Production 212: Raising the Bar

Production-212-Logo-1By Dave Foxx

4:00 AM EDT – Got up this morning thinking about all the production I’ve been doing lately, wondering if I’m in a rut because it all seems so painless. I worry about stupid stuff like that, probably too much, instead of just taking pride in the fact that I’ve been hitting on all 8 cylinders lately. I can remember times when squeezing one little sweeper out of my computer was like giving birth. The last several months though, I’ve been breezing through a lot of stuff, with not so much effort. As I’m showering and shaving, I decide that I worry way too much about stuff and to enjoy the ride as long as it lasts. After a quick breakfast of a banana and a bowl of cereal, I grab my backpack and step outside to catch the bus to Manhattan. I love taking the bus because in spite of the fact that I’m sitting with 51 other people, those people are mostly very quiet, so it’s a great time to marshal my thoughts and come up with a game plan for the day. As the bus pulls into the Port Authority Terminal in mid-town, I have a short list of things I’ll be doing today mapped out, in my head. But for some reason I keep wondering why it’s been so easy, almost TOO easy lately.

Downstairs at the bus terminal, I step outside for 10 minutes of my “people watching” time. As I stand across the street from the New York Times building just a couple blocks away from 42nd Street, I watch the people streaming by, thinking about how I want to talk to them on the radio today. Then, I notice something. As cabs go whizzing by, flashing signs for Shrek: The Music On Broadway and Flashdancers Gentlemen’s Club, I see a new ad campaign on the taxi-tops by Snickers™. Copying their famous red, white, blue and brown logo, they’ve styled some new words. One cab goes by with what looks like a Snickers candy bar on the taxi-topper, but instead of Snickers, it says SNAXI. Another cab is adorned with SNACKTUARY. What a brilliantly simple and direct way to drill into the consumer’s mind!

Then, just as if someone had smacked me in the back of the head, I realized why the production biz has been running so smoothly. I’ve been following my own advice. Keep it simple, keep it direct and focused, and the production will almost do itself.

When you really drill down deep to find the ONE thing that will resonate with the audience, the ONE thing that differentiates your product from any of your competitors, you find the essence of what your production should be all about. You’ve found the Unique Selling Proposition (USP.)

Once you have the USP, the debate over which piece of music to use simply goes away. It’s as plain as dirt. The concern about which effects will enhance your production and not be distracting goes completely away. The interpretation of the script becomes glaringly obvious. Everything becomes crystal clear. I can hear the promo or commercial in my head. Once that happens, I just spend the few minutes it takes to make the finished piece sound just like what is in my head.

If any of you still have concerns about the old “Less Is More” arguments, this trumps all of that. If you first take the time to really figure out what that ONE thing about your client or radio station should be the main message, you streamline the process to a point where actually doing the production becomes painless, or very nearly. You’re REALLY communicating with your audience and they will absolutely respond, which means you’re on the hot tip, doing exactly what your position calls for. And the best part is, you’re doing it in record time! This frees up your day to be even MORE creative!

2pm EDT – As I pack up my backpack and head downstairs to catch the subway so I can get back up to mid-town, I think about everything that I’ve accomplished today. I took 3 meetings (2 of them very brief) and a half-dozen phone calls. I wrote 3 promos, 20 sweepers and a couple of stagers and produced all but one of the promos (it needs an artist drop I won’t get until tomorrow.) Oh yeah… and I wrote most of this column.

For this month’s audio example for the column, one of the promos I did today, a study in making a simple message exciting. I hope you like it.

Just one last piece of advice: I know that sometimes you feel like you’re not being all that creative when you simplify and streamline a production piece. When you strip away the “killer opening bit,” about two-thirds of the effects and get a super strong read going on, you’ve gone way beyond creative. You’re communicating with clarity and purpose. You are raising the bar for creativity, not lowering it. It takes a special kind of producer to communicate this way… a really creative one.