by Dennis Daniel
Okay, the NAB Convention. Yeesh! Where do I begin? All I can tell you is, this sucker is mother huge! Literally, the freakin' world's fair of broadcasting! I got blisters on my tootsies just walking around this thing! I felt like a gnat in God's eye! Yes, it's that massive! I believe the head count came to around 80,000 people. I remember when B.J. Cohen at the NAB first told me that number. I just thought, "Cool. Lots of people." I had no idea how much "lots" turns out to be, in the flesh, in your face! It was overwhelming! And it was, to this overwhelming event, that I trudged my new production company, One On One Productions, to try and make some headway with new clients. I also came to preside over a radio production workshop that highlighted the talents of some of our best and brightest: Suzanne Ventra (B-103, Bayshore, LI), Dave Foxx (Z100, New York), John Pellegrini (WKLQ, Grand Rapids, MI), Rich Van Slyke (WKLS, Atlanta, GA), Holly Buchanan (WMXB, Richmond, VA), and my partner in crime, Steve Morrison, from One On One. Our task was simple: teach a room full of people how we write, produce, and voice radio commercials. A-ha.
Why do I say a-ha? Because it's hard enough to try and explain what we do with just one person. Can you imagine the implications of having seven people trying to explain it? With the added chains of only having an hour and forty-five minutes! (Let me just point out that all worked out well! This little tome is a stream of consciousness enactment of my pre-workshop worrisome mania!) Let's be honest, fellow production comrades; we all have egos about what we do. Not that it is necessarily a bad thing, it just gets in the way of trying to be "all for one and one for all" about what and how we do it. No one theory, style, or method works for everyone. The creative process is a very personal thing. It was my job to take that very personal thing and try to make it a universal cohesive whole presented en masse by seven people who do it! Try that on for size! A-ha.
Most of the folks chosen for this little confab I met through RAP. Some had featured interviews, others contacted me after reading this column. I'd heard a lot of their work, or was aware of their talents. I picked them because I felt they deserved recognition and respect. I also felt that each individual deserved their time in the spotlight. How was I going to give it to them?
The answer was within the brilliant brain of my partner, Jeanne Fontana. Jeanne and I have been friends for over fifteen years (my first job in the business was working for her). She is the creator and CEO of Topline Advertising, the agency I now work for. She's also the brain behind creating One On One Productions). Jeanne's experience in this business is awesome in its scope. The lady has done it all! It was to her door that I humbly knocked for help! It didn't take us long to figure the whole mess out!
We decided to break the workshop down into specific ten-minute sessions that dealt with different genres and elements of radio commercial production. Then, BJ arranged a conference call with all the participants to decide which genre's to handle and who would handle them. We all chose the basics.
1. The Production Order (Suzanne Ventra): All the participants faxed Suzanne examples of production orders they use, and she created from them the ultimate production order. She explained its obvious importance as to giving us all the tools and information we need to get the job done.
2. The Hard Sell (John Pellegrini): John discussed (and to my delight, performed) a variety of hard sell approaches that get the job done in the usual, retail, down and dirty way!
3. The Straight/Comedy Approach (Holly Buchanan): Holly gave them the scoop on combining these two elements and the many ways to do so.
4. The Comedy Approach (Rich Van Slyke): Rich wowed them with a thorough dissertation on how to crack up the clientele and sell product at the same time.
5. Promos (Dave Foxx): Dave left all their mouths agape with wonder as he pummeled through his vast knowledge about imaging a radio station.
6. The Network Situation (Steve Morrison): Steve gave fair warning to all about the radio disease known as "The Network." Which, translated, means doing more work for more stations, usually for the same money because the owners think they are all the next Ted Turner. Deregulation...ya gotta love it!
After these ten-minute assaults on subjects that, in and of themselves, could take hours to truly dissect, we broke up the crowd into separate teams with panel members as team captains. The purpose? To have them all create a commercial right on the spot with all that they had just learned. Prior to the workshop, each panelist created a production order that would be assigned to each group. The teams had thirty minutes to go through the entire process of idea, writing, casting, and presenting. (It was at this time that most of the sales reps in the audience snuck out of the workshop. Hmmmmm.)
The last fifteen minutes were devoted to each team stepping up to the mic and presenting their finished product. The winning team would put their business cards in a hat, and the winning card drawn would receive a free commercial from my company. (Rich Van Slyke's team won with a hysterical commercial performed by his team to perfection!)
So, that's how we did it. To use the vernacular of the peasantry...it was a pissa! All the panel members did their jobs admirably. A seemingly impossible task was achieved with all egos intact. Afterwards, we proceeded to walk out into the NAB universe and get sucked in by its vortex...glad that we had the chance to participate.