from Jeff Left, Jeff Left Productions, Fargo, ND

How far will your station go to be perceived as "the production house" in your market? One of the biggest problems we have in production is the multi-voice ad. How many times have you heard, "Where do we get a grandma or a kid that can deliver the read?" The other problem is when we try to get staff to perform as character in an ad. The ad sounds flat because jocks aren't actors, or worse, the audience knows the jock they hear every day is trying to be a character in the spot, and they don't believe it. There is a point of diminishing return in using air staff in situational ads. One of the major reasons most jocks cannot perform like this in production is because the industry suffers from "liner card disease." We have lost personalities and have jocks. Personalities on morning teams cannot cut all these ads.

What's the answer? It's easy. In almost every market, your local community theatre is full of all the readers you'll ever need with more personality in one finger than your entire staff combined. All you have to do is get with your GM/GSM/PD and create a budget to pay these local actors to read the spot. These people would be glad to get twenty bucks here and there to perform on a spot. They are all looking to increase their resume effect, and this kind of thing is right up their alley. They would love a cassette copy also. Now you have a senior citizen to sell a senior citizen, a kid to sell a kid. And these voices are not heard four hours a day on the station. They bring a real level of credibility to the ad. Testimonials become real. Family spots sound like a real family, and we really get to "sell" the image and perception of the product and client. Ever wonder why national situational spots sound so credible? It's because they all had readers that fit the age of the characters in the scripts, and they are voices we don't hear all the time. Simply have a meeting with the theatre people. Create a voice bank on paper as to who can do what read, and then narrow cast and target what account could use this ad the most. You could put the readers on a retainer for fifty bucks up front to stay with your station for one year, and then pay them for each read they do. You could also find a creative way to pass the fee on to the client.

It all comes down to my opening line: how far will your station go to become "the production house" in your market? In many cases, if you control the production, you control the budget. This is a great way for the station's production team to sizzle with creative, sales to focus on specific clients that need this kind of ad, and management can show they are willing to invest in what it takes to win.