Q It Up: Handling Last Minute Digital Deliveries - Part 1

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95Q It Up: One of the advertiser benefits of digital delivery systems such as SpotTaxi, SpotTraffic, DGS and others, as well as direct email and FTP download, is that the advertiser can get their commercials to the radio stations, literally, at the last minute. Newspapers and TV stations can take advantage of this and provide timely and topical commercials produced only a couple of hours before they’re scheduled to air. And for any advertiser, it’s possible to make “instant” revisions. These “benefits” however, can sometimes have a negative effect on your production department as it scrambles to handle last minute production orders. There’s also the increased chance of spots being missed because the commercial arrived too late, which can result in lost revenue as that avail disappears. If you use these digital delivery systems, how much are you and your department/station(s) affected by this last minute capability? If this creates problems for you and your station(s), how do you deal with them? Please add any further comments you might have on the subject.

Bumper Morgan [bump[at]bumper morgan.com], Bumper Productions, Nashville, TN: Years ago, in Keyboard magazine, I had read about musicians collaborating with other songwriters via the ‘net with their midi files. These days, we’re interactive with our clients through FTP. They post their song hooks for promos, bits from their morning show, etc. We are able to tweak projects, update commercials and upload them on the fly to the stations. There has never been an issue with the quality of our MP3 files, since they are encoded at high bit rates.

Before 1997, I used to zip across Nashville in my black Supra, collecting speeding tickets and attempting to beat the clock to ship reel-to-reels before Fed-Ex closed. If I was late, I was out of luck. Since then, MP3’s have changed everything. Radio should be a little more tolerant than FedEx is with their late orders, after all, your competition is always lurking in the shadows.

If you’ve been given a courtesy ‘heads up” via e-mail or phone about a late arrival, then all the bases have been covered. Discrep it, contact traffic and move on. Many of us have come from the school that you don’t leave the studio until the job is done, both on the sending and receiving end. Now, go home and eat dinner with your family because Murphy’s Law lives!

Jim Kipping [jkipping[at]texas.net], LBJS Broadcasting Co., Austin, TX: This is a very important topic all of us need to be talking about. Over the past few years, the larger markets have been going through what the smaller ones have been for quite some time. The dreaded “C” word — Consolidation!!! (Dum, dum DUUUUUUUUM!) My bet is also that you are doing more full produced pieces as well.

Let’s face it, many stations are now cramming 4, 5, 6 stations or more into one building with little regard for the production end of the biz! Does this chap your ass? Does this make you feel overwhelmed? It should. Because every dollar your company bills, PASSES THROUGH YOUR DEPARTMENT!

Think about that! If your company billed 30 million dollars and you only had 2 full time folks in your department, I bet your head spins off every day with the responsibility you have gladly taken on yourself. No thanks. We just had a problem with a spot that was to be delivered via Digital Dub (some call ‘em e-spots), last Friday. The spot was said to be sent 4 times, yet they didn’t make it to us. We had been receiving spots all day, so our email was fine. It was on their end. Well long story short, the producer over at the other station chewed my ass saying that we should have called HIM by closing time, so it was our fault we didn’t get the spot.

HORSE S#*T, THERE SHOULD BE NO CLOSING TIME!

I again jump up on my soap box. I staff my 6 radio station production facility just like it was a STATION! My feeling is if we are going to touch 30 million dollars this year, I am damn sure going to make the case that we need people power. They (management) agreed.

This is how I staff my department. 3 full-time producers (including myself), 1 full-time Continuity person, 1 part-time continuity/production assistant, and about 5 other part-time folks. We stager our times. I get in at 6a, the next person at 8, 9 and 10. We then sweep around the clock to 7 pm with a full-time warm body in place, when a part-time person comes in from 7 - 11p. Why? To take care of the missing crap! But wait, the fun doesn’t stop on the weekends. I also have someone in the department on Saturday and Sunday from 8a-5p! We have a dedicated hot line number that rings in every studio when ANY spot is missing from ANY station. Thus, when we bill a spot it gets billed, it gets on, or a bunch of warning bells start tolling!

