by Dennis Daniel
I received a call recently from my good buddy Jeffrey Hedquist of Hedquist Productions...a really amazing production company in Fairfield, IA. Jeff gives lots of seminars about radio and the creative process, and he wanted me to help him out with his next seminar--a discussion about meeting objectives with creative copy. He asked me four specific questions: 1. What was the problem? (Why did the client need a commercial?) 2. How Solved? 3. Benefit to client? 4. Benefit to station? All excellent questions! (Wish I'd thought of them myself.) And so, in the grand tradition of ripping off other people's ideas, I thought it would make an interesting Tales Of The Tape to discuss a few spots I had produced and how I answered those questions. As you read on and listen to the two spots discussed on this month's RAP Cassette, think about how you would answer the same questions.
Spot #1: "Kind To Your Brain" Dr. Charles Ross, D.D.S.: 1) What was the problem? How does one make going to the dentist seem like it would be fun and as painless experience as possible? 2) How Solved? Drawing on my love of film, I looked to Woody Allen and parodied his famous scene from Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex where he shows bodily functions of various "work stations" populated by people who tell the body how to react. I was trying to create a humorous way of tapping into our genetic fear of going to the dentist, then calming that fear by showing how Dr. Ross is kind, gentle and painless. 3) Benefit to the client? People were not use to hearing a dentist spot done with humor. It also spoke to so many people about "dental fear" that the reaction was one of enjoyment and phones ringing at Dr. Ross' office. 4) Benefit to station? An entire series of funny commercials followed along the same lines. It created a reason to listen to the station other than for just music. Since Dr. Ross only advertised on that station, it was the only place to hear them.
Spot # 2: "The legend of Bob Matherson"/Oak Beach Inn (night club): 1) What was the problem? What wasn't the problem? This was the most bazaar commercial request from a client I ever experienced in almost 20 years! Mr. Matherson is the millionaire owner and operator of a giant waterfront beach club on Long Island called the O.B.I.( Oak Beach Inn)--a cash cow of epic proportions! Since he is so rich and so profitable, and the club is...well...a club, ya know--a place where people go to get drunk, pick up chicks and dicks, and generally cause a lot of chaos. The town of Oak Beach has been trying for years to close it down and get Bob outta there! What makes it worse is that the club is at the very entrance of town! It's the first thing you see..this giant behemoth of an edifice, this gathering spot of debauchery and moral upheaval, right damn smack at the entrance to this cute little sea front community! Well, let me tell you, they HATE Bob! They have tried every way possible to get him hither and yon, every kind of excuse: the dock is bad for fish breeding, balloons obstruct views, parking violations, you name it! Bob spent more time in court fighting the town than running his business. I had been doing spots for the club. "I want you to create a campaign telling people to get out of New York State!" The point? After all they put him, an honest business man, through, he wanted the world to know what a horrible place they were living in. And so began the chilling saga of the OBI "Get Out of New York" commercials. It was astounding to see just how low radio stations would sink in order to take Bob's money! (Which he has plenty of!) Imagine it! New York stations running commercials telling you how awful a place New York is! Get Out, before it is to late! And they ran them! People HATED them! Station's phones rang off the hook with complaints! I was in fear for my life (but the money was real good!) 2) How Solved? These ads were originally very serious and straight, with ominous music. I finally convinced Bob to try a humorous approach! "Lighten up, Bob. They get it!" He finally, after 25 deadpan "get out or die" reads, agreed. Since by now, everybody knew the story, I decided to make Bob a folk hero and tell his tale using a "spaghetti western" motif. Once again my love of movies came into play. Ennio Morricone is one of the world's greatest soundtrack composers. He did all the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western music (the most famous being from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly). "Oooweeoo-weeoooooo! WaWaWaaaaaaa." This spot was my parody of that sound and philosophy. 3) Benefit to client? It showed he had a sense of humor about his plight. It also made the spot more bearable to listen to. 4) Benefit to the station? No more death threats. They could also justify being whores a bit more.
SPOT #3 and #4: "Nosferatu" and "Freak Show"/Car Tunes Car Stereo: What was the problem? On Long Island, there are literally hundreds of car stereo installation centers! Many advertise on the radio. How does one stick out in the market? 2) How Solved? Over a ten year period, I created a series of Car Tunes commercials that always used humor. Eventually, we even had the owner, a guy named Rick, show up in the ads saying, "I'm Rick, the owner of Car Tunes!" He became a local celebrity and actually signed autographs. (I saw this with my own eyes!) Rick would buy sponsorships (like traffic, news, etc.) and run 52 weeks a year! People really looked forward to his funny spots, and because they ran at specific times, they new where to find them! Rick let me go wild! Anything went! No restrictions! It was heaven on earth! Due to his frequency on the air, we could actually do 40 to 50 second sketches before we ever said the words, "Car Tunes" People just knew! The "Nosferatu" spot is basically the Dracula story in 60 seconds. I love horror movies, especially the 1979 version of Dracula shot by Werner