Mark Margulies, President, BENMARadio, Inc., Denver, CO

Does your station understand the value of a good copywriter? Does your station even have a copywriter? Are you the copywriter as well as the Production Director? BENMARadio, Inc. is a copywriting/production service in Denver, CO. This month, we visit with Mark Margulies, president of BENMARadio, who offers some insight into an important area of radio that too often gets overlooked.

R.A.P.: Give us a synopsis of your resume.
Mark: I went to college at Colorado State University and graduated with a BA in Speech and Theatre Arts. I opened my own production studio in Ft. Collins, Colorado in April 1981. We held that for four years until January of 1985, then I went back to New York city due to family problems. I took a job there as a Production Director and copywriter at WGBB radio in Long Island. I stayed there for almost two years. I left in December 1986, was a civilian for six months, then went down to Washington D.C. to team up with my previous partner who had moved there. We formed BenMar Productions in June 1987 and started producing radio commercials in Washington. We also formed Just The Fax in October of 1988, which was our copy by fax service. We then renamed the entire business to BENMARadio in January of 1991 because we were expanding into so many different areas. Then we moved the business back to Denver in July of 1991. So, my partner and I have been writing radio copy since we got together in June of 1981. I've known him for about eleven years. His name is Greg Bennett.

R.A.P.: What was your major in college?
Mark: Actually, I went to school to become a veterinarian. I was pre vet for three years, and it became increasingly apparent that because of the scoring system they used, it was going to take me ten years to become a vet. I decided at that point that I wasn't willing to take up to ten years on the chance that I might get into vet school. So, I took my next level which was broadcast journalism. I took a lot of radio and TV courses and found the more I did radio, the more I loved it and the more I despised television because it took away from the creativity it allowed people. Radio seemed to allow for it. In fact, I was the only one in my entire class to do my final project as a radio project while everyone else did theirs as TV.

R.A.P.: From college you went right into a recording studio. Tell us a little more about this studio.
Mark: The recording studio was put up basically to pursue jingles, small bands, guitarists, and church groups. There were two of us originally, and then Greg joined us. To supplement our music studio income we started doing radio commercials. It became such a popular thing in the town, and such a good source of money, that we ended up concentrating on that and stopped working with musicians.

R.A.P.: Are you a musician?
Mark: I'm a three beer guitarist! After about three beers you can coax me into playing old 60's folk songs. I can't read music, but I can write music from chord patterns and write lyrics. I've written about forty songs, but I would not be considered a musician.

R.A.P.: Tell us a little more about your gig at WGBB in New York.
Mark: I took a job as a copywriter at WGBB and eventually it became a copywriter/Production Director position. And that meant doing, on a larger scale, what I had basically done before which was writing, producing and voicing radio commercials.

R.A.P.: But this time, you were doing a lot more of them.
Mark: Right. In the two years with WGBB, I ended up writing somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen spots a day for 300 days a year. That would be about nine-thousand radio ads I did for them.

R.A.P.: WGBB was the only radio station you've actually been employed with, but it sounds like you got a good taste of what the jobs of copywriter and Production Director are all about.
Mark: Yes. WGBB was a small station on the south shore of Long Island. I would say that almost seventy to eighty percent of its revenues came from retail. Because of that, I had to pump out a tremendous amount of retail copy and production. Obviously, when you're writing fifteen to twenty ads a day and doing that for a consistent period of time, every one of them can't be a gem; but you get to the point where you understand what goes into a radio ad to make it work, especially after studying the techniques of some of the big names in the business like Orkin and Berdis, Stan Freeburg, Chuck Blore and Fred Arthur.

R.A.P.: What other aspects of the position do you recall that make radio production different from the agency production you did when you had the production house?
Mark: The first thing that comes to mind is that agencies love to be able to sit and conceptualize. In radio, you don't have the luxury of sitting a week or two weeks with a spot to conceptualize. You can't say, "Gee, we'll get back to you in two weeks with this thing." Most times, Account Executives are saying, "I need this spot tomorrow afternoon, I need it funny, and I need it good." And your job is to think fast and produce quickly and effectively to make a spot that is going to have some sort of impact. This is especially so in a station carrying a spot load of anywhere from fourteen to eighteen units per hour.

