I read with interest the February '96 issue [of Radio And Production, "Writing for the Non Pro"] and thought I'd add my two cents worth.
With the new era of fragmentation, stations are surely finding themselves with fewer and fewer resources--great equipment, yes indeed in this digital age, but limited on-station voices (becoming fewer through attrition?) and a market place that won't wear extra costs.
Given clients want their ads to "sound different," to "stand out," and/or wanting to add their personality/persona/whatever to their business, why not let them voice their own? With provisos of course! If the client doesn't cut it--couldn't sound human/half human even with station voices top and bottom--abandon project! If the client starts messing about with the copy/creative, i.e. starts trying to bully you about, give them a copy of "Save Big Advertising Bucks! Amateur Ad Writers" (RAP January 1996) and take control...with the full backing of Sales and Management! So long as that is stressed to the client and they understand it is for the good of their business, proceed with project.
We do heaps of them! A significant amount of our work uses the client in some capacity--full 30s, top tails, two voicers, one even sung her own! With only six male and one full-time on-station voices, 20+ clients voicing their own--(most) very successfully--it gives variety to the commercial sound of the station, probably even adds a bit of the personality liner cards have taken away! So long as you can make 'em sound good, through a good script, good direction and good production, you're onto a winner! Variety is the key, don't structure the spots the same way for all the clients. Use donuts, tops and/or tails, full 30s, humour. If it's the latter, it's generally the driest, most stagnant client. So when this occurs, give 'em that copy of "Save Big Advertising Bucks!" and hopefully they'll see how they can better utilize their Big Bucks.
A good script: succinct, positive statements well laid out, easy to read and comprehend. After all, if they understand what it is they are meant to be saying, they'll say it more convincingly. On this point, direction is paramount--gaining their confidence, getting the phrasing and intonation of the statement/sentence.
With emphasis: remember these are plumbers/retailers/car dealers. Don't go for added stress on a particular word, try getting them to stress "the phrase." Same with opening lines. If they think of them as the newspaper headline, in bold, catching the audience's attention--Hello! Light bulbs flash above client's head and they start to cotton on to what it is they are doing here behind a microphone in a booth.
Always give them the proverbial three reads through, all the way through! They'll keep stopping and wanting to stumble back over the opening lines, but make them keep going. Tell them, "We need this read for time." Keep them going so they know where it is they are going and always keep them positive till the last syllable.
Drop editing on a multitrack saves time. Grabbing the bits on a digital editor and splicing together, saves even more! Remember to listen for inflection when doing pick-ups. Finally, pump them up! Energy! "Give me more energy, sell this product...no, no, don't yell, you'll damage something...but come on! You've just been jogging. You're pumped. You're heightened. You're up there! Now, in your own time... positively, and sell it!"
They don't want to be made a fool of. You don't want stupid sounding spots on your radio station. There is a compromise. Get to know and write for your client. Pick up on their key phrases, words, etc.. Make them sound real with your words.
Of course these are only my opinions, but I believe our stable of client-voices sound pretty damned good, considering they are plumbers/retailers/car dealers.
Jon Hogan, Programme Director
2XS-FM/Classic Hits 828
Palmerston North, New Zealand
Thanks for the feedback! How about a few samples for an upcoming Cassette!