by Andy Capp

(SFX: internal phone ring and pick up. Music up: mystical, vinyl just barely warped.)

"Welcome to the honest to goodness, real and for true, psychics-with-famous-buddies hotline. You will be billed... click... buzz... click... per minute for this call. For your real, personal, pre-recorded psychic reading, press one now. To hear LaToya, Dionne, and Mama Stallone consult with the spirit of a financial advisor concerning their profits from this line, press two now. To find out what the client really wants his commercial to accomplish, press the sales rep against a belt sander now...."

Frostbite Falls is a Nice Place to Visit, But...

I used to pride myself in being the Bullwinkle of Kellow-Land. You know, take only the client's name, maybe a location, "Nothin' up my sleeve...Presto!" Instant commercial! What a trip! It's so wonderful to be so creatively gifted, to take nothing and come up with such wildly inventive advertising! Yeah, right....

Looking back, I was acting more like the Moose than I imagined. I was reaching into my top hat and pulling out everything but what was expected -- and what the client really wanted and needed. The result? A few Addys for clients who went out of business months before the awards ceremony.

Making something out of nothing is pure, ego-satisfying creativity. Unfortunately, it's probably not the type of creativity advertisers need or expect when they buy your station. So what do they need or expect? Those are questions that need an answer before we create. How do we get those answers? No doubt about it, we gotta get another hat!

Something Even Dale Carnegie Wouldn't Touch

I'm about to make a statement so shocking, so unthinkable, that if you wear a pacemaker or your production load has you on the brink, check with your doctor before reading. Here goes.... To find out what the client really needs and wants in a commercial, the salesperson is your friend! Picked up your magazine? Good. THE SALESPERSON IS YOUR FRIEND! I know we're risking seizure here, but you know that nasty rule of three: THE SALESPERSON IS YOUR FRIEND!!!!!

Where did the breakdown of communication between production and sales begin? No one knows. Maybe an early cave producer missed a deadline and made the cave rep look bad in front of the somewhat more evolved client, or perhaps cave rep came in late with a last minute production order for the club and cave producer hit him with it. Whatever the reason, we've been in the Stone Age long enough. No, I'm not talking about some kind of love-in, picking out china patterns, anything like that. I'm talking about everybody doing their jobs better through communication. That might mean some fence mending between production and sales. Funny thing is, even peace talks need a battle plan.

Treatise and Treaties

Recently, I had several long conversations with myself (it's not schizophrenic if you're talking business), and came up with a list of what information would help me make, not only a more effective commercial, but one with the creative slant the client was listening for. That list turned into a production order that fills in the blanks. My blanks not only included the usual who, what, when, where and why type of questions, but also the primary goal of the commercial, demo targets, competitive selling points, sell lines, and a section of commercial "type" preferences (i.e., hard or soft sell, straight or humorous, music style, etc.). I tried to be complete, yet simple -- one page of questions the rep could ask the client and fill in the blanks. (If you'd like to see what I came up with, let me know. Keep in mind, however, that your blanks may not be the same as mine!)

"But Andy," you smirk, "you can lead a rep to an order, but you can't make them think!" True, no matter how wonderful an order is, it's worth nothing if it's not filled out. That's why scripting a clear idea of what you need is only phase one of the battle plan. That's right, troops, it's time to cross enemy lines!

Actually, it's easier to make allies than you may think. After all, if sales helps you do your job better, it makes the client happy, which helps the reps do their job better. It's a cycle that could mean more money for all -- okay, more money for the client and the rep, but hey, there's more to this gig than money or you'd be the one in the Armani suits every day, right?

At any rate, the time has come to, ahh, sell the idea. Ask if you can have a block of time at one of the sales meetings (they're always meeting, right?) and spend that time explaining what you would like and how "all that extra paperwork" will make their commission checks larger.

"And they all lived happily ever after? What's the matter, watching too much Barney with the kids, Capp?!" Hey, I know that it takes more than one meeting, one piece of paper to change the historical partnership, but it has to start somewhere. If you can convince even one salesperson to give it a try, then follow through to prove it works, word will get around and the walls will slowly start to fall (besides, we've graduated to Power Rangers...).

Just Do It?

Let's review here. In one article we've solved our information crisis, gotten real creative direction for our commercials, made friends with the well-dressed briefcase toters among us, and discovered a fat substitute that really tastes great! (Sorry, just wanted to make sure you were still reading.)

Yes, these might be simplistic answers to some complicated problems. On the other hand, maybe we make things more complicated than we need to. Sometimes, trying anything is better than sitting around asking, "What if?" Or maybe I'm completely wrong. For the answer, press three now....