Tips & Techniques - Cart Labeling

by Jerry Vigil

Labeling is the last step in the process of getting a cart into the control room. It is probably the least time consuming step and yet, one of the most important. With an incorrectly labeled cart, several errors can occur: 1) Wrong outcues can result in dead air or the next cart being fired too soon. 2) Wrong cart numbers, or a number that isn't written legibly can result in a misfiled cart, which may not get aired, thus costing the station money. 3) Incorrect run dates can cause a spot to be played that is outdated, or may cause the jock to scratch the spot, thinking the spot is outdated when it's not. The list goes on and on, and illustrates the importance of cart labeling. The sample label on this page covers most of the basics used most commonly. The top line has the clients name. Abbreviate this, if necessary, to leave room for the numbers to the right. The first number is the intro time followed by the exact length of the spot. If the spot requires a live tag on a bed at the end of the spot, the bed can be indicated by typing "01-50/59". This tells the jock that the outcue ends at :50 and he has 9 seconds to do the tag.

The second line starts with run dates. Care should be taken to insure that these are the run dates of the copy and not the contract dates. Many spot orders are placed for, let's say, the month of April, and the copy is only good for the first week. The cart label should reflect only the effective dates of the copy.

Following the run dates in the example given, is the spot ID code. This is the code given by the agency on most dubs to indicate which spot is which on a reel with more than one. Sometimes titles are used instead of numbers. In this case, the first word, or a key word of the title can be used here. This ID code will help Continuity and Traffic, as well as Production, when it becomes necessary to verify what's on a cart.

To the right of the ID code, in parentheses, is the announcer code. The initials of the announcer on the spot are placed here to help avoid playing two spots back to back that were voiced by the same person. In the case of a spot that is produced elsewhere, "(a)" can be used to indicate "agency".

The "2+" to the right of the announcer code is an optional code used to indicate the type of production on the cart. Many programmers feel that dry voice spots should come first in a stopset, followed by the more produced ones, or vice versa. A "1" would be a dry voice spot. A "1+" would be dry voice with sound effects. A "2" would be voice over music. A "2+" would be voice over music with some singing, as in a donut jingle. A "3" would indicate a full sing commercial. If promos come last in your stopsets, a "3+" could be used for promos only. The stopsets could then be programmed to begin with 1's and end with 3's. Some stations will use color coded dots instead of numbers for this. We'll take a closer look at stop-set programming in a future issue.

The bottom line is the outcue. Note on the sample label above that the outcue begins at the far left side of the label. This lets you use the entire length of the label to type as much of the outcue as possible--the more the better. If the spot has a music fade at the end, indicate so with the ":01 fade". If it ends with a sting, label it ".../:02 sting".

You are left with just enough room to write, in bold numbers, the cart number. Write it legibly. 9's can look like 4's if your not careful. 7's can look like 1's and 0's can look like 6's. If the next guy can't read your writing, somebody's spot could get misfiled.

Labeling systems will vary depending upon your station's needs. This is most of the basic information needed on a label. If you use a different system that works well for you, let us know so we can pass it on. Happy labeling!!!

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