Way Off the Mark: Decisions, Decisions

way-off-the-mark-logo1by Mark Margulies

It doesn’t matter whether you work in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Philadelphia, Arkansas. If you’re in creative support or production, you’ve seen it. And you cringe a little every time you do.

It looks like ancient hieroglyphics or some sort of code. But truly, it’s nothing that exotic. It’s merely the Account Executive’s information sheet, pieces of paper literally brimming over with facts and figures that, the client has determined, are essential to their commercial message. You find information written in margins and on the bottom of the page. There’s information in longhand, shorthand, and scrawl only a mother could love. As far as the eye can see, you have information, information, information. They wrote everything they could down so you could see it. Now, somehow, it has to be translated into a commercial that makes sense and has an impact.

This has nothing to do with creativity, because all the creativity in the world can’t save a hopelessly cluttered ad. And creativity has nothing to do with what is truly important to the client—what they’re expecting this radio buy to accomplish for them. What this does deal with is the dilemma we face in markets across the country, every single day. Out of all the glut of information we have at our fingertips, what’s important and what isn’t? When the client starts spouting about what they’d like to see in their ad, what should an AE concentrate on and take down, and what should they ignore? Thus, the question is, which information is essential for us, the ones creating and producing the spot, and which would be better left out?

At BENMARadio, I helped develop a system that deals with this very question. Hopefully, if you can adapt it to your station and your particular needs, it will go a long way to making everyone’s job a lot easier, while it brings greater rewards through more successful clients.

Start with the presumption that outside of a very limited number of products, radio doesn’t sell a damn thing. You can’t sell a car in 30 or 60 seconds. Ditto for refrigerators, a house, clothing, a car wash—it’s tough to sell anything tangible in a 30 or 60 second period. But what radio does do, and very well, is excite people who are ready to purchase items like those. It excites them, and makes then want to show up at various clients’ places of business to find out more. It makes them want to act. That’s our job. That’s what radio does spectacularly. We create the idea that it would be a good idea to come see what all the excitement is about. “There’s a sale at Shifty Sam’s on Saturday? Sounds like a great idea. Think I’ll go.” “Hey, that car sounds cool and the special is just about right. We need a new car. Let’s check it out.” “Wow, that’s my problem—sounds like these guys might have a solution. I’ll call.”

From there, the way we approach the commercial information is to break it down into two categories: A) the point of introduction, and B) the point of sale. Let’s start with A, point of introduction. We define this as information that makes you stand up and take notice.

For this, the simplest test we administer to a piece of information is, can it stand alone? If you take that one piece of information and isolate it, will it make you, or a prospective client, react? So, let’s take a furniture store, for example. Say the client tells you, “I’m giving away a free sofa with every love seat purchased, and don’t forget to mention that we’ve been in business 25 years and offer free delivery in a 10 mile radius.” What category does each piece fall into? The first is obviously a category A idea. It will excite you if you’re looking to buy new living room furniture. The second? That’s Category B, point of sale.

Another example? A restaurant. They might tell you, “Mention that we use only the freshest and finest ingredients, plus we have the friendliest waiters and waitresses ready to help. We also do catering. We handle office parties of all sorts, and all month long, you can get a 3 pound lobster, with all the fixings, for just $12.95.” Again, use the evaluating question, “can it stand alone?” So, “freshest and finest ingredients?” Category B. “Friendliest staff?” B. “Catering, office parties?” Only if they’re expecting the majority of the business from this ad to be requesting this. “Three pound lobster for $12.95?” Bingo. Category A material. This is the information which should be featured.

These are both pretty black and white examples. So for general rule of thumb, keep this in mind: Category A information should be essential to exciting, motivating, or stimulating the listener. Category B information is best left for the client to deal with when the customer comes in the door. Again, remember, in radio, our job is to get customers to press their nose against the window. Once they’re there, the client’s job begins. That’s where the selling starts, and that’s out of our domain.

Keep it clean. Keep it simple. Keep the clutter out of your ads. It will help create a snappier, leaner sound, and a more successful approach for attracting the listener.