by Andy Capp
It starts earlier every year. In fact, considering that by the time you’re reading this the holiday season will have you so wrapped up in production that giving up a life in radio for that Santa gig at the mall will be starting to look good, I’m not going to nag about being creative with your commercials. Nope, not at all. I’m not going to tell you that you should try to find music that really fits the words you’re saying, rather than slapping the first thing that resembles a Christmas carol under your next spot. I’m not going to remind you that, other than St. Nick, there are many other characters to draw from for holiday commercials, i.e., reindeer, snowmen, fir trees, bells, the party punch bowl full of eggnog, the last minute shopper at the convenience store on Xmas Eve, or the last second shopper who finds all the stores closed and wraps up anything he/she can find in the home. And this would be the last column where you would find the writer scolding you for pounding out that Christmas cookie cutter copy that, other than the business name, could be used for a toy or tire store. Nope. “Tis the season to crank out Prod; who has time to think about the other “C word?”
I’m not saying that the holiday season isn’t ripe with the potential for being creative. It’s the one time that has its own special set of tools that aren’t used at any other time of the year. Entire Production music CDs, libraries in fact, have been devoted to the holidays. Certain sound effects touch the memories and emotions of listeners during this season… the tinkling of sleigh bells, the laughter of children through the din of wrapping paper being torn from gifts, the deep, hardy “Ho, Ho, Ho” that could only come from one man. And of course there are those situations that could lend themselves to great creative copy during these two months… the adult who sneaks up on Kris Kringle’s lap at the mall with a wish list, the child who has saved $29.72 in pennies all year to get Mom a present (who then pours them out on the counter in front of the busy shop keeper), or the husband who’s more than a little nervous about venturing into the lingerie store to shop for his wife and passes out at the suggestions made by the clerk. Beyond silly, there are the traditional memories that could inspire wonderful creative if you had the time. Family and friends joining together to sing carols, the clandestine wrapping and hiding of presents, the child on Christmas morning, running with the newly unwrapped sled to the nearest snowy bluff she can find. Nope, you’ve got more to worry about this time of the year than doing more with all of that creative potential that’s handed to you for one brief season.
After all, there’s so much to do. The salespeople are going nuts, selling commercials to every business in town, even the tiny ones that never advertise the rest of the year. Yeah, and what about that?! All of these new businesses, with products and services that you never write about except during the holidays… who needs the hassle of THAT right now?! Yet there they are, invading your time, cluttering up your thoughts with new possibilities for creative, just by being a new client that you’ve never written or produced for, a new client with that goofy name or unique product line that lures the right side of your brain into coming up with great ideas, even though you don’t have the time to waste. Sure, some of the ideas might even turn into a campaign that could run beyond the holidays and, if successful, could turn the seasonal customer into a signed on the dotted line year-round client for the station. But can’t the salespeople understand how busy you are now? Can’t they bring this sort of thing to you in February?
And THEN the Program Director is on your case! Seems that station needs to sound more “festive.” New piles of work—holiday liners, sweepers, promos. Great. Just grab that same CD that you used for all of those spots. Who’s going to notice if you use the same Christmas music over and over. You hear the same carols over and over this time of year anyway, right? Or better yet, just use those jingling bells over and over and over… granted, it was recorded to DAT a few years ago from the old vinyl library and has that one annoying skip two seconds into the effect that really needs to be edited out, but only you would notice that. And you don’t listen to the station now anyway. You can’t stand to hear all of that bad holiday production over and over!
So please, whatever you do this busy time of the year, don’t be creative. And while you’re at it, be sure to whine at everyone within earshot about how busy you are. And don’t forget to take a moment out of your day and scream at the salespeople who bring in that last minute copy that you didn’t have time to produce anyway. Oh, and make sure the boss is clear about all of these problems, and the fact that you would be doing a better job with all of this production if you had decent tools to work with. The boss needs to realize that, even though you were hired to be the creative genius behind the sound of the station, you just cannot be bothered with all of that right now, that for all of those reasons you just don’t have time to care. Then finally, the biggest issue might be taken care of, and who knows? Your replacement might just find a shiny new Pro Tools system under the tree. Ho! Ho! Ho!