"....And Make It Real Creative!”: So Right, It’s Wrong

and make it real creative logo 3By Trent Rentsch

I would like to take a moment to publicly apologize to Laura Hietbrink. I was a boorish, competitive ass in 4th grade, and I’m sorry for that.

It was a tipping point year for me; I was still convinced that I might still be one of the smartest people in my class. While I couldn’t have been more wrong, I fought the inevitable truth with everything I had. My only ammo left at that point was memorization, and my last battlefield was spelling.

Our teacher had a “cute little competition” every week, tied to a spelling bee. Your name would appear on, say, a picture of a tree, and the higher your name on the tree, the better you did. There were other kids who were good at spelling in our class, but for a good part of the year, either the name “Laura” or “Trent” was at the top. To be honest, it was generally “Laura,” which really turned me into an obsessive speller. While my teacher and my Mother were pleased with the zeal I took in learning my vocabulary each week, I doubt they really understood my dark mission. All I really wanted to do was to beat that little blonde-haired girl, who seemed to cruise through every subject. How dare she? I should be the smart one in the room!

I was a poor loser, but I was also a poor winner, lording my “higher” status over her the handful of times I achieved it. And so it continued, all 4th grade… I’d be second best a lot, first now and again, and either pouting or bragging all the time, depending on the outcome. Such an unlikeable child! Thank heavens I grew up…

Radio was my first “grown-up” job, and it was clear early on that I had found a home in the production room. Like most producers, my early work was horrible, but I had the bug, and tried to grab every piece of production I could. This meant, of course, endless recuts, as I was crap (this is not self-deprecation; I had no idea what the hell I was doing). The recuts were bad enough, but the recuts requesting “another voice” were devastating, and it wasn’t long before I had a chip on my shoulder the size of Everest when it came to clients. Yes, my fragile little competitive ego hadn’t matured much past 4th grade, and all I could see was that the client didn’t understand… I “deserved” to be doing their production! It’s amazing that I somehow managed to stay in the business with that attitude, but somehow I stuck it out, and more importantly, the station didn’t show me the door, and little by little I learned and improved. As I became more confident, I became more understanding of clients, and… yeah, right.

“Nope, nope, NOPE! They can’t use unlicensed music!” I crowed. Some poor, unsuspecting client wanted to use a pop song in their ad, and by God, I wasn’t going to let that slide! I KNEW the rules! And I wasn’t shy to share the “hard truth” with their sales rep. “They could be sued for THOUSANDS! HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS!” I insisted. Who knows what the real ramifications could be (hell, I didn’t), but it was WRONG, and I was going to make sure THEY KNEW IT. Top of the tree again, Ma! Top of the tree!

It’s probably been a couple of decades since I played that card, and while I was right, I’d also like to apologize to that client and their rep. I was a competitive, boorish young Production Director, who was determined to “be on top” for… what?

Here’s the thing. Radio is not a competition. We treat it that way, pretending that there’s a struggle between Sales & Production, but while we might have conflicts from time to time, we’re all in it for the same reason… to do good work that doesn’t turn off listeners, yet makes our clients successful.

Clients are going to demand some things that are crazy, stupid, and sometimes downright illegal. You can look at every bit of it as a battle you have to fight… or, you can become an advocate, a problem-solver, and help them rise above what is often an uneducated perception of what can and can’t be accomplished in the framework of a radio ad. And what about the ones who won’t listen to your expertise and insist that you do it their way? Honestly, unless it is something that could put them or your station in legal jeopardy, is it REALLY worth losing sleep over?

This may not be a popular fact, but a fact it is… some clients will insist on too much copy, or horrible voice choices, or background music that isn’t right for their ads, and those ads WILL end up on the air. You can pout and grumble about it all you want, but it’s their nickel, and the station is in the business of gathering nickels. They WILL be on the air; invest your energy on the ones who do value your opinion and expertise.

When we’re kids we are so busy trying to discover who or what we are and what we will be, that we don’t see that our actions can be annoying and damage the perception others have of us. That struggle doesn’t end for some people when they grow up. You can choose to love what you do, or make every day a miserable struggle… for you, and everyone around you. Guess which choice you’ll never have to apologize for?

Trent Creates words, voices, audio & music. His professional home is Krash Creative. Reach out to Trent at: slysounds@aol.com

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