Try as I might, I find it very hard to keep my ego in check these days. With me, it's a day to day struggle. Some days, I think my work sucks dead dog farts. The next, I think I'm God's gift to production. What do I do with this damn ego?! It's driving me nuts! For instance, after doing production for eleven years, I can whip stuff together very quickly, to the amazement of my clients and salespeople. We have a client on the air called Jack's Wear. Ira, the owner, has been on the station for years with much success. He had a jingle produced (and it's pretty awful) that he fills with donut copy. His big sell point is that the clothes are always on sale up to fifty percent off (with really big sales, he goes up to seventy percent). One day, Ira scheduled a friend of his that owns his own ad agency to come up and produce a spot for him. Now, let me tell you, if there's one thing I can't stand, it's when some ad agency dork comes into my studio to tell me how to do something I do much better than he does! (Enter... the ego.) When I heard about this arrangement, I tried to see if I could get some money for my time with this schmuck. After all, we're not a production house! Besides, it's just a forty-one second donut! Why do we even need the guy here? Just give me the copy and I'll cut the damn thing! Anyway, my GM, Abe Goren, caught wind of my asking Ira for money for my time. Now, normally, if an agency comes to use our facilities, we do charge them. However, this was Jack's Wear, a client that has been on the station since day one and spends mucho dinero. Abe asked me to forgo a fee and just grin and bear it this time. Fine. You am the boss. So, this guy comes up -- middle aged, bearded, dressed to the nines, smelly cologne -- and hands me the copy.
I look at it.
I look at it again.
I look at him.
The copy is quintessentially derivative.
Basically, it went something like this:
"Happening, hip and groovy are out. Cool is in! Some people try to be cool but never succeed. If you want to be cool, I mean seriously cool, come to Jack's Wear and you will be cool," etc..
I can almost see you all shaking your heads. But wait, there's more!
He wanted it read like Robin Leach!
No way would I stoop this low.
By this time, Ira arrived for the session. It seems this whole thing was his idea, and he wanted his friend to implement it copy wise. I had to come up with a better solution quick, or else I would be yet another flaming rectal cavity doing a lame Robin Leach impression on the radio. As I searched through the files in my mind, I came upon one of my most sure fire voices. The crazy Englishman. Part John Cleese, part my own invention, I had used the crazy Englishman many times in the past. Clients like an English sounding voice. I think they believe it adds an element of class to their spots. To me, it has always been an easy way out.
"Everyone does Robin Leach," I said. "Why not try an English voice. Something zany but classy."
"Let's hear how you sound," says Ira.
I look at the copy, grit my teeth, and read it in my crazy Englishman voice.
Can you guess what happens next? You got it. He loved it! Not only did he love it, he adored it! He was amazed! How did I do that? It doesn't sound anything like you. Wow! Even the ad agency guy is impressed.
Before you know it, I have Ira convinced that this should be the voice for his store. People will identify with it... blah, blah, blah.... You know the schpeal. I even worked out a trade agreement with Ira. He gives me $100 trade at his store for every spot I do. (After all, he doesn't want me doing the voice for anyone else, and he wants me to write all his copy for him from now on. To hell with his agency friend.) I tell Abe what went down and he has no problem with the arrangement. I ended up doing three spots for Ira, went down to his store, and walked out with $300 bucks worth of pretty nice clothes. To me, this equates to $300 for a fart. I didn't even have to think about what I did. In fact, just the other day, Ira called me with a request for an emergency spot. He said that his competition was selling summer clothes at seventy percent off and he had to change his spot to reflect lower prices.
"Okay, Ira. What do you need to say?"
"All Summer Clothes are now at savings up to seventy percent off."
"Just do your thing, man."
I hung up the phone, found his jingle, and proceeded to cut his spot off the top of my head with no copy. I just winged it in one take, waited an hour, then called Ira back and played him the spot.
"Perfect. Exactly what I wanted."
"That's another $100 in trade, right?"
As I hung up the phone, my ego spoke to me. "You're a genius Dennis."
"Genius my ass," I said to it. "I banged that mother out without a thought."
"But it was what he wanted. Not only that, he was impressed."
"What the hell does he know? Does he know that I've done that voice a thousand freakin' times? Does he know that it was a cheap shot for me? Just a shade less cheaper than that Robin Leach idea?"
"Those clothes look nice on ya Den."
In the end, I guess my ego was right. Still, I struggle with him all the time. Why is it that I can produce what I consider to be the most vapid piece of dog crap going, and everybody loves it. Meanwhile, I'll bust my behind on a major production, and nobody even blinks. How does one judge one's ego? Is it judged by what others think of you and your work, or is it judged by what you think of yourself and your work? I mean, face it, you can think yourself a genius and live in a cardboard refrigerator box, or you can be called a genius (which has happened to me many times) by your peers. Who do you believe? The word "genius" is so overused anyway. It has almost lost its meaning. You can even be a genius at making others think you're a genius by coming up with ideas that haven't crossed their paths of experience but have been spotted by you down the road of your career countless times. Even when I win awards, I still fight the ego urge. Do I act humble, or do I shout to the world that I have been deemed worthy of praise by my constituents for my amazing, one of a kind, Godlike creative powers!?
Still, the clothes do look good on me.