by Mark Margulies
By now, having read my articles on the pages of RAP ad nauseam, some of you must think I hate Account Executives with a passion. After all, I seem to vilify them in one diatribe after another. Well, the truth is, I don't hate them. They're delicious with a mild pesto sauce...sorry, sorry, bad joke. Seriously, I don't dislike Account Executives, though by now I'm sure there's a legion of them who can't stand me.
I truly understand that many of the mistakes that I feel they make when it comes to handling the creative side of our business are simply not their fault. No one spends any time teaching them anything about how creative is supposed to work. They get sales training and boom, out they go on the street with marching orders to "get the sale and make your budget." Most times, they're simply told to "ask the client what they want to do" or talk about the "USP," whatever that's supposed to be. Then, just bring the information back to the station. They simply aren't taught to do anything different, in most cases, so they just don't know any better. And it's here that we as production and creative professionals need to step in with a firm hand on their shoulder and a kind word and say, "Listen, we know how important that sale is to you. But there are some things you need to learn about this business to help make you a better salesperson."
This is one of those situations when you need to set aside some time for that talk, because the following are some of the "good" ideas that have recently been submitted to us at BENMARadio by Account Executives and their clients in the hopes of turning them into quality radio commercials:
1. A car dealer wants to have a two-voice script of a man and woman talking. The man is a police officer who's just pulled over the woman, who is driving her new car from XYZ's dealership.
2. A hardware store owner wants a two-voice commercial with two men talking over their back fence about the need to get into XYZ Hardware and get a new lawn mower.
3. A restaurant owner thinks we should spend the sixty seconds with a sexy female describing the food in mouth-watering terms.
There are others, but these are the "really good ideas," the ones that the client and the Account Executive agreed upon after a "creative session." And then, people sit and wonder why all radio commercials seem to sound alike.
Where do clients get their ideas? From radio commercials they've heard and enjoyed, where else? Heaven knows, I wish I had a buck for every client who told me they wanted something like "that Molson couple," or how they just laugh out loud at those Comp USA guys and want something just like that. New, fresh creative doesn't come out of the mouths of clients. It's simply a rehash of spots they've heard on the air that they'd like to hear for their service or product. And the AE doesn't know any better but to say "yes." That means it's time for us to interject our brotherly/sisterly advice. Sit down with an offending Account Executive and offer to be a part of their next meeting with the client. Explain why these old ideas are tired, hackneyed, and been done to death, not to mention insulting, abrasive, or just out-of-date. The mantra we continue to preach at BENMARadio, that hopefully one day will sink in with most Account Executives is:
YOUR CLIENT, TREATED LIKE A PROFESSIONAL, IN MOST CASES, WILL UNDERSTAND WHEN YOU HAVE TO SAY "NO" TO THEM.
You don't abuse the privilege, but if you establish yourself as a professional who understands the business, a client will realize when you have their best interests at heart.
So, when a client comes up with a "good" idea, a new, fresh slant may get them to see things differently. So always find out what the client wants to accomplish and what you have to motivate your audience to do. Once you've done that, suggest a fresh, delicious new approach to the client's project. Let them see that there are distinct ways to look at what they want to do. Again, this is going to be a learning process for both the client and the Account Executive. But the more positive reinforcement the AE gets, and the more successful the client is, the more confidence the AEs will have in future situations just like this one. They won't be afraid to challenge a client's assumption because they know they have you and your wealth of talent and experience to back them up. That's true teamwork. That's what radio needs more of.
Take time to explain why the idea generation should be left to you and your staff. It can only help to make us all better.