R.A.P. Interview: Mark Driscoll

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R.A.P.: Do you think this glitzy, fast, bells and whistles production is going to continue to be "in style" for some time?
Mark: We all know that this business runs in cycles. I think that the market and the behavior of whatever that market is, as opposed to the broadcast universe there, is going to determine what kind of cut it takes to get whatever message or identification through. So, I think you really have to stay on top of your game. You have to stay on top of all the techniques, whether it be seductive or bells and whistles. And I think there's been some back off of the bells and whistles because we've got so many bells and whistles now. These days, the technology seems to come faster than the talent, and I think there are a lot of broadcasting people who are like kids in a candy store. It's like, "Ooh, wow! What's this?" And they use it for everything. Unfortunately, it burns out just like a color or a fashion or anything else. We're all living in a very designed technology. So, staying on the top of the game in as many areas as you can is very, very important.

I don't think that this style of production is going to go away forever, nor do I think it will stay forever. I think that for some people jingles are good, and for some people jingles are not good. That's a marketing determination that is certainly left up to the programmer. I think today, it is very much the responsibility of the programmer to be cosmetically aware, and that means being aware of production because what goes in between the records or the newscasts or the commercials that are aired on radio or television is so important.

I think about how young Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were when "ET" and "Close Encounters" and "Star Wars" were released. Knowing how many years it took them to develop those movies, I realize they were kids when they made those things happen! Are they from this planet? I don't know. There's just so much fantastic opportunity for anybody who has the will to do it and the ability to understand the tools we have to enhance what we do without using them as a crutch.

R.A.P.: What is your definition of a good radio promo? If your voice is going to be on it, and you're going to produce it at your studios, what are some elements you say would have to be there?
Mark: Well, I'm going to reach back into my bible of mentorship and say it the way it was told to me once. It's the old Baptist Bible salesman -- "First you tell them what you're going to sell them, then you tell them what you're selling them, then you tell them what you sold them." So, you open and you maintain control through the body, and you close with equal energy and persistence.

Something I find often in reviewing production from people is that the spot or promo starts off great, then somewhere down towards the middle it starts going on this curve, and by the end, it's out of breath, out of ideas, out of determination. The energy doesn't remain. They didn't read the three-step manual. It's kind of like reading copy from the bottom up so you get the idea when you are rehearsing.

R.A.P.: What tips can you offer about writing promo copy?
Mark: One of my favorite things to do is to write as little as possible and to think as much as I can because, after all, voice-over is a synthetic reproduction of a thinking process that you're sharing with someone else's ears, not a reading process. I think that is clearly misunderstood in the business today. There are too many readers and not many thinkers. I think it goes back to when you were a kid and you had to get up in front of the class to read a paragraph or a chapter out of a book. You get so tied up in not making any mistakes that you're very forceful and give attention to every specific word so you don't get laughed at.

Don't get typewriter-itis, as I call it. Just think of some really cool stuff and then roll tape or whatever your workstation does. Record as many pieces of things that you can in your style, and it's amazing what you'll end up with. If you understand what you're trying to get across to people -- which is very, very important -- and you've got a pretty much standardized way of getting that message across, then you're going to get it across.

R.A.P.: Any final thoughts for our readers?
Mark: Well, I do want to say that I certainly can't take credit for everything I said because there have been some incredible teachers, both younger and older, and more and less "experienced" than myself, and I'm very thankful. I think this is a wonderful, wonderful business. I think there is another side of it, and that is the focus of marketing and programming -- living both worlds and having to make sure that whatever project I was on, both worlds were met and were equal and definitely capable of separating the winners from the losers or the men from the boys. Coming out victorious and getting the point across, that's the bottom line.

So, don't puke. Practice. Think for yourself. Stay healthy, and watch before you cross a street -- stop, look and listen. I think there's a lot of stuff that comes from our ancestors, so to speak, in our industry. I think Marconi had a terrific idea, and we've had some terrific people in the industry who have taken advantage of that. There's such incredible opportunity out there. I don't know about you, but I know that every day I get up I just look for the opportunity.

I wish the production people would get a few extra pats on the back. I certainly believe they deserve it because there's a lot of good programming people out there that wouldn't know where to put a cherry if they saw a cherry pie sitting in front of them, and I really think putting the icing on the cake sometimes makes a difference between a win or a loss.

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