“Spec Spots Suck!” or "How Specs Drain Dollars Instead Of Making Them"

by Ed Thompson

Just have another spec spot shot down? Add it to the list. The total sum of all the spec spots that have been rejected in my 19 year radio career is innumerable. But, just for grins, I’ve tried to come up with an estimate of what it has cost the assorted broadcast companies for whom I’ve worked in real dollars.

For argument’s sake, let’s use approximate hourly wages of a Creative Services Director at $32K a year and an average Announcer at $20K. If you figure it takes thirty minutes to write a good, creative 60 second spot, the actual cost of the CSD’s time is $7.50. Then to produce that spot would take approximately another thirty minutes. Add another $7.50. Now, if you were to add two other average announcer voices, add $5.80 twice. Total cost for one 60 second spec spot, $26.60.

However, many broadcast companies are now asking their Creative Services Directors to come up with as many as six spec spots per day. That’s $159.60 a day, $798.00 a week, $41,496.00 a year expended in man-hours alone with absolutely no guarantee of return! Even if a sales rep sells one-sixth of those spec spots, more often than not, the client will want some changes in the information and the whole cycle starts all over again. Take that money and set it on fire. It’s the same thing.

The flaw in the spec spot concept isn’t in creating a spot so the client can hear what they’ll sound like on the air. The flaw is selling the spec instead of the people who listen to your radio station! My experience has been the best radio advertising is based on long-term goals using image campaigns that build good, old-fashioned top of mind awareness. Who doesn’t remember “1-800-ABC-DEFG” or “We’ll leave the light on for ya’.”? I often work directly with our sales rep and the client to develop a concept to achieve those long-range goals. Once the concept is agreed upon, I write some sample scripts and submit them to the client to make sure that there are no mistakes with the information. Then and only then do I go to the production room and put together a few sample spots. Often times, the final spot is the first spot I actually produce. That’s because our sales rep has already developed a radio marketing plan for our client rather than just sold a spot schedule. This has allowed us to sell greater numbers of annual contracts at $12K to $24K a year or more! Sure, I may have to go back and make changes, updates, or create new spots for that client down the road, but so what? Does anybody remember the old saying, “The bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”? Add a few of those to your bottom line, and you’re making money, not throwing it away in salary expenses, hoping some of it comes back when the client gets a cassette.

The trouble is what has come to be the two basic philosophies of the radio business: Long-term versus short-term. If investors on Wall Street say investing long-term makes more money, why would you settle for being a day-trader? Ask yourself this. Is your company in it for the long haul, willing to build business based on sound marketing principles that exploit the inherent strengths of radio, or are they out to make a fast buck just to bring up the bottom line enough so it looks good to the stockholders?

But hey, as Mr. Miller says, “That’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.”

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