Q It Up: Do you have copy deadlines for salespeople? - Part 2

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95Q It Up: Do you have copy deadlines for the salespeople? What are they? Do you have varying deadlines depending on the type of order? For example, 72 hours for copy that needs to be written and produced, and perhaps just 24 hours for dubs and tags? How closely are these deadlines followed? If a deadline is missed, what generally happens? Please add any other thoughts or comments you may have.

deadlineCooper Fox [cooper[at]conwaymagic. com], Magic 104, Conway, New Hampshire: For the most part, our ad execs write their own copy. According to the way that we have things set up, there is supposed to be a 24 hour rule. But, after spending any time in this business, most of us know this is not always the case. What works well is the fact that the day-people are here late and the morning-people generally get here with enough time to spare to add a tag before the spot is supposed to air. As long as everyone plays nice, we make it work.

Gary Michaels [michaels[at]wask.com], WASK/WKOA, Lafayette, Indiana: Nope... NO deadlines whatsoever. Our sales manager, sales consultant and company don’t believe in them. We used to have a ‘deadline policy’ on paper but found it useless as it was never enforced. Besides, if you’re sales staff is like mine, EVERY production order is an ‘exception’ and a ‘special case’. It’s VERY common for me to get orders that require copy approval AND production approval before they air, which is the next day. Nope, no deadlines. I’m thinking about taking up smoking....

What happens if they’re missed? I’m proud to say I can’t remember the last time we missed getting a spot on the air because we just didn’t get to it, which is a pat on the back for my production staff considering we process about 600 spots per month on average. But I have missed plenty of deadlines for copy approval. When times get busy, we do production on a triage level... writing and producing those that air the soonest. That means the spot turned in today with copy needed today, though it won’t air for two weeks, can wait. I catch a LOT of hell over that. Can I borrow your lighter?

Laurent Boulet [kiwi[at]choiradiox .com], CHOI Radio, Sillery, Quebec, Canada: We effectively have deadlines for what is being dubbed, written, produced... and usually it is the same kind of deadline for everything. The deadline is basically when the client decided he would be on the air. Most of the time, we have a day or two, sometimes a week even. But every once in a while it happens that a client wakes up at 3PM on Friday and decides that he needs to be on the air Saturday morning. I’ve always found it weird that a client spends so much money on airtime and waits at the last minute for production, and leaves us an hour or two to create and produce his commercial.

There is no real penalty for a commercial missing the deadline because we have a good production crew, and when it happens, it usually is someone else’s fault (like an agency missing its own deadline). It is getting more complicated to reschedule because we are sold out most of the time, but we find a way!

Joey Cummings [joey[at]khjradio. com], 93KHJ/WVUV-AM, American Samoa: I work with a small team. A couple of salespeople (who double as the morning on-air team), me, and the office manager make up our station. If someone wants production, then they just rely on the rules of common respect. Everyone has a feel for the length of time it takes to maintain an acceptable level of quality in our production. Usually a half day to 3 days. But the important part is that we all use respect when asking each other to do work. If you want something, give me some time. If you need it quick, can you cover my other duties while I work on it for you? I am also the GM, so this sort of philosophy works in multiple instances. If I want something done quickly by my sales team, then I have to be willing to cut them slack on other projects. Like water in a pitcher; you can pour it into many glasses and adjust the amounts throughout the day, but the water (like time) is limited in its supply.

Don Elliot [voiceovers[at]charter.net]: Since I am not at a local radio station any longer, I can’t cite anyone else’s current policy, but I’ve always had lofty goals that I would constantly have to defend as we strived for, or would “DREAM” for. It is always difficult to “change City Hall.” Selling the benefit of making more money always wins the argument, however.

I always wanted any copy sent post-deadline to be immune from make-good requests — in other words, an assumption-of-the-risk type of thing. If you, “Mister/Ms. sales/agency person” are going to make all the wheels stop because YOU broke the rules while everybody else stayed in line and followed procedure, why should YOU be rewarded for bad behavior? That simply breeds more of the same, and the situation goes spinning out of control into orbit at a logarithmic rate! Remember how you felt last time somebody cut in front of you in a line?

The enforcement of all this generally should fall on GSM’s and GM’s shoulders, and if you have a nimrod in that position, you are fighting a losing battle. Suck it up and live with it if you are going to survive. Get your production shifts changed to cover the disorganization if you have to.

And make the deadline to be for APPROVED copy, not first drafts. The time should run upon receipt of copy that everyone has signed off on, that is, when you get it, ready to record, in YOUR studio. We used to have a routing slip (rubber-stamp) on the copy, showing the client had approved, sales had approved, and it had gone thru traffic/continuity for a number (rotation/logs, etc.) assignment for it to be able to get on the air, or “in the system,” so to speak, and an official Recording Order issued.

