“... And Make it Real Creative!”: Class is in Session

by Trent Rentsch 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. For example, when I started producing radio Creative, I was in my own little world. Yes, there were other producers in the building, but listening to commercials on competitor’s stations was as close as I came to having a “larger community” of Creatives to learn from or judge my work by. Unless you too were a pre-internet Producer, it’s hard to imagine what it was like back then, considering that today everyone has scores of production friends around the world, there for opinions, ideas, or voices at a moment’s notice. I’d like to say that the internet changed everything. Yes, I wish I could say that.

Here are a few of the topics that came up in the last couple of weeks among my Creative friends:

1. The client wants to add their phone number a 3rd time to a :30 that’s already :37.

2. This :15 second ad has a :15 second disclaimer.

3. Sales Rep insists that because their customer pays ASCAP to play music in their restaurant, they can use any song they want under their ad.

4. Client wants “www.” before their web address.

5. Local bar owner says that they serve Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola is an NCAA sponsor. Therefore, he can say “March Madness” in his ads.

Other than the web address issue, these same debates raged in radio stations long before I got in the business (and yes kids, that was a long time ago). It turns out we haven’t come very far at all.

Radio is facing no end of new challenges, yet we’re still getting bogged down with the same ridiculous issues that we’ve tripped ourselves up on for decades. If we haven’t fixed what’s broken internally after all these years, God help us.

“It’s (somebody’s) fault!” Yes, yes it is. It always starts with someone’s misunderstanding. It’s the one thing we can all agree on. What we can’t seem to agree on is how to fix it. Funny really, when you consider how simple the answer is. I mean, what’s the opposite of misunderstanding?

At some point in my radio daze, I started a list of common issues like this, and the solutions to them. The list was lost several moves and endless computers ago, but I remember that it helped me articulate the problem and the solution when needed. Often it curbed arguments before they happened, and although it didn’t always stop curt “do it anyway” responses, it did tend to educate the offender and get them on my side in the future.

I don’t remember why it took me so long (I suspect it’s because I’m not very bright), but I eventually shared the list with the Sales Manager. It wasn’t long before it was part of a new Rep’s on-boarding education. As usual, it didn’t completely curtail problems, but it made it a lot easier to talk about fixing them when they did pop up.

Education, what a concept. All too often, everyone (and I do mean everyone, regardless of industry) is simply thrown into the fray of a new position with little to no understanding of how their job works, much less the jobs of other members of the staff. Just because someone has experience doesn’t mean they automatically understand the internal workings of their new company. Is it any wonder that misunderstandings happen? I’m lucky enough to be working at a company that allows short meetings with everyone on staff for new hires as part of their on-boarding experience, and I make damned sure that the basics are covered as far as my little corner of the world. I’m not the one to lay it down for the entire company, but I can help them know where I’m coming from and the rules I do my best to follow.

I don’t know one Radio Creative who isn’t very clever, but sometimes I think we forget to be smart as well. It’s easy to forget that not everyone has learned the lessons that we’ve learned... and that we aren’t so smart that we still don’t have a few lessons to learn ourselves. Being a teacher might not officially be a part of your job description, but if we don’t all work smarter together, it’s possible that all the doom-sayers are right about radio. Personally, I’d rather work on making great radio Creative than having a debate over whether 100 words is too long for a :30 radio ad for the 10,000th time. How about you?

♦ 

Trent Creates words, voices, audio, and music. His professional home is Heart+Hammer. Wanna teach him a lesson? Write: slysounds@aol.com

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