When we were doing agency work, we could take three weeks on a commercial from start to finish. You could write seven or eight different approaches for a client before you finally hone in on something you like. When you're writing for a radio station, the first idea you get is the idea you're going to go with. And it has got to be the right idea, and it has got to focus in on what the client needs and what their marketing principal is.

The second thing that comes to mind is the talent limitations you have in radio. An agency can employ anything from jingle singers to top notch female talent. Your female talent may be the receptionist, or it may be the jock's girl friend who happens to be hanging out watching the afternoon air show! If you have talent limitations, you have to write and be creative within those limitations. A lot of times you don't have even the basic capability of doing two voice situational stuff with two guys because your jocks just aren't good! They're great on air personalities, but they can't carry a voice in a voice over session - they don't know how to do it, or they just don't have the ability to do it.

Those are the limitations of radio that you notice immediately. There are other limitations as well. The clients have way more input in a radio station than they'd ever have at an agency. The client basically takes over the creative process at a radio station because they're given control of it by most radio Account Executives who will "yes" them to death as long as that check is signed and in the bank.

R.A.P.: You obviously understand what Production Directors go through. Here's a question we've never asked before: How much do you think a Production Director should get paid, one who writes and produces fifteen good spots a day?
Mark: A Production Director who does that type of work and is responsible for that type of revenue should be making a salary commensurate with the station's top salesperson. They should be involved in some type of compensation that makes the station understand just how valuable this person is to them, especially if they're creating spots that are ending up in renewals and additional business to the company. A lot of times you have a client who is on the air who ends up increasing the schedule because the spots are working particularly well. Sometimes you have a client who comes on the air because they hear a spot on your station for someone else that they like and want. These kinds of things you never see in a compensatory way for a Production Director. The Production Director is paid "X" dollars and that's it.

I know there are some stations that do have some programs that deal with some sort of either trade or cash perks for a production person who does come up with either new spec material that happens to sell or is involved in an upsell with a client, but it's generally a very rare occasion.

R.A.P.: Just The Fax was your copy by fax service. How did this company come about?
Mark: Just The Fax came about a year after we started BenMar Productions. It was the result of a happy accident. It came about because we would go to clients with three or four approaches for script, and they would choose one. That would leave us with two or three scripts each time. We started accumulating quite a file and began to realize that radio stations would love to get their hands on these good creative ideas. Finally, it dawned on us - we have a typewriter and we have a fax machine! Let's start faxing the stuff out! We realized we could become station copywriters for a radio station anywhere!

Now, we basically have three divisions of the company. We have the copy by fax service, but we don't call it Just The Fax anymore. We also do production for independent clients all over the country. And we also produce comedy material for certain select radio stations all around the country.

R.A.P.: Are you producing for any of the comedy networks?
Mark: No. We were rolling some stuff for Olympia for a while, but we stopped doing that. Right now we're working a very limited schedule with comedy. It's not a major source of revenue for the business. We're not like ACN who produces a tremendous bulk of work each week. We only produce twelve bits a month, and they're very specialized bits. There's no song parodies or anything like that, but the stuff we do the stations enjoy. We'd certainly like to pick up a few more stations here and there, but we're not planning to develop a huge four-hundred mega-station list with our comedy service. The major part of our services is copy and production for stations.

R.A.P.: How many scripts would you say BENMARadio now has on file?
Mark: Right now we have about twelve thousand scripts on file, all in a database. And the nice part about it is that we still generate most of our scripts "live" as custom scripts. We don't go into our database very much.

R.A.P.: What can you do for a station? What's your sales pitch?
Mark: We can make you money! That's really, in essence, what we do. We are creative consultants. Greg and I have been in every facet of this business from sales to consulting, from production to talent, from copy to promotion. We understand radio as well as any company in this country that services radio stations can. We have studied the techniques, we have listened to the techniques, and we have practiced the techniques of the best writers in the industry. We understand what it takes to make an advertisement and write radio copy that sells. We understand how to tie it together, how to make it work together with promotions and collateral ideas. We basically can take any spot and any client and make you money. We can make you money by building spec spot bases. We can make you money by upselling your current clients. We can make you money by going out and getting clients you've wanted but couldn't have gotten. Plus, our copy is going to win in a head to head battle against any other station that doesn't have us because our copy doesn't sound like everybody else's. It's not built that way. We don't start the commercials the same way, and we don't build the commercials the same way.

