by Don Lane
Something happened in my Production Department recently that made me think about some of the letters I've been reading lately in Radio And Production concerning "the worth of production in a radio station." This suddenly has become a "sticking point" with me. I do as much outside work in my home studio as I can possibly get, but it's not enough to free me from my Production Director's position at the radio station -- not to say that I want to be freed. As Jack Cone puts it in the October '91 issue of R.A.P., "Every time the stove goes on, the meter is running." In a radio station, it's mostly the opposite. Like most stations, there is no charge for production at my station. So, none of our salespeople have experienced buying production services.
Production Directors and Managers, Creative Directors, unite! It's time to make salespeople pay for production. Wait! Not real money! The boss would have a heart attack at that thought. Make them pay in "production money." Base it on a charge account system.
Here's my idea. Each sales person gets an open charge account and a budget for each client needing production services.
1. Need copy written?
Normal copy -- $10
Thoughtful, creative stuff -- $20
2. Production Costs
Single voice over music -- $35
Multi-voice over music -- $45
Voice-over-music & SFX -- $50
Multi-voice-over-music & SFX -- $65
Now we have a guideline for commercial production costs, and each time a salesperson needs a spot cut, they express their needs and get the appropriate budget to produce said commercial.
What about re-cuts? We do so many! Add ten dollars per re-cut that is not the fault of the Production Department. You say, "the client didn't like the announcer's voice, but since you're re-cutting, we need to change a line or two." (SFX: Baaamp!) Wrong answer. Since, "a line or two is changing" and new information is introduced, the salesperson must pay the penalty. It's only fair. But hold on.... If production screwed up (admit it, it happens), we must give a credit back to the salesperson, a credit of ten dollars, the same as the re-cut charge.
Now, here's the really tough part. What happens at the end of the month when all accounts are reviewed and some accounts are in the red? What kind of retribution is handed out to square the accounts? Production only receives actual profits when sales mistakes are made. Otherwise mistakes made by production, subjected to penalty, will put production in the red, and the same for sales. So what do offenders do to learn the "value of production?"
I think you'll agree, a lunch with a salesperson is not what a Production Director would call proper payment or retribution for discomforts caused. Besides, money should not change hands, and a "traded" lunch just does not satisfy the premise set forth to create a perceived value for radio production that is considered free. So, what penalty, service, or retribution should repeat offenders pay?
I guess this is the reason why I'm writing this, in hopes this "crisis" can not only get the attention of GM's, SM's, PD's, and AE's, but also in hopes that someone has a way to "teach this lesson" to a protected sales staff.
Granted, not all managers will go for this type of program, even if all the bugs are worked out, due to its possible side effects on sales morale. But (after the retribution problem has [more] options), it doesn't hurt to present it. And, who knows? If it flies, this system of "pay to play" could return respect or worth to radio Production Directors and Departments around the nation.
Editor's note: Don has an interesting idea here. The basic premise is to reduce "mistakes" made by salespeople and clients that cause the Production Department to work harder than they should on any given account. Basically, when a salesperson gets an account, he also gets a "production budget" for it. Comparing this budget to the actual amount spent by the client for the buy could also present an interesting ratio. For example, the "production budget" could be set as "X" percent of the total buy. That way, if the client is dumping major bucks, there'll be plenty of production money to take care of the account. On the other hand, if the account is a Mom & Pop store that's buying six spots over a weekend and wants six different commercials produced, the budget for that production won't be there. That's when the salesperson can choose to "pay the price" or get the client to be happy with one spot, or tell the client the extra production for the small buy will cost more.
Stations already hand out discounts to agencies (big and small) who provide tapes or, at least, copy. (This is especially true with "in house" agencies.) This discount plainly states that stations already place a dollar value on production. The idea would be to transfer that value to "direct" accounts that are handled at the station. Do you have any ideas?