My point: The idea that business stops during regular business hours is crap. Get that out of your head. Although I’m not a very big fan of CRAP TAXI, the idea that we have to be so stringent like a station across the street, “IF IT’S NOT IN BY 3 IT GETS PULLED FROM THE LOG!” Well let’s face it folks, that’s not how the kick ball game gets played these days. We now have the tools that we in prod have been bitching for for so long. I think we need to use them now that they are here.

The tools are there to help us get stuff on, but if we choose to run the department like it was circa 1982, I hate to tell ya, we all lose. Go to your management and SELL them. Come on, you’re more in sales than you realize. SELL them that if their policy is to allow late stuff or after hours stuff, then you need to resources to “get it on.”

I’ve written about this before, but it’s true. Our unwritten motto in Sound Design at LBJS is this: WGSW. “WE GET S#*T ON!” In our case it’s like this: “We get s#*t ON!” I’m afraid that some of you are “...getting S#*T on.” Fight the fight. Win the battle.  Go forth and produce.  Make it fun. It’s your job.

Richard Stroobant [bigdick[at]cjay 92.com], CJAY/CKMX, Calgary, Alberta, Canada: The introduction of commercials delivered via the internet or email has brought many new challenges to the creative and production departments of radio stations. Last minute arrivals are now an everyday occurrence. Our station is in a unique situation in that we are sold out months in advance, and we really have no chance to do a make-good for them. It is, afterall, the responsibility of the client to have the spot delivered to us. However, we do take an active role to assist in this.

Here are the steps that we take to avoid any spots being missed. If one starts the next day and we have not received it by 2pm, we call the client and inform them that we have not, as yet, received their commercial. We inform them that it starts tomorrow and ask where the spot is coming from. If it is coming from another radio station or a production house, we contact them directly. If it is coming via Slingspot.com or Spottaxi.com, there really isn’t much we can do but wait. If we still have not received the spot by 4pm, we approach the traffic department and see if they can move their spots later in the day to allow us time to dub it first thing that morning. If the spot does not arrive before 5pm and we are unable to move the occasion to later in the day, in most cases the client is charged for the missed spot. On Thursday and Friday evenings, we have a production assistant who “carts” up spots after hours, and late spots on Thursday and Friday are often dubbed by this person. However, there may be over the weekend one client who’s spot did not arrive and it will be dubbed over the weekend or first thing Monday morning.

A lot of times production houses, clients, and even radio stations are relying on the fact that there will be no problems with internet delivery. However, as most of us know, a number of things can and do go wrong in the delivery process. The server could be down, email might be out of order, there could be a problem with the encoding, and the many other problems we often face. It is then OUR responsibility to inform the people who send spots to us to send them to us ASAP. Because this technology is in its infancy, WE have the capability to “train” those who send spots to us to do it the way we want them to do it.

TELL THEM TO SEND THEM BY 2PM. TELL THEM TO ENCODE IT AT A HIGHER BIT RATE (192kbps or higher).  TELL THEM ONLY ONE SPOT PER MP3.  TELL THEM NO TRAFFIC INSTRUCTIONS ON THE MP3 AUDIO FILE.(Put it in the email text)

Don’t forget, this new technology is saving them tons of money compared to the old days. Before, they paid for courier charges, dubbing time, the cost of reel, tape and boxes. Now it’s a lot cheaper and it causes more work for us. So tell them the way you want it, or be prepared to be at the mercy of procrastinators. All the radio stations in our city met over beers one night and came up with “MP3 Guidelines.” With ALL the stations in our market having the same rules, we have forced people who deliver spots to do it our way, and it has helped us in avoiding problems. If you have any questions or want a copy of our MP3 guidelines, please feel free to contact me.

Zach Thomas, Atlanta’s Christian FM J93.3: I love it. It doesn’t get much easier than a dub! However, we usually receive commercials from an agency that have also been sent to many other stations. Because of that reason, we sometimes receive ridiculous commercials of a style that tunes listeners out rather than in. What businesses need to understand is that a commercial applicable to a 20 year old male most likely will not be applicable to a 40 year old female.

It also seems sometimes that agencies tend to send revision after revision with the intent to throw us off just so they won’t have to pay. It takes close communication between us and our sales reps to keep things straight. Luckily we know how to hit curve balls, so the digital thing works great for us.

Part 2 next month!

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