And we add to the creativity at your station. We work with people like Al Peterson of WLAD, Keith Allen at WKQL in Jacksonville, Dan Parker in Ottawa, Illinois, and other talented Production Directors all over the country. The beauty of working with these people is that they not only appreciate what we're sending, but they can then take it and make it better with their own creativity. That's really where the service ends up benefiting everybody. It enhances their creativity.

But the bottom line of BENMARadio is that we're creative consultants who develop revenue. We show you how to turn copy into money, and that's something radio stations have never spent time doing. They look at copy as the bastard of the whole process. Their idea is that once the sale is done and the check is in the bank, the rest is irrelevant. And what they don't understand is that this is when their job should just be starting! They just don't understand that at that particular level there is such an inverse proportional scale. The excitement of a client is at a peak because they're about to hear what their radio commercial is going to tell the public, and the radio station's enthusiasm is heading to the abyss because they've got the check. And now it's on to the next conquest so they can make budget. They don't understand that what they're saying and how they're saying it for that client is going to determine everything. That's where they drop the ball, and that's where we come in. We pick that ball up. We work with the Production Director who also knows these things, and then we both make that product sing so the client gets the results they're supposed to get.

R.A.P.: Who, at the stations, do you give your pitch to?
Mark: The guys that make the final decisions - the GSMs. Those are the people who give the thumbs up or thumbs down on the service. We haven't met a Production Director yet who said, "We don't need your service." God knows that Production Directors in this country have enough to do without worrying about copy and Account Execs running in saying, "Hey, I gave you a spec spot last week! Where is it?" They're swamped. They haven't got the time to sit down and be creative.

R.A.P.: How much does your service cost?
Mark: It depends at what level you are going to use it. We have several packages that go from a basic, per spot rate of $25 to $35 per script, to packages that will give you as many scripts as you want. Plus, we'll give you personalized visits, and we'll give you production. We'll put together a whole creative package for your radio station where we will actually send somebody in to talk to your sales staff and show them where they've been selling radio the wrong way. We'll show them how to make copy sell for them. We will sit down with clients the radio station calls in and give them a seminar on why their radio advertising has not worked for them before and why it's going to start working for them now. We have everything from a basic package to an elite copy package. It all depends on what level that GSM is going to be comfortable operating at.

R.A.P.: How many stations would you say BENMARadio has serviced over the past twelve months?
Mark: I would think we've handled, on a part time to a full time basis, seventy-five to a hundred stations.

R.A.P.: That's a lot of salespeople to deal with!
Mark: Sometimes only a couple will use us. At other stations, it's the whole staff. There are stations for which we are the copywriter. There are stations where just a couple of Account Executives use us. There are other stations where just a single Account Executive uses us.

R.A.P.: Let's say I'm in a medium market, and I want your full copy service because I need to cut my budget and I need to get rid of my copywriter. Are you going to cost me what my copywriter costs? Half?
Mark: Let me say this: we never adhere to the idea of firing anybody to hire us. That's not something we would ever recommend or encourage. However, we do understand the realities of the business, and the realities of the business are that people cost money. They cost benefits. They cost vacation time. They cost downtime and sick days. If a station makes the decision that it wants to go from an in house copywriter to our service, we can probably save them, on the average -- and this is taking into account all size markets -- anywhere from forty to sixty-five percent of their salary costs and sometimes a lot more.

