By Andy Capp
The tables have turned, and let me assure you that despite what you might think, it’s no fun being on the receiving end either.
If you’ve been reading the Adventures of Capp for any length of time, you know that there is nothing as constant in my life as change. The latest is a part-time gig, helping a cable TV station get off the ground. It’s exciting. It’s a chance to create, and frankly (don’t be disheartened by this), I think that this radio with pictures thing is really going to take off one of these days. The job is a little of everything—writer/producer/camera person/talking head/video-audio editor/booth announcer/coffee maker/traffic person/Creative Director/coffee pot cleaner. If something needs to be done, I do it. If I don’t know how to do it, I learn…fast! Of course, the fact that I’m not super human and that it’s only a part-time job enter into the equation. I’ve had a couple of late night sprints down to the studio when the expected program didn’t play, but a lovely blue screen with “Channel 2” in the corner did.
Then, there’s the logo. While I have been doing some of the design of the slides that make up the majority of our programming (the bulk of the station’s programming is city information), we went to a real designer to come up with an image for the station. We wanted something bold, strong, exciting, dignified, and solid…yet friendly. Really, that’s more or less what I told the poor guy. After all of those years of, “… And Make it Real Creative,” I had become the enemy. And it didn’t get any better when he delivered the first drawing. “Hmmm, okay. But what if we added this? And that color…why THAT color?? Isn’t there a better font for those two words? What do you think?” Truth is, I KNOW what he was thinking, I’ve had that go through my mind when dealing with difficult clients myself over the years. Wait a minute, ME, a difficult client!? It CAN’T be! All I want is to have the image the way I want it, whatever that is. All he has to do is push a few buttons, nudge a few images around, change a color here or there. Hey, it’s as easy as when some client would tell me that they needed a few different sound effects to choose from…oh, and two more pieces of music…and the word “The” in the third sentence needs more emphasis! All in all, I wasn’t asking for much. All in all, I was being my own worst enemy, and at the same time was making life miserable for a fellow creative.
That said, I do think that I was justified. The logo, the image, the consistent look and sound of any company is everything. From the Golden Arches to the NBC Peacock to singing of the “Softer Side of Sears,” the sounds and pictures that define a company are worth more than their weight in advertising gold. Even the Sprite people, who believe that “Image is Nothing,” would probably have you in court quicker than Grant Hill on a fast break down the court if you tried to use that slogan for another company. Done right, that combination of elements can make a company a winner. Done wrong, well…did anyone REALLY shed any tears when United Nations forces bombed that Yugo plant?
It happened several times when I was doing radio full-time. A company would have a music jingle, old, but it still told the story, and it by no means encouraged dial spinning. Then some damn fool from cross-town would bring in a Jingle Gypsy and talk the company into something new—tied to a yearly package, of course. With few exceptions, the results were less than new and improved. Many of these new images were unfocused and impossible to listen to for any length of time. They didn’t work, and the client oftentimes went back to the old jingle. This isn’t to say that images don’t need a facelift, but it is wise to take a good look at the face before you get out the scalpel and start hacking away.
As important as image is to the established, it’s literally the lifeblood of the brand new. You’ve probably heard the stats from the experts: we get nailed by about a gazillion images a day, and we’re all so numbed by it all that anything new has to be amazingly bright and shiny and loud and different to get our attention. On the other hand, after you’ve hit someone in the head with a 2 by 4 and made them notice you, you don’t want to re-invent the wheel over and over again. The image also needs some staying power, something that doesn’t grow old, and something that can be the foundation for future modifications when time and the market demand change. Just look how a funny shaped bottle became the Holy Grail of advertising for Coca-Cola. Coke has been a part of life for every generation for decades, and while their marketing has gone through changes constantly to keep the soft drink hip and now (words they would never use in their advertising today), the one thing that remains ageless and barely touched by time and market share is that bottle. Every company is looking for an image that strong, but few find it.
I’m lying. Many clients don’t know that they need a strong, consistent image. Many just want to push a few more end tables out of the door during “the biggest sale of the week, this Saturday only.” Fine. Give them the BIG SALE, but give them something that ties this big sale into next week’s big sale, and the really biggest of all sales coming the following week. It might be a unique, consistent voice, or music, or sound effect, or slogan. It needs to define what the business is…and it MUST be consistent!
It won’t be as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of information about the business, about the client, about their clientele, about whom they want their clientele to be. Ask questions, be specific, and insist on specific answers. There’s nothing worse than spending serious creative time coming up with an image for a business, only to have the client shrug and tell you that it’s okay, but it really needs a change here, a new phrase there. Trust me, it’s just as frustrating to the client!