"...And Make It Real Creative!": "It Starts When?" - Part 2

by Andy Capp

Welcome to another episode of "The Late and The Frustrated," the continuing story of last minute production orders and the creative people who deal with them. As our story opens, we find Holly Buchanan, Creative Director of B103 in Richmond, ready to enjoy an evening out, when suddenly (organ stab) she's faced with yet another last minute production order! How will she deal with it? We'll found out, after this word about...words.

Which came first, the picture or the word? I read somewhere that the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" was mistranslated to English. It's supposed to read something like, "a single word is worth a thousand pictures." It strikes me that either translation is correct, depending on your situation. If you're a painter or a mime, the former is right. If you're Holly Buchanan, the "new" translation is right. And if you're a producer doing a last minute spot, you'd be lucky if Holly wrote the script!

Holly is a self-proclaimed "non-producer." Having a writer in-house means one less hassle for a Production Director in a last minute order situation. Of course, it also means that yet another person is put out by that last minute order. I mention this because I had forgotten it. You see, our commercial writers at KELO also assign production, which means they also catch hell from the announcers (and yes, even me at times) for last minute production. Reading Holly's work for this article reminded me that global thinking is required to deal with last minute work. In other words, don't kill the message carrier. That order is adding to their work day, too! Let's move on and see how a "designated writer" deals with that last minute order.

Holly's offering to our "last minute production from hell" experiment proves that great creative commercials begin with great writing. The script reminds me of something Stan Freberg said in his biography, discussing the work of a "golden age" radio drama writer: "...the perfect sentence, flowing into another perfect sentence, designed not just to fill up a few minutes of air time, but to reach out and stop you cold, to shake your sensibilities," or to at least get the commercial noticed, even (gasp!) enjoyed! Read what I mean. Here's Holly's script:

ANNCR: What do you get when you combine the latest videos... (cross vocal) Last Action Hero, Sliver, Scent of a Woman... with a neighborhood deli?... (cross vocal) fresh deli meats, sandwiches, subs, pizza.... The Video Deli!
GUY 1: Could I get an extra Sliver of cheese on my Last Action Hero?
WOMAN: Mystic Pizza please, hold the anchovies.
GUY 2: Excuse me, is that the Scent of a Woman?
WOMAN (NY accent): Actually, it's pastrami on rye.
ANNCR: The Video Deli! In the Ridge Shopping Center! The Video Deli is a video store with a great selection of videos, including all the hot new releases! The Video Deli is also a deli! Featuring a real deli counter with fresh deli meats and cheese, fresh out of the oven pizza, or pizza you can bake at home!
GUY 3: My wife sent me for Bogie and a Hoagie.
ANNCR: The Video Deli! Come in now and get a free, new-release movie rental with any sub sandwich purchase!
WOMAN: I love a good sub!
GUY: Here...try Hunt for Red October.
ANNCR: The Video Deli...in the Ridge Shopping Center! "Dinner and a Movie" in the '90s!

And here's Holly's script on scripting the script:

Step 1 - Call up and cancel the one dinner date you had this month.
Step 2 - Wonder if that chicken cordon bleu from that "spendy lunch" was really worth it.
Step 3 - What's the main point you want to get across? You can pick up the latest releases and a get a great meal.
Step 4 - Come up with a slug line...Video Deli, "Dinner and a Movie" in the '90s.
Step 5 - Go through ideas in your head. Let's see... food... videos... Last Action Hero, Scent of a Woman, Mystic Pizza... I think I'm on to something here....
Step 6 - Pull all ideas together into a creative, humorous, cohesive, focused, effective sixty second commercial...in sixty minutes or less.
Step 7 - Ask yourself for the 17th time today why you're in radio.

Step 8 - After writing spot, read directions or production order and note that spot is supposed to be a thirty, not a sixty.

Andy's Two Cents: The first thing that impresses me about the way Holly attacks this order? She immediately looks for the main point of the commercial and writes outward from there. Funny, after begging sales reps for years to write the main point of the spot on a production order, I made Holly look for it too! (I'm a weasel!)

On that note, I'd like to start a petition here and now to include a space for "The Main Point of the Commercial" on all production orders, worldwide. Ahh, but then the salesperson would have to ask the client what it is, and the client would have to think about their advertising before we produce it, and then we might have less re-cuts, and then....

I also like the way Holly used the deli-like movie titles in the commercial, bringing the whole concept of the video deli together. I know there is an official title for this writing technique. I've heard it called "linkage," and I've heard it called "finding ties." I call it "communal morphing," that is, finding the common threads in two unlike items (i.e. food and videos) to tie them together in an ad. Whatever you call it, it's a wonderful creative writing technique, as Holly's script points out. Thanks to Holly for sharing her talents and sacrificing her dinner date in the name of last minute radio production everywhere!

But Wait, There's More: And so, as the sun sets and all is well in Richmond, a blue moon is rising in Grand Rapids, and John Pellegrini comes face to paper with the offending last minute order, next time on "The Late and The Frustrated," a "Worldwide Pain In the Seat of the Pants" production!

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