R.A.P.: You must have come across several stations where the Production Director was the copywriter, and you relieved this individual of those duties. What kind of response do you receive from these people after they've enjoyed your service for a while?
Mark: Well, they mostly want to have our children! We take a tremendous burden off of their shoulders. The first and foremost burden is copy for spec spots. Account Executives don't have to come running to them anymore saying, "When are you going to get to it?" It relieves them of writing time so they can put that time into production. Promo's become sharper and more creative; and, more importantly, the spots they're producing become more creative because now they have the time to say, "Well, I could do this with this two-voicer, and it'll be much better, especially for my market." Now they can become more elaborate and have more time to do what they love to do, which is really letting their imagination and creativity loose. The result is, they're having more time to create better spots which are making their station more money. We create time. They don't lose a level of creativity because we're doing the writing. If anything, they gain a level of creativity because it's another head giving them some input. And they're not dealing with somebody who doesn't know how to write for radio because that is all we've done.

Today, these people don't have Account Executives or Sales Managers barking at them. The AEs scream at us if they don't get something done on time. They scream at us if they want revisions and rewrites. They don't go yelling to the Production Director. He's now the last link of the creative chain. He's producing the spot. The last thing in the world they want to do is piss him off. But they're not worried about yelling at us because we're the middle link. We're really an intermediary between the two.

R.A.P.: Have you actually had salespeople call you up and scream at you?
Mark: We've had salespeople call us up and tell us everything from, "You're the greatest thing to come along since sliced bread," to, "I want to strangle you," and rightfully so at each end. There have been times when we have not done what they asked for, and then there have been times when we have made their day! We've been responsible for $15,000 buys on the spot. We've also been responsible for things they have not asked for. Sometimes you send them a single-voice, slapstick spot for a funeral home by accident; and they're not looking for that. There are things like that, that slip through the cracks, and we try to watch for that as much as we can. We've run the gamut.

A lot of times, what we get is, "This isn't what I asked for," "There are too many sound effects," or "This is a silly open. We don't like this." These things are a matter of personal taste mostly. "My client won't go for this," or, "My client is not happy with this. Can you please change it?" Normally, we'll do a revision and they'll be happy again.

R.A.P.: Is there a lot of competition in your business?
Mark: To be honest with you, it's hard to gauge because you catch ads, you hear about people, you hear about companies that are doing it, but you don't really run into it a great deal. I know of some companies and some people that are offering copy services of one type or another. The most prominent that I can think of are some satellite production services out of California. I do know that Tapscan offers a copywriting program of some type, and I know there are smaller independent copywriting services who work for radio stations or who started at radio stations and gained enough clients that they went out on their own. But there is really no general marketplace where everybody advertises or meets, so you don't really know what the competitive market is. But, there are a few out there.

R.A.P.: I think it would be safe to say that the majority of radio stations do not pay this much attention to copy. They don't have staff copywriters. They pawn the copywriting onto other personnel. Why do you suppose this is?
Mark: There are two obvious reasons I've found. The first is that many radio stations don't have enough direct retail business to demand it. They survive by agencies and by co-op dollars that come in, and their direct retail is maybe ten to fifteen percent of their business.

R.A.P.: But isn't this only the case at top stations who get all the agency buys?
Mark: Right. For the majority of the other stations, to be perfectly frank with you, the answer goes back to what we talked about earlier. The stations just don't care. To them, copy is copy. You're getting the word on the air. They think, "Who cares if it's done fast or slow or funny or straight? Our job is to advertise the client's product. We're doing that. So the Account Executive writes it, or I hire a copywriter to write it, or I get my jock to write it. What's the difference? Their word goes out."

The idea of quality copy does not start to come into play until they start getting enough feedback through their sales staff or through their clients or through the people who are footing the bill. It doesn't matter if it comes internally; jocks and Production Directors can come to salespeople and Sales Managers and say, "Hey, we're just not sounding good here," and they'll just say, "Go back and do your job!"

You're talking about bottom line, but what these people forget about the bottom line is that if you're running twelve units an hour, that's almost twenty percent of your air sound that you don't give a damn about. The salespeople perceive their jobs as ending when the client is closed. Copy is an afterthought. It's an afterthought because of budget, or it's an afterthought because they just don't see it as a priority. In many cases, radio stations look at copywriting as an expense, not as a revenue producer.

