R.A.P.: Do you find that some stations don't want to be involved in a workshop with other stations in the market, some of which might be their direct competition?
Maureen: Well, it's funny, there's sort of a dichotomy there in a lot of markets. Obviously, all radio markets are competitive, and people are kind of reluctant to work together with other stations in the market to bring all the writers and producers together for better training. It requires sort of a higher level of understanding on behalf of all the stations. As a group, they need to work together to attract more revenue to radio. They have to work cooperatively in order to do that, and some markets are willing to do that. But there are other situations. For example, I'm being hired by a parent company to do training only for stations they own, so it's been a mixed bag so far.
R.A.P.: You mentioned that the CAB and Radio Marketing Bureau had decided that this type of training was necessary. What research was done to come to this conclusion?
Maureen: There were several research studies undertaken. One of them was by Angus Reed who was hired by the Western Association of Broadcasters to survey direct radio clients and advertising agencies to identify what they felt some of the weaknesses were. In those surveys, and in others that were done, the level of radio creative came up as a reason, more often than not, as to why someone might not use radio.
R.A.P.: Apparently, clients are becoming more aware of the importance of creative in advertising. Do you think radio management is getting the message?
Maureen: I would say that now they are realizing there is a need to provide good radio creative as well as an efficient time buy because one without the other is just not complete service to the client. In a service oriented environment, it's important to really follow through. It means you can't drop the ball after you make the sale.
R.A.P.: Commercial copy for radio advertising is more regulated in Canada than the U.S.. Does that have any effect on the creative approach? Do you find yourself tied up in any way?
Maureen: With specific advertising categories, yes. With regard to beer and wine advertising there are very specific, very strict guidelines. Advertising to children is very closely monitored. Food and drug advertising is also closely monitored. It's very scrutinized.
R.A.P.: That sounds like a good thing.
Maureen: Well, absolutely, it is. And it's interesting. I think the differences between the countries stem more from the laws. For example, the laws governing what can be in the food are much more liberal in the United States than they are in Canada. You have a lot of products there which would never be able to be sold in Canada. There's just a more liberal attitude towards what can be in the products. So, the domino effect is such that the way those products are advertised is different, too.
R.A.P.: Well, obviously, the people who have set up the guidelines in Canada are well aware of the power of advertising.
Maureen: Yes. Indeed they are, and I think that while it's sometimes difficult to write around the regulations, they are in place for a reason, and I certainly support the fact that they are there.
R.A.P.: Give us a tip or two from the workshop. What's something you would teach people about getting their creative juices flowing?
Maureen: I think one of the best things people will do in the workshop is to learn individually what makes them creative. That's really the big thing, to understand what makes them tick. To give them one thing that will work for everybody simply isn't going to work. As I said before, if you find that you are really in a relaxed situation when you get good ideas, then try to emulate that or have things around you that you like. Make your work environment comfortable, whatever comfortable is. Comfortable is a relative term, so maybe it includes having sea shells from your last holiday on your desk or little games that you like to play like little mind games that help sort of distract you. That kind of thing tends to work well for people. Other people like plants and the ergonomic things like the lighting and so on. All these things should be conducive to creativity. You shouldn't be in a little tiny box with fluorescent lights beaming over your head. Try to make it as livable as possible. I find that a lot of writers tend to do their best work at home. So why is that? Try to emulate the home office as much as you can in the workplace. That's really a big thing.
As far as a brainstorming technique, what I like to do with brainstorming in a group is to put forth a concept and have people just give ideas while I write them on a little Post-It. Someone else actually conducts the brainstorming, and I'll stand and write the ideas on a Post-It note and plaster the wall with them. Sometimes we've ended up with quite a lot of ideas depending on what we're brainstorming about. One of the obvious rules with that is that there is no judgment allowed. So if you think that the other guy's idea is bad, then keep it to yourself. There's no judgment in the creative process because those two concepts are on opposite sides of the brain. So we get all the ideas up on the wall on the Post-It notes, and then we try and see where the commonalities are or where we are getting the most ideas from. Then we group them. Is it all comedy, and is it all in one particular area? Is it serious, or is it a hard sell or soft sell, or does it all have a baseball theme? Then we group them all in the appropriate categories and make a decision about which one is the strongest. If we had four writers in the brainstorming session, then they would each pick whatever topic they felt they could write on the best. Then I actually give them all the Post-It notes with all those ideas, and then they go away and work individually on the project. That's been a good technique.
R.A.P.: What are some don'ts when it comes to creativity? Is there anything that comes up as a common mistake that people make when they are writing that they should try to avoid?
Maureen: I would say that when you're trying to be your most creative, don't take the safe route. If you really want to do something creative, it's gotta be different. You have to really take risks being a creative person. I think creative people take more risks in their life, and they need to take more risks on paper, too. That is what is really going to cut through the clutter and get results. Produce something that's really meaningful and entertaining on the radio. Now people will always say, "The client is opposed to that." Obviously, you can't use that technique with a brand new client on your station, but everybody has a client that they have a certain trust level with. And when they trust you for your ability and your knowledge of radio, those are the people to use the new ideas and the different risk-taking copy on.