By Dave Foxx
Every once in awhile, I hear a promo or commercial that really does it perfectly, with just the right balance of clever and sincere, rhythmic and flowing production that really sells the message. Sometimes… they’re promos I’ve done! (Imagine that!) This is a business that doesn’t grade on a curve. It demands perfection all the time, because our incomes all depend on it. Being human, of course, means we never really achieve perfection, so we’re all striving to get there every time we fire up the workstation.
Oh, if you have the idea that I bat 1000 on my promos, let me disabuse you of that notion right now. It’s never going to happen, any more than having a batter do it in Major League Baseball will. Keeping with the baseball analogy, the better your batting average, the more valuable player you are, but some of the pitchers we have to face are really hard to hit. “The client wants you to say his phone number at least seven times.” There’s a slider. “The client really needs to include these price/items.” There’s an off-speed pitch. Sometimes the pitch is simply wild and you have no chance of hitting it. I’m reasonably certain that we’ve all been in situations like that. Chances are you can name a few clients who fit that profile pretty closely.
So, what can you do? First, you have to stop thinking of the client as an adversary. The very nature of what we do requires that we work with the client. Imagine a baseball game where the pitcher lobs the perfect pitch for you to hit because he wants you to hit a home run! When the client tosses you a perfect pitch, it’s easy to hit, making your job extremely simple. Conversely, the client’s life improves vastly when you tag the perfect pitch for a home run. It’s not much of a baseball game, but it’s a heck of a great way to do production. Too bad clients have to go and ruin it.
Too many times, the client is an “expert” on how to advertise his or her business. No matter how much you try to explain that repeating a phone number doesn’t make it easier to remember, but is merely irritating to the listener, they seem to always come back to, “Well, I’m the customer and the customer is always right.” Really? It seldom sinks in that while he or she might be an expert on selling cars or zit creams, advertising on radio is a completely different beast. The ones hardest to convince are the clients who’ve been advertising for years and years, the wrong way. Or the ones who’ve heard really bad advertising for a very long time and come to believe that they should sound like an ad for Raceway Park or Crazy Eddie.
The absolute truth of the matter is, very often advertisers are on the air for the wrong reason… vanity. They want to hear their name on the radio. They grew up listening to Crazy Eddie ads (which Jerry Carroll hated doing, by the way) and they’re hearing that maniacal voice screaming their name, saying they are “insane” and supposedly creating massive business. What they don’t think about is the fact that ERS Electronics (“Crazy Eddie” was the ‘E’ in ERS) eventually went out of business. If you’ve never heard or seen a Crazy Eddie ad, just head for YouTube and do a search. The radio spots sounded exactly like the TV spots, which should now serve as an object lesson in how NOT to advertise. If you get a client who insists that their ads should sound like that, heaven help you. You need to foster some kind of relationship to help them understand that the ultimate aim of advertising is to improve their stature in the community, not make them a laughingstock.
The bottom line is this: Your client, regardless of what they want the ad to sound like, needs to understand that we don’t sell cars. We don’t sell electronics. We don’t sell anything but them. Our job is to get the potential customer to their door. It then becomes their job to sell the car or electronic gizmo. Find out what ONE aspect of their company or service sets them apart from any competitors. Then say, “Fine, let’s do an ad about that. Nothing else… just that.” Let them become known to your audience as THE place to go for whatever that ONE thing is. Prime examples of great “one idea” advertising that really works would have to include Volvo (safety), Domino’s Pizza (delivers), Ford Trucks (tough) and Nike (Just Do It). Not one of those campaigns gets people to run out and buy any of those products. BUT, the next time they are in the market for a car, knowing they have kids to cart around, they’re going to think about Volvo first. The next time they want a pizza delivered fast, they’ll think Domino’s. If they need to get a truck, they’ll head out looking for a Ford. When they need new athletic shoes, they’ll probably go for Nike. Of course, you and I know this is Branding 101. Set yourself apart, hammer it home with the audience and you’ll be giving yourself a license to print money.
Of course many of you don’t have to deal with advertising clients. You make promos, so your client is your Program Director. My main client is Sharon Dastur, the PD at Z100. After all the years we’ve worked together on the imaging and branding of Z100/New York, we have learned to trust each other. We both bring different perspectives to the table. Just today, I produced a weekend Music Image promo that started off by saying, “The forecast calls for lots of warm sunshine… and great cruisin’ music,” followed by a beatmix of current hits. I posted it and an hour later got an email saying, “I like the promos, but the forecast is actually calling for rain. Won’t that sound kinda stupid?” I was working on more of a conceptual thing, I guess. It would be a really cool thing to say. But the audience doesn’t think that way. I say, “warm sunshine.” The listener looks out the window and says, “Nuh-uh.” I’ve just shot down my own promo! Yes, I changed the first line. Just for fun, my audio this month includes the original version ‘cause it’s not gonna play anywhere else!
I DO have a second piece I want you to hear though, so I have a second cut on this month’s CD. It’s the promo that inspired this column about training your clients. It’s a music image promo I got from Rick Andrews at 101.9 Blake-FM in Amarillo, Texas. Now, before you listen, put yourself in the Texas panhandle driving an 18-wheeler, listening to country. You are a listener! This is just about as perfect a promo as you could hope to hear.
Next month I’m gonna talk about gear. If you have experience on more than one system, I would love to hear from you with an honest assessment of each system. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just a few words about each would be amazing. What you like and don’t like about each. Send it to me at