elevate the production by putting a nuanced spin on just one line! Also - Don’t settle! Great ads become lukewarm ones when you settle for talent that fails to deliver phenomenal acting. Ask for pick-up lines or recast if necessary. Lastly…get to know the ins and outs of E.Q.! It makes a huge difference between an ad that sparkles…and one that…well…is just plain muddy. The UNIVERSITY of YOU TUBE is a great place to learn about the latter. It offers endless lab classes for FREE!

- Randy@Audio Theater.net

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  1. Ty Ford

Time. The rest of the software, hardware and all that stuff, but Time.

Regards,

Ty Ford

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  1. Michael Shishido

Aloha! It all starts with the words. Write a good spot that is radio friendly. Write a spot that is balanced between entertainment value and marketing value. Your production will benefit from better writing. To answer your question, the main tool you need is knowing what makes a good radio...

Aloha! It all starts with the words. Write a good spot that is radio friendly. Write a spot that is balanced between entertainment value and marketing value. Your production will benefit from better writing. To answer your question, the main tool you need is knowing what makes a good radio message. That winning spot drives home one point; it affects the listener emotionally; it gets into the head of the listener.

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  1. Adam Garey

Hi ..Maybe it has been said ..Reminder COMMERCIALS are an Interuption of Programming the receiver came to get-your stuff however Creative or clever is not wanted so go in with that mindset. SO when you have a sit back attitude you are being selfish; when you ask in depth questions you are...

Hi ..Maybe it has been said ..Reminder COMMERCIALS are an Interuption of Programming the receiver came to get-your stuff however Creative or clever is not wanted so go in with that mindset. SO when you have a sit back attitude you are being selfish; when you ask in depth questions you are being selfish not appreciating your place. Abbreviate: be in and out. That is part of what CREATIVE means-be in and out while sounding Normal! Make sense without bogging down a Listener's Mind and ears. Your Commercial comes in a block of other commercials-don't give a list of things to remember or WRITE down(who has paper to write down Your info?)Notice how Clients want to sound arrogant? Don't do that you will implode! APPRECIATE the advantage of "Talk" YoU ARE WRITING LIKE YOU ARE TALKING not LIKE A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE not LIKE A LETTER. If you to comparisons do not spend more time on who you are not..why? It is NOT your wiseass statement but the Client's statement that you are paid to spotlight! Have Fun!

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