R.A.P. Interview: Keith Eubanks

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R.A.P.: Who handles the writing of the spots?
Keith: The account executives did a lot of it until I came in. Then I found out they didn't need to be doing so much. We needed more consistency and better creative quality, so I started taking on more and more writing. They still submit spots, and many times I will rewrite the spot somewhat. We employ a lot of humor at the station. The station is real fun to listen to, and when we get to the stopsets, we don't want them to be boring. We want people to say, "Hey, that's a funny commercial!" A lot of times, when I get out on the street doing promotions and appearances, I hear as many people talking about the commercials as the fun contests. That's kind of neat. I enjoy writing. I've got a laptop that I use at my desk and take home with me to use.

R.A.P.: You recently went from Production Director to Creative Director. Why?
Keith: Since I began taking on so much of the creative process, creating concepts and dealing more with the clients, we felt the clients might be more accustomed to dealing with somebody who might be creative as opposed to somebody who is technical. Plus, when I'm dealing with the advertising agencies, they don't think they're dealing with the guy who's doing the dubs. They're talking with someone a little more on their level.

R.A.P.: Our readers, and especially our listeners of The Cassette, are most familiar with the exceptional club spots you send in for The Cassette. Would you say producing club spots is your fortè?
Keith: I think so, and everybody tells me that. I guess if you hit your foot twenty times every day, after about a year, you're going to be hitting your foot and not feel a thing. Now, when I do a bar spot, it takes a lot to turn me on to what I'm doing. With most of them, the Account Executive will come up to me and say, "How did it turn out?" I'll just say, "It's a bar spot! A bar spot is a bar spot!" I mean, I still get enthusiastic about it, but there's only so much "thump" you can listen to before it all starts sounding the same.

We've had some instances here where people wanted something totally different, and I gave them something totally different. One of our biggest clients is Petris. I've been doing their spots since they went on the air with us. Recently, we went in a totally different direction with their spots. We told a story in them, and as we told the story we had sound effects accompanying each sentence where the words warranted a sound effect. It was real funny, and it ran for three or four weeks. A lot of people remember the spot. I suppose bar spots are probably what I will be best known for, if anything.

R.A.P.: How many bar spots would you say the station is cutting per week?
Keith: Not every bar is on every week, but I'd say we produce every bit of ten to twelve bar spots a week. A lot of those are multiple cuts where they've got different things for different days, so much so that if we can get away with doing a live tag on the air, over the music bed at the end of the spot, we'll do it. Sometimes they'll want a different spot for every day of the week, but sometimes you can get away with a generic spot that covers the whole week, and then tag it with today's special event.

R.A.P.: Do some of the clubs feel like they're getting cheated on the production end when they just have a generic spot with a tag?
Keith: I don't think so. As a whole, everybody at the station does very good bar spots, or they wouldn't be there. We don't do generic ones very often. What we'll usually do is make a spot talking about Friday night, for instance, but it'll be running all week long. Then we'll tag it saying, "but tonight it's the wet T-shirt contest," and so on.

We're at a point now, with all the bars, where they drive this department. We could call it Club Spot USA because that's really what we crank out more than anything else. And because the station is so promotions oriented, we've got a different jock at a different club every night of the week. To support that, our sales staff has come up with this thing called the Appearance Calendar. It's a promo that runs every hour or every other hour. There'll be three different jocks on each promo saying, "Hey this is so and so. Join me tonight at whatever. Hi this is so and so, join me Friday night at whatever. Hi, this is so and so, join me Saturday at Car World," and so on. That's a daily promo that has to be cranked out, and believe me, if the promo's not there, the salespeople are at my doorstep wanting to know why, where is it, and can we get it changed. Having that every day, and having so many things that can go wrong with a promo like that -- dated material, inaccurate material, times that have changed -- it's a fiasco! That alone keeps us running in a million different directions.

Plus, for every bar spot, every Account Executive wants a cassette of everything that is done. The jocks are not real good about doing the cassette dubs, so that leaves the three of us in production running to do cassettes all the time for everybody.

R.A.P.: What percentage of all commercials you produce would you say the club spots account for?
Keith: A good seventy percent. The rest of that is car dealerships and the like.

R.A.P.: Do you feel that anything in your department suffers because of all the attention the club spots are getting?
Keith: No. Not at all. To be honest with you, these spots you hear that I've sent for The Cassette are spots that ninety-nine percent of the time I've sat down with no copy at all, just facts, and ad-libbed the whole thing to multi-track. Spots like that, I've got down to where I can almost do them in my sleep. I like spending time on the other stuff like national spots -- for instance, if Kroger comes through and wants us to do something, or General Foods, who recently came on and wanted us to create a concept for them. Those are the ones I like because I know big people somewhere in New York or LA are going to be hearing the spots, and I want the spots to reflect the quality they're used to.

Agency people will often say, "Oh, it sounds to radio-ish. It sounds like a radio spot." So I work real hard at making things that we do, outside of bar spots, not sound radio. I try to make them sound more like something that would come out of a large production company.

R.A.P.: What things do you do to avoid making a spot sound "radio-ish?"
Keith: It's hard to describe. It's not having somebody go, "Hi! This is Johnny Jonathan. Come on out and buy some furniture for these prices!" I try to come up with a unique approach to copy, and some of my concepts are real unorthodox. One other thing I do is bring in talent for some of the spots. I work with a guy in town who is union talent, and he and I do this workshop together at a production company in town. It's for people who want to get into television and radio voice-over work for agencies. Every now and then, we'll get people who have that natural gift of a great voice. They're untainted by media and by the expectations of what you do in a voice-over session, but they have this naturally great voice. After a six week course you get to know these people, and I'll say, "Hey, I've got a commercial I'd like you to do." Of course these people are chompin' at the bit to do a commercial. You still have to coach them a little bit, but I've had some great results with people from the workshop.

That's where some of the talent I bring in comes from. I'm to the point now where I have approached the Northside School of the Performing Arts. They're pretty well known regionally in the high school art arena as having a real good department. I thought, "Why don't we go over there, get some of these kids who are wanting to get into acting, and bring them in?" You're going to find kids that are animated and probably sound great. You can use them for a variety of things, and these kids would be happy to get a bag full of CD's and a few T-shirts from the station to do a commercial! That's one project I'm in the process of working on now.

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