Devaluing the Investment

By Andrew Frame

Scenario #1:

It’s Monday morning. You hit the lottery over the weekend and you have $100,000 burning a hole in your pocket. You walk into a stockbroker’s office and tell him you want $100,000 worth of investments. He is very happy to see your money, and he invites you to have a seat. You notice his credentials in the form of diplomas and commendations neatly framed against the back wall of his office.

He asks a few questions, fills out some paperwork, and tells you he will have some detailed strategic and tactical plans to maximize your investment by week’s end. He opens his planner to write your name in for 10AM Friday morning.

And you say no.

You want the list right now. He’s got ten minutes.

He explains that such a plan is individual, based on your personal wants and needs, risks and benefits. It’s fiscally foolish to just throw your money around without a little fundamental research.

And you tell him to hand over the list right now, or you go across the street to his competitor.

So the stockbroker pencils together a tragic list based on his experience and hands it over. He tells you about market volatility, and unstable foreign monies. You complain. He makes another list. And another.

Finally you agree, hand him the check from the lottery department and walk away.

Time passes. You never call your broker to check on things. You never review the hasty penciled “plan.” You never return his calls when he tries to reach you – even when it’s clear he’s really trying to reach you.

You wait. And wait.

And one sunny day, your dividend check comes in. The numbers on the check represent a paltry sum, a waste of the gasoline it took you to drive to the broker's office thirteen weeks ago. In fact, in the same mail drop, is a letter from the government saying you owe taxes based on your investment, and because you didn’t utilize some tax-shelters, you’re going to be paying more than that dividend check is worth.

You are enraged. You call the brokers office and emphatically give clear instructions on a specific, quite impossible, biological act the broker, his boss, and the whole company can do to themselves, and you want your money back. Now. And, you want them to pay the difference of what you owe the government.

The broker tries to settle the difference by showing you a well-crafted, detailed financial plan that would make you a ton of cash, and keep almost every penny of it in your pocket. In fact, it’s the same plan he had ready by that promised Friday, and the plan he’s been trying to get with you to talk about for the last thirteen weeks.

You ignore his professional, experienced advice, pocket your cashiers check, and walk out the door complaining the whole investment thing “just doesn’t work”.

Scenario #2:

The barbecue grill is perfect. The burgers are that secret recipe your pop showed you when you were a teenager. Heck, your mom doesn’t even know what it is.

Just as you’re brushing the even-more-secret marinade on it, your brother-in-law walks up and wants to know what is taking so long. In his backyard, “those %$#* burgers woulda been ready by now!”

You admonish him to exercise a wee bit of patience. These are special burgers. Made from a time-honored recipe. You tell him how you won the Great Caloosahatchee River Barbecue Cook-Off Cardboard Raft Race and Mango Chutney Festival Best-Of-Show award with this recipe.

He “don’t care.” He wants a burger. Right now. (Manners are for sissies. His DNA is pretty straight, if you get my meaning…)

So, you flip a raw, unprepared burger patty onto the grill, and after a minute of his glowering, flip it over. Just as you go for the third flip, he slips his bare hand under it, snatches it away, slaps it on a slice of plain white bread and eats it in two disgusting snorts.

After a belch that clears the pool deck, this genetic excuse for de-evolution announces to the whole world at the top of his redneck lungs that you are the worst cook, that was the worst burger, and he should be manning that grill to show you just how real men barbecue dead cow.

Thirty minutes later, after the breath-catching aroma of finely prepared barbecued hamburgers, laced with the secret seasoning recipe fill the deck, and your subjects wait their turn to have a perfectly prepared patty gently slipped off the end of the stainless steel spatula onto the waiting toasted bun, itself adorned with condiments, ripe tomato slices, and rich emerald Bibb lettuce leafs; do they taste the culinary creativeness passed down from father to son as it coaxes taste buds into rapturous choruses from Handel’s Messiah, and your family makes you a little crown out of leftover aluminum foil and pronounces you King of the Grille.

I have said it many times, and I will continue to say it. If you run more than nine minutes of spots an hour, you, as the Production Director, have influence of one full quarter hour share – every hour.

You have heard many a salesperson say that advertising is an investment, a statement with which I wholeheartedly agree. It is an investment, a two-part investment. Part one is the airtime, the thirty or sixty-second slice that they purchase. The value of the investment here is “Scenario #1.” The overall strategic, and the daily tactical plan to maximize exposure – reach and frequency. The programming and promotions departments of the station are the key players here. Listeners represent the value of the investment in this slot of time – the more listeners, the more value. The salesperson uses data research, client budget, and a host of resources to put together a specific plan for that client. It may take a few hours; it may take a week. But it rarely takes ten minutes.

The other half of the investment is you, the production and creative department. You have to develop something to run in that sixty seconds that will 1) hook-and-hold the listener, 2) pitch the product, and 3) be entertaining. If you hit all three, the listener might just become your advertiser’s next customer – and his investment value soars. Customers are the dividend check.

Now, it’s true, as creative people, we do have those flashes that generate an award-winning spot almost as soon as we hear the name of the client. (How many hit songs have been written in a fast and furious five minutes so the songwriter wouldn’t forget the lyric or riff?) But those flashes are rare. Realistically, the good stuff takes a little time to marinade the meat of your brain before it really starts to sizzle. Yes, this is Scenario #2.

Tragically, many salespeople, in the never ending combat to pull in the next buy find themselves trapped with Scenario #1 – “I want it now, or I go across the street.” This ends up filtering down to you as Scenario #2 – “This spot sucks.” If you have enough of these last-minute buys, your voice begins to saturate, and you hear yourself more than once in each stop-set. This is a no-win situation. If the buy comes in, you will do the spot, and you will get it on the air, because that’s how we make our money. But, you can make it easier on yourself, and in turn modify the conditions that were forced on your salesperson, and ultimately on you.

Remember the basics. You can write a fast, workable spot in a few minutes with a minimum of information. If you can make a :20 or :30, you can make it to :60. Make a hook; ask a lifestyle question. Tell how your client has the solution to that question. Tell who they are, what they are, where they are, why you should go to them, and how to find or contact them. Go into your copy file and find a similar spot for a similar client that hasn’t run for a while and launch a search-and-replace mission. One voice spot slapped over an upbeat music track, and you’re home only thirty minutes late for dinner.

If this is a long-term client (13 weeks or more), turn on the creative back burner and let it sit. Somewhere over the course of the first few weeks of the contract, see if you can’t develop a really good spot, something you’re proud of. Get with the Sales Manager (not the salesperson), and tell her this is a better mousetrap, and it will increase the value of the client’s investment. Push hard to get it on the air.

Work with your salesperson to encourage the client to shift their thinking into more of an “investment” mode, allowing you more control over the creative – doing what your experience makes you do better than anyone. Go with the salesperson to talk to the client. You are the best-qualified person to talk about the part you do to maximize their investment.

Understand this is the way this business is. We can all complain about it, but it isn’t going to go away. My General Manager’s office is five steps from my desk, and I have gone in there, closed the door, said I needed to vent, did so, and went back to work. Getting peeved is okay. But lay in an infrastructure, both mentally (strategic) and organizationally (tactical) that will allow you to turn “emergencies” and “problems” into “opportunities” to show both your sales department and clients you are the undisputed King of your Production Grille.

Then make them buy you lunch. They will, after all, be doing this to you again.

Bon appetit!

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