I saw a great sign in an agency one day... “Poor planning on your part does NOT constitute an emergency on MY part.” Or at Dick Orkin’s studio, “We don’t do creative commercials at microwave speed.”

But today, with people like Jim Cook waving the flag along with me for ACCOUNTABILITY, this all becomes an easy sell in the “front office.” Nobody likes to give away airtime unnecessarily, or to have recorded mistakes on the air. When it happens, the “blame-game” is an uncomfortable and needless waste of time. Andrew Grove (Intel prexy) once wrote a piece in one of his motivational books about “the “Egg Factory” where the product is shown to have increasing value the farther down the assembly line it moves toward completion. And it cannot skip any of the steps along the way.

Do it right from the start and make more money, save more time and have better personnel relations! Is that too much to strive for?

Andrew Frame [andrew[at]bafsound works.com], BAFSoundWorks/Renda Broadcasting Of Southwest Florida: We don’t really have deadlines. More like “suggestions.”

Seriously, though, traffic deadlines typically dictate our schedule for same- and next-day starts. We have tried to educate the salespeople that you can not have quality in twenty minutes. Our production is typically more than rip-n-read. We have jocks do voiceovers, but Johnny Johnson (my Production Director) and I produce most all of the work to keep our quality control at a level we expect.

For the most part, if we get written and approved script, we can go to air with it the next day. It may not be pretty, but it’s on the air. If it involves multiple voices, chances are slim to none for next day.

If we have to write anything for air, we require approval, so that gives us a couple days to write, then it’s back in the salesperson’s hands. If we have minimal notes, or a business card, we get a minimum of a week.

Reps are good about checking with us daily on progress. They can stay informed of issues that might interrupt the process. Manglement will check with us first, before allowing a next day start to make sure we will be able to get the job done in a manner consistent with out production standards. They have agreed to work with the mentality that quality begets quality, and rushing us isn’t profitable. Having that support really goes a long way, because we don’t have to deal with a belligerent rep. We can send the person packing to their boss - whom we deal with on a department head to department head level.

Tags and dubs are a different issue. Those usually have dollars attached and are approved by someone. So, those are done as they come in and loaded into the automation to start. Get ‘em in, tag ‘em up, dub ‘em off - Rawhide!

Deadlines are not missed. If they are, Johnny or I do the job, then update the GM, DoS, GSM, traffic, and the offender’s immediate supervisor.

Approval of the material is really the key. If it’s not approved by someone holding the checkbook, we will hold off until it is. A lot of the responsibility on this is upon the sales reps. It’s taken years to get management to make the turn and follow this track, but once it was unequivocally shown to result in less loss of revenue, it’s SOP and there is a lot more accountability for dollars - and blame.

I work with my personal agency clients pretty much the same way. They have come to expect quality and timeliness, and they know I won’t sacrifice either… for either.

Craig Jackman [craigj[at]canada.com]: Copy deadlines? Haha... stop it, my ribs! Back in the old days we had a 48-hour deadline, so all material had to be in 48 hours before air. It worked for a while, but that business model has changed. Now, it’s how soon can you get it on air? If it’s a dub, thanks to MP3s it’s basically how fast can the supplier get it to us. I really don’t mind interrupting what I’m working on to put an MP3 dub into the system so that Traffic can edit a log to get it to air. Supplied copy is pretty much the same. While someone prints it out, I’ll find the first available warm body, plug in any appropriate bed, and into the system ready for Traffic.

Now if it’s something from scratch, that would be a different story, and goes back to the client for the answer to the classic question “Do you want it good, or do you want it fast?” If they want 10 lines of drivel with their name in it 3 times, we’re pretty much on the same pace as a supplied script, so that can be almost same hour let alone same day. If they want something really worth the amount they are signing over to us, it’s better than they give us 72 hours before air as a minimum. Thankfully, we have a stable of salespeople that have bought into “faster doesn’t mean better.” They know what they have coming up that’s booked, and they work to bring copy in with a reasonable amount of time to do it. It is exceedingly rare that I get anything that starts RIGHT NOW! By the time it hits the Production in-box, it’s 24 hours generally. The Reps will also be able to see if something’s not going to make deadline, and will arrange with Traffic to move spots a day or two to free up space. If they can’t be moved, and we can’t pull it out of the fire, the avails and $$ are lost. That happens only a couple of times over a year though spread over 5 stations. Do I feel bad about that? A little, with the corporate mantra rolling through my head of higher revenues and lower expenses, but then I say since it was someone else’s lack of planning that caused the crisis, I don’t feel too bad.

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