Even if a copywriter or a service can sit down and say, "Hey, I made you $80,000 last year by providing you with these spec spots," the radio station looks at the copywriter and says, "Sorry, you cost us 'X' dollars in salary and 'X' dollars in benefits." Or they look at a service and say, "Sorry, you cost us 'X' dollars last year. You're gone. I'm sorry. You're a variable cost. Other people can do your job." They do not perceive the copy as an essential part of the creative process that goes into putting out a sound that goes on the air.

R.A.P.: Well, all we can do is hope that people will read enough interviews like this one, listen to enough people like yourself and realize that they should put as much emphasis on what's good for the client and the station as they put on getting the client's money.
Mark: You know, there is something that has boggled my mind for years, and I've never understood it. And it happens at every level and every market. Before radio salespeople go out, they get hyped up by being told that, "We're competing against WXXX, and WYYY. Go in there and show them that we're better. We've got better numbers. We've got better jocks." Why sell apples against apples? You shouldn't be trying to take away a piece of your competition's work. Go after the newspaper budget. Go after the television budget. There is so much more money being spent on print. There is so much more money being spent on cable and in local TV. That's your competition. All you're doing is dividing up the same percentage of the same pie when you chase after radio stations.

Hopefully, all these things will begin to spur in the minds of people and they'll say, "Wait a minute! Not only are we competing against the wrong thing, but we're going about it the wrong way! Why haven't we put an emphasis on production and copy before? Why have we ignored this?" Hopefully, that's where a magazine with the prestige of Radio And Production is going to begin to make that inroad and start the grey matter working again. In a lot of cases, these are business people that are running radio stations, not radio people.

R.A.P.: And most of them come up from sales.
Mark: Right. That's the problem. They have a bottom line mentality that indicates to them that there's only one way to do business, and that's whatever it takes to make the bottom line bigger. It doesn't matter what you sound like. It doesn't matter what you're doing -- just do it.

Whether you're running eight, twelve or even sixteen units per hour, the commercials are going to account for a large percentage of your air time -- eight, ten, even twenty percent. The question we ask General Sales Managers or Account Executives when they sit there and say, "copy is copy" is this: if a Program Director came in and interviewed for a job and said, "I'm only going to worry about eighty percent of the music that I do here," or, "I'm only going to worry about eighty percent of what the jocks say," would you hire a guy like that? You'd never let him run your radio station! He's not concerned about what's going out on the air. He's only worried about eighty percent!

"Well then," we ask, "why are you only worried about eighty percent? You're worried about losing your audience - well, where do you think you're losing them? You're losing them in your stop sets! You're losing them when they hear a commercial that's a tune-out. Why not start using that stop set to your advantage? Start paying attention to that eight, ten or twenty percent. Why not let the creative person you've hired as a Production Director do his or her job?"

There are very talented people in this country in those positions. I've worked with them, and I've run into them. I talk to them every day. But they're so bogged down in crap! They haven't got time to do what they do best! And many times, that's the problem these people in upper level management don't look at. They're not even concerned about it. In reality, it doesn't even enter their minds!

R.A.P.: It seems so obvious that if every radio station put as much emphasis on copy as they do on their music or their jocks, it would increase revenues quite significantly. If the full potential of radio advertising was utilized at the local level by every station, I wonder if it might even put some newspapers out of business.
Mark: Well, you know the comparative study that's been done. It's an old sales technique. You go into a client and he says, "I'm running a $10,000 newspaper ad today." The Account Executive says, "Give it to me, and if I don't give you four times the results of your newspaper ad, I'll never bother you again!" And it always works! That's because radio is such a remarkable value! It is such a powerful medium. "War of the Worlds" didn't happen in the newspaper. The thing that people don't understand is that radio acts! Newspaper reacts. Newspaper is after the fact. It is reporting on an event that has already occurred. Radio reports on things as they happen. That's the perception people have when they're listening, and that's something that's lost a lot of times.

