How Fast Can You Talk?

By Dave Stalker

I had a dub come into the group of 5 radio stations where I work, and I normally don’t even listen to dubs, I just assign them to one of the evening shift jocks to load onto the server. However, when I did tap this one up for a listen, I was appalled at what I heard.

It was a BMW commercial for Certified Vehicles with a Protection Plan. The first 16 seconds of the spot was well-produced ad agency copy… although it had no dealer name mention or even a specific car mentioned.

Then the announcer voice sped up quite a lot for a 5 sec tag disclaiming the protection plan particulars.

Then, it got much worse. The final 9 seconds of the spot had an extensive disclaimer with mention of a specific vehicle by stock number, payment and the rest of stuff required by law, that must be disclosed in auto advertising here in Oregon.

That second disclaimer, added by one of the other radio groups in town, was even faster than the part produced by the agency that created the ad.

It was unintelligible… legal, but impossible to understand it was sooooo fast. [Check the spot out on this month’s RAP CD.]

The technology we have available these days makes it possible to increase the pace without raising the pitch. If it’s subtle, it can actually enhance the delivery of ad copy. That quicker pace often gives a spot a more crisp sound, and adds energy to the announcer’s delivery.

But when abused, as in the case of this BMW commercial, it has to be an absolute “tune out” for listeners.

Lost in all that ‘speed speak’ was the model of BMW and the only mention of the dealers name was buried in the blur or words.

Beyond the audible assault to my ears, I thought “what a waste of ad dollars”, with practically 50% of the ad speeded up so much no one would get much if anything from it.

So here’s the challenge. How do we as production people raise the awareness of advertisers and ad agencies to eliminate this ubiquitous practice?

I’ve produced car ads for years, and before there was technology that would let us time compress clips with a couple clicks of a mouse, you could only say as much as time would allow. Granted, many announcers achieved some very fast reads without any computer enhancements.

But now we have the technology, and it’s almost too easy to dial in a number or just grab the end of the clip and ‘compress’.

I believe this is a case of “just because we can, does not mean we should” do this.

What I’m advocating to my Sales Managers is that we show some market leadership and work with the ad agency that handles the dealer, and show them ‘a better way’ to get their message across.

Instead of trying to generate interest in a 60 thousand dollar car with speed speak and very detailed information, why not use those precious 14 seconds to brand the buying experience at the dealership and drive customers to the showroom floor.

I have sold cars in the past, and what gets people turned on about a car is touching it, the color of it, sitting in it, DRIVING IT, and what it does for their self-image. That’s what sells cars, not blasting through a laundry list of financial disclosures that no one really cares about, much less can’t be understood.

I can’t imagine that our local BMW dealer got so much as a single inquiry about the car featured in the ad, or it’s cool protection plan. It’s surprising and disappointing that an ad agency would tack on so much disclaimer information without giving consideration to how much it would have to be time compressed to fit it all in to 30 seconds.

I don’t want to leave the impression that somehow I’m against using such a wonderful tool as ‘time compression’. Quite the contrary. It gives us some flexibility we never had prior to the computer programs that make it possible. You can safely compress 33 seconds of copy into 30, without the announcer sounding unnaturally speedy.

The goal needs to be writing better ad copy, ads that don’t feature a particular vehicle that requires tons of disclaiming. Instead they should urge the listener to come drive that BMW and then the customer will have adequate time to ingest all the information they need to make a buying decision.

Since automobile ads seem to offend most often, I’m trying to start out fixing them first.

All the rest will come along more organically, if we can teach the people who control the creative to break this bad habit they’ve gotten into.

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