"...And Make It Real Creative!": The Creative Kid at Christmas

and-make-it-real-creative-logo-3By Trent Rentsch

We just got back from a long Vegas weekend (no, no missing teeth and/or tribal facial tattoos, thanks for asking). I always look forward to a Sin City visit, and, as usual, when it was time to leave, I was looking forward to getting home. Losing money at the speed of blackjack is only one reason. What really makes me long for the relative peace and quiet of home is the total and complete lack of peace and quiet in Las Vegas. Everything is bigger, brighter and louder there. The average daily American diet of images fighting for ones attention is amped up to 11 there, and I always leave feeling a bit punch drunk.

Holiday decorations began to appear while we were there, and for all their glitter, it occurred to me that Vegas must be the only city in America that doesn’t look a bit bare the week after New Years. Since coming home I’ve noticed nooks and corners that are usually empty filled with blinking trees or faux snowmen. Twinkling lights frame usually sterile office buildings, wreaths welcome visitors on otherwise uninviting doors. The big push to deck the halls is on, but as sure as at least one station in your market going 24 hours of Christmas music on Thanksgiving, all of it will be packed up and stashed away by mid-January, and everything is going to seem empty and hollow… except Vegas, where holiday decorations are a tiny twinkle in a glitter that never ends. That’s why Las Vegas is unlike anywhere else… it’s totally unique and exciting and overwhelming and exhausting; a celebration of life that never stops. And that’s why, although I’m still in recovery mode as I write this, I’ll be longing for a return trip by this time next week.

Oh, speaking of bare, how’s that station that plays 24 hours of Christmas music sound after the holidays? “Better,” you’re probably thinking, but even if your station doesn’t force feed listeners every version of “The Christmas Song” until January 1st, you’re still using music and sounds that are unique to the season in your commercials and imaging. For a couple of months, everything gets a facelift… a little brighter, a little happier. And then what? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

Some Creatives I know tell me that they really get a “Creative boost” during the holidays. Some attribute it to the “magic of the season;” others find inspiration in the total and complete desperation to make every ad unique in a sea of Santas and jingle bells. Personally, I think it’s some unwritten permission to “do something totally different,” to break down the jaded walls we build all year and let the child out who couldn’t wait to open that first present. That’s what makes the output of some Creatives, post-holidays, so tragic.

I’m not suggesting that “every day be Christmas.” Hell, I get just as sick of the jingle as the next audio Creative… as I write this, I know I have weeks of it yet to face, and a part of me dreads it. What I am saying is, you always, ALWAYS have unwritten permission to do something totally different, to let the wild child out to play and Create fresh and interesting audio.

Think back… did the magic end after you opened that first present when you were a kid? Of course not. When you’re a kid, there was always a new adventure. When the lights were taken down and the trees were hauled away, you didn’t sit around, bored with the same old thing. You looked ahead to what was next… always ready to find the fun in the moment, whenever that moment was. It’s that kid that you let out during the holidays. It’s that kid a Creative should let loose all the time.

Maybe you convinced a client who normally does straight voice over music spots to do some silly dialogue bit with elves and reindeer over the holidays. It was fun, got noticed, and worked… and you’ve opened the door a crack. Are you going to put your shoulder to it and suggest a more Creative approach to their advertising on a consistent basis… or let the door slam in your face?

I truly believe that radio is going the way of the fast food giants of the world… the same formats, the same syndicated shows, the same elements, no matter what market you’re in. I believe radio listeners don’t want the same thing in Raleigh that they want in Las Vegas… or Baton Rouge, or Sioux Falls, or Chicago or, anywhere. Radio is losing what made it the most unique medium… it’s no longer unique from market to market. If you’re a radio station Creative, you have an opportunity to buck the trend… to Create commercials and imaging that are totally unique and entertaining for your specific audience, to stand out in your market every day of the year. Like Las Vegas, you don’t need a holiday to dare to be different!

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