R.A.P.: What process does BENMARadio go through to write a piece of copy?
Mark: A station or an Account Executive sends us one of our sheets with the copy facts. We look it over and immediately it is given ten to fifteen minutes for idea generation. A couple of ideas are written down on it, and it is then moved along. It's brought back in later that afternoon and the preliminary work of writing begins on it. Those two ideas are tried, and, if they work, fine. If they don't work, then we brainstorm with a couple of other people. Once the copy is written, it's put away and brought back the next day. Most of the stuff we get goes out one or two days later. When it comes back up the next day, it's reviewed, looked over, and tightened up. We change it around. We move certain things in and certain things out. We check it for accuracy and look it over to see if we're doing everything right. Then it's given to Greg or I. We look it over and give it the "papal blessing," and it goes out. If Greg or I have written it, we let the other look it over.

If there's a particularly tough client, or if there are no brainstorms happening, then we'll save that job for our weekly meeting. We'll meet with everyone, either in person or by telephone conference, and we'll sit down and say, "Well, we've got Bob's Automotive here. We've got to do a campaign and frankly we're brain dead. Can anybody think of some good ideas? Here's the focus of the spot and here's the marketing principal. This is what they're trying to do. Does anybody have any ideas?"

Once somebody says something, the constipation breaks up and ideas start flowing. People start to respond and your own brain begins to kick into gear and we start to say, "Yeah, we could do that," and, "That's a good idea," and "That stays within the parameters," and, "Good. Thank you. Now let's move on to the next one."

R.A.P.: Do you use humor a lot in your spots?
Mark: We like to. Our specialty is two-voice humor, kinda like the Orkin spots. But a lot of people are very reticent to do it for many reasons. The most common reason is that a lot of radio stations are afraid to use their jocks outside of the context of them being jocks. So their jocks can't be a neighbor or a guy locked in the closet. That tends to put restrictions down. Then it's up to the Production Directors to either use their voices and find off-mike voices, or to say to us, "Please don't write two-voice situations." Then we go into single voice humor and use a lot of sound effects and try to use the language itself to create humor. You try, as John Clease does in a lot of his spots, to get silliness to work in your favor.

R.A.P.: Do you ever have clients that want a laundry list?
Mark: Oh yeah. There's not a day that goes by that we don't face that. And there are some radio stations that are that restrictive with us, too. There are Account Executives that will tell us, "This is exactly the way I want it done, so don't vary from it," and they will edit our work. They will send things back with edit marks and say, "I don't like this," or, "This is not what I asked for," or, "I don't find this funny."

Yeah, we end up with them promising the clients laundry lists. When that happens, we will call them and say, "We do not recommend doing this. This is not going to work. But you're paying us, so we'll do it for you. But we would be shirking our own responsibility if we did not call you and say, 'this is not going to work.' I've been here twelve years and I know it's not going to work, and even a kid could come in here and tell you this isn't going to work." So, we tell them this as a courtesy, and in most cases they say, "Well thank you for calling. Do it anyway," and we write it and send it out.

R.A.P.: If you were hired to be a Production Director today, what would be the first things you would do?
Mark: Well, the first things I would take a look at would be the equipment and the libraries. I wouldn't go with any machine that's larger than an 8 track. Anything that can be done, can be done on an 8 track. If I have the budget to go digital, then I'll go digital. We'd have a Harmonizer and an effects box -- probably a Lexicon effects box. If it's financially possible, a sampler.

For music, in a contemporary station, I am looking for something that will give me the run of the gamut of contemporary beds. But I want stuff that's not going to sound like it was done on a synthesizer in a garage in Phoenix. I want stuff that's going to have a full sound to it, a professional sound -- a good, up tempo, national sound. For sound effects, I'm currently using a standard sound effects library that I'm very happy with, and I've augmented it with an L.A. Air Force package.

R.A.P.: Okay, so you get your tools first. What next?
Mark: Then I have to look at what my purpose is. What is going to be asked of me? What's the largest priority, and how am I going to do the best job of developing revenue for this radio station? Have they been slack on spec spots? Are they not servicing their clients properly? Are their clients not getting creative work? Are they too staid and stagnant in their commercial air sound? Is there too much straight read? Is there too much happy, cutsie, ha ha type read? What are they doing now?

They brought me in for a reason, to shake things up or to make things work my way. So, I'm going to immediately sit down with the Account Executives, either as a group or as individuals, and go over their clients. "What about these guys? What are they doing now? Why are they doing this? Why are you taking this approach with them?"

