from Jeff Left, Creative Director, KVOX/K100/Jeff Left Productions, Fargo, ND
In these days of sweeping changes and new ownership rules, I pause to make an observation and ask some questions. Most LMA agreements are a restructuring of a sales department, which in turn creates new rate cards with real creative selling options. Programming really isn't affected; it's the sales team that is. Combos become "trombos," and stations weak in some demos become very attractive because they are now able to sell numbers they would not have had without the LMA advantage.
So, being a creative production source for stations and their clients for years, I need to ask some questions:
1. When an LMA takes place and I'm told to start producing for the new stations, am I being subcontracted unfairly?
2. Do I have the right to renegotiate my contract in lieu of added responsibilities and a new job description?
3. Since I have an established rate with agencies and stations outside my market for charges in production, recuts and brainstorming sessions, should I bill the new LMA'd station for services rendered?
4. Did my contract go from an AM/FM combo to an AM/FM/FM?
Before the LMA took place:
1. Did ownership ever tell me to cut a couple of 60s for a friend who owned a restaurant out of town as part of my job function? NO!
2. Did I ever cut production for clients' locations in other towns just because they put a flight on the station I was working at? NO!
3. Did I ever cut production for a sister station in my group for free? NO!
4. Do I have the right to sell my ideas, produce creative production, consult and freelance at my rate and on my free time as I see fit? YES!
Ownership sees LMAs as great business sense. It's a great way to trim down the expense in the sales departments for both properties; it can be done simply by cutting down the sales staff, increasing the hitters list, and by saving on print costs. There are so many advantages to LMAs in paring down the budget -- a big plus is the cash flow advantage in selling this new combo card that lets you, in most instances, own a demo or make you impossible to buy around.
All of this is good! But, I have to come back to the Production Director. Remember the LMA advantages? Ownership and sales like it because it's green, and programming really isn't affected. But the Production Director is now selling two stations, two sales teams, two formats, along with writing and producing two philosophies. It's the Production Director that now has to cut a country and an AOR ad for the client, or a CHR and an AC ad. LMAs could produce a lot of creative format combinations. Each format brings its own unique sound and personality to the station and the client could not get away from that. Ads would have to be fashioned for the format and the audience -- just like before the LMA. And it could get worse if my station has a good production department and the LMA'd station doesn't. This will mean my work load increases.
My solution? Keep the stations' production departments separate or pay the production team what it's really worth. If these changes are so good for profitability, share the wealth with the people who have the extra work load. This new, better, stronger, more effective way to maximize profit increases the work load of the production department. Ratings are great, but I see too many stations go from the worst to first and first to worst!
Please remember the production rule of thumb!
A marketing scheme beats a single idea!
Creative production beats a rip-n-read!
Your station should be perceived as the production source in the market!
You're only as good as your last spot!
Ratings come and go, but the client will always remember that great spot or campaign you came up with. With all of these changes, I ask ownership to remember how important the production department is to keeping a listener listening longer, a client busy with store traffic, and how closely we are tied into the station's profit.