by Andy Capp

I've never been a big believer in the "one right answer" to anything. Granted, when it comes down to decision making, one answer has to be "righter" than the others, but even then it's often only righter in the mind of one person. For instance:

Why did the chicken cross the road?

A. The hen house is always greener on the other side.
B. Col. Sanders was chasing it.
C. Because chickens have brains the size of your basic chickpea, and the dumb bird couldn't read the "caution, logging trucks" sign.


What does a Creative Director do with a last minute production order?

A. Just take care of it without a thought.
B. Loudly suggest a novel, perhaps physically impossible place for the sales rep to file it.
C. Ask three creative types he respects and admires what to do, then showcase that advice for three months in his RAP article (the lazy bum!)

If you're into decision making, you've already found the "right answers" to these questions. For me, it's less important which is correct. The reward comes from coming up with a variety of answers. I did, however, break down and choose "C" for question two some months back. It turned out to be the "righter" choice because I received a bunch of right answers -- and I got to slack off for three months!

This month we come to the end of those right answers with John Pellegrini, writer, producer, and, like Smokey Bear, a firm believer in the creed, "only you can prevent last minute production orders!"

John writes about...

My Date From Production Hell

Actually, this was a bit of a different situation for me. When Andy called to tell me about the project, I knew there would be some differences, due to the format variations, and how we see production here at 'KLQ. Our format is promoted as balls-to-the-walls AOR. We play Metalica and Megadeth in morning drive with little or no shock registered from our listeners. Although Grand Rapids is probably the most religious and conservative community in the United States (including the deep south), 'KLQ's attitude is "let's see how far we can go and worry about it later." I always try to image the copy and production to that standard as well, although you can't do that for every client. Suffice to say, we have some outrageous stuff.

Secondly, and this is probably the hardest to believe of all, I almost never get a prod-job in house like this. This is due to an understanding between production and sales, and also to doing my best to help the sales staff do their jobs. I'll explain. The sales folk here at 'KLQ are quite aware that we've got a truly bizarre on-air group. And when there's enough time to get creative and brainstorm, we'll always manage to come up with a killer idea that'll keep the client on for years. Therefore, they not only know it's in their best interest to not hand in orders like this, they will even go out of their way to warn me, sometimes days in advance, when a situation like this may be likely. We usually have a strategy prepared so that when the order comes in, I'll already have an idea of the spot formed in my head or on paper. Sometimes the spot has already been produced, and all we're waiting for is the money from the client or the approval.

Thirdly, we never produce 30s. The only thirty second spots we run come from agencies or national buys. Our spot rate is the same for 30 or 60, so we give the clients the 60. I prefer it from a creative stand point because it gives me more time to have fun and get the client's message across. In this particular case, I wrote a 60 simply because I felt there was too much info for a 30. By the time you get through all the stuff about the video rentals and the deli menu, there's only enough time to put the location in and you're done. The only way I feel a 30 can be successful is if you can sum up everything the client wants to sell in under ten seconds.

I suppose that if I were to be true to the academics of this project, I would have done the assignment the way it was given me, i.e. 30 second script, using the exact deadlines and time limits. But screw it. I never went to college, and I don't work for KELO. I'm doing this the way I'd do it under my every day work environment at 'KLQ. Which means, the weirdness sets in!

The first thing I did was to set this aside. A busy couple of weeks go by. I looked at it again, and realized that while this is not exactly a cure for cancer, we could have some fun if we promoted it as if it was. So, using the school of thought you can't promise too much, unless your advertising says you do, I just let the conversation happen as realistically as possible under these premises.

Does this spot meet the criteria set up by noted advertising executives? Of course not! If it did, the spot would be completely ignored by our listeners. Instead, I tried to convey the message in a way that would get the listener's interest before they realized it was a commercial, and once they knew it was a commercial, keep their interest. It is a known fact that 18-34 demos have the quickest button punching fingers in the universe and absolutely NO loyalty. They want titillation and satisfaction IMMEDIATELY!

Will this spot be a success for a client on 'KLQ? My guess is probably, and since I'm right about 90% of the time, I would bet a few bucks on it -- no more than five though. I don't get paid till the end of the month, and I can't afford more. Besides, I've got these other last minute spots coming in....

Andy on the Soapbox

Good answer! Good answer! Not only a fine commercial (hear it on The Cassette), but a great way for a station to do business!

I imagine it's every GM's dream to have the rival camps at a station...not be. Sadly, the "team" is often divided between "suits" and "jocks" with the production folk bouncing around somewhere in the middle.

John and the staff at 'KLQ seem to have gotten past the differences, real or imagined, and have grown to a stage where "that damn last minute order" doesn't exist. John didn't elaborate on how this state of bliss came about, but I imagine it began with communication, ironically something that's lacking in many radio stations. From communication comes understanding, respect, cooperation, and professionalism. It takes some growing up. It takes realizing this is a business. It takes...well, the answers could take up another trilogy! Suffice to say, John has made 'KLQ a real team when it comes to production. Let's hope his GM has rewarded him for a dream come true!

For the commercial itself, John is obviously very clear on 'KLQ's target audience, and more importantly, why they listen and how to use that knowledge to keep them listening when the commercials come on. Whether you have an hour or a week to do a commercial, it's important to keep those facts in mind. Let's face it, the true measure of a good commercial is whether it works for the client, and the only way that happens is for the commercial to grab the listener. Good Answers John!

Rapping It Up

Again, I can't thank John, Holly, and Craig enough for contributing to this series. All three had great answers to the question of last minute production orders (hopefully one or more was right for you!), and along the way they shared many solid writing and production tips. As my GM so tactfully pointed out, "couldn't pull it off alone, could ya Capp?" Just goes to show you that even a GM has the right answer once in a while....