I would also have a meeting with the sales reps to explain to them that their job doesn't end when the client signs the contract. I would say, "You now have a powerful, creative tool available to you, and I'm going to show you exactly how to use it. This is how you go about using your radio copy to turn your client, who could be a one time bite, into a loyal station client."

Then I would sit down and get started on the organization -- keeping track of copy and working to make sure you don't repeat yourself, keeping files properly, etc..

The next step would be to look into co-op vendors and how I could develop money in vendor co-op programs. Where are my Account Executives missing out on that? Why are they not following up on this sort of thing? Isn't there someone at the station already doing that? Why aren't they doing that? There is a tremendous amount of revenue available in co-op, and it is not necessarily restrictive. A lot of times you can do creative stuff as long as you include the tag line or a co-op mention of some type. All of these things begin to coalesce and begin to work together to form an alliance between production and sales. I would have a meeting with the air staff -- I'm really good at working with prima donnas. I would very simply tell them, "I'm going to be putting in a fourteen to sixteen-hour day, and I know that's not your responsibility or your problem. But, when I ask you to do something, please do it. Don't make my job any more difficult be-cause if you do, I'm going to let the powers that be know it, and I'm going to let you know it." That's the way I would go about setting up my production facility.

R.A.P.: What if you went into this radio station and fourteen to sixteen hours a day wasn't enough?
Mark: The first thing I would is find out why. Why don't I have enough time? What am I wasting time doing? If it was copy, I would have a copy service immediately installed, or I would have them bring in somebody to do the job. I would tell them I need a top notch service that understands our needs. Let me interview the services, and let me talk to you about price. Give me a budget to work with.

If I was spending too much time doing station promos and station bumpers I would sit with the Program Director and say, "Look, you have a choice. Station promos and bumpers aren't going to make you money. My commercials will. Why don't you have your jocks producing more rather than having me do all of it?"

The worst crunch I used to have was Account Executives that just didn't understand the system. They would come to you at three or four o'clock on a Friday afternoon and say, "I need three of these. They have to be different. They have to be cleared through the client. They have to be funny, and they have to be on the air at 8 a.m. Monday morning. I'll see you later. I'm taking off for the weekend." At that point, you grab them by the scruff of the neck and sit them down and explain the realities of life to them. That stuff would have to be cleared up at first.

R.A.P.: Any parting tips about copywriting for our readers?
Mark: Put away a couple of hours a day. Get everybody out of your office. Read the newspapers. Absorb all that you can in terms of what is going on around you. Keep your ears open and your eyes open. See the trends. Read things that amuse you. If you enjoy the comics, the people page or MAD Magazine, read them! Read and listen, and then take a couple of hours a day where you don't have to worry about anything. Get some time where you don't have forty people who want you, and you don't have sixty things that need to be done. Clear your mind out, take the few pieces of copy that you have to do, and you can start being creative.

The thing to start looking at is the focus. Focus in on what this client wants. Don't worry about the fact that his uncle founded the company back in 1923. Don't worry about the ten phone numbers and the sixteen addresses and the forty-two ways to get to the place. Don't worry about the fact that he's got sixty-percent off "chaskas" and forty-percent off "nanachkas" and thirty-percent off the other "hochkas." Remember why the client is advertising. What are they trying to do? Start there then try to build from that! And if you find yourself writing a cliche erase it! That's what the delete button on the word processor is for. You have to budget the time. You'll find that you'll come up with more creative, better worded and more effective radio ads.

Take a little time and pay attention to what you are writing. Stay away from things you can't do. If you can't write two-voice situational comedy, don't write it. In the same sense, if you know your strengths, work toward them. And if you need advice or help, consider a copy service like ours or any other one you care to choose, either local or national, but choose one that will be able to aid you in your job and not hinder you.


  • The R.A.P. CD - May 2002

    Production demo from interview subject, Steve Lushbaugh, WMMR, Philadelphia, PA; plus part 2 of the 12th R.A.P. Awards "Best of the Rest" featuring...