R.A.P.: It seems the commercials tagged as "creative" usually involve comedy. Humor seems to be the emotion a lot of people will try to get from the listener when they are writing a "creative" commercial or promo. Would you say you lean towards comedy in your creative work? Are the awards you've won been mostly for humorous commercials?
Maureen: No. I mean, we use humor for some of our clients, but I don't think it's the only way. I think you sort of hit on it when you said that humor is the emotion we go to most often, but I think the key word there is emotion. If you can really strike a chord with somebody, whether it's to make them laugh or make them cry, I think the commercial is equally effective. It doesn't necessarily have to be humorous. Humor is also the most difficult thing to write. It takes a very skilled person to write a genuinely funny commercial, and the other downside, if there is any, is that humorous commercials need to be replaced more often because the joke is only funny the first five times you hear it. After that, it kind of burns out. Humorous campaigns require a lot more maintenance than others tend to.
R.A.P.: What would you tell me if I said I want to write creative commercials, but I don't want to go for the humor thing for the reasons you mentioned. I want to do a creative spot and tug at some other emotions. But I don't want to make somebody cry over, let's say, a furniture store. So how do I sell furniture and be creative if I'm not gonna make them laugh and I'm not gonna make them cry?
Maureen: Just remember that the fundamental thing is that it has to be entertaining. I firmly believe that the commercials and promos should be as entertaining as the programming. If you think about it simply being entertaining, you can achieve that in many different ways. For example, a well produced commercial with an interesting use of sound effects or an interesting use of music can be entertaining. To use a very interesting voice can be part of the commercial itself. Entertaining doesn't necessarily mean funny. It can be startling.
R.A.P.: What are some qualities to look for in a good producer and a good writer?
Maureen: Whenever I've hired producers, what I've really looked for is a producer who has a musical background, not a star musician certainly, but somebody who has a great sense of rhythm. I find them to be much better editors if you're cutting a music bed. I find that also they tend to lend a lot more to the finished product as they have a real sense of what's required to make a spot really cook.
As far as hiring a good writer, I think that it's important for them to certainly have a good sense of humor. I don't think you can really teach someone how to be a writer. A lot of people have the ability to write, and they just need to be shown the way a little bit. If you're adding writers to your station, it's really good if you have the opportunity to have maybe a senior writer who has the time in their work day to bring along a junior writer and sort of watch them grow and develop. I've been fortunate to be in that situation where we've had four or five writers at a station. You can have a couple of junior people who bring some really great ideas to the table but just don't know how to get them to the final stage. That's a really great breeding ground if you have the opportunity.
R.A.P.: How about a tip for PDs and managers about managing their creative people?
Maureen: It takes a creative person to know one, but you really appreciate managers who take a hands off approach to managing creative people and just simply let them do what it is they do. If that happens to be hand stands or playing a quick game of cards, that's fine, as long as the job gets done when it needs to be done. That's really the main thing. Certainly, they are the most difficult people to manage, but the rewards are great if you can figure out actually how to do it.
R.A.P.: People who leave a radio station and go into business for themselves, as you did, usually find it to be a pretty scary step. Was it for you?
Maureen: Absolutely. It was probably the most difficult decision I ever made, but it was certainly the most rewarding. I'm not working any fewer hours. In fact, I'm working a great deal more. But it's the most rewarding time ever, and I absolutely love it.
R.A.P.: Any parting thoughts for your creative comrades?
Maureen: I think the primary thing is to continue to have fun at what you do, and when you stop having fun, it's time to move on. Not very many people will become rich being radio writers, but they will certainly be happy people because they're doing what they want to do. And at the end of the day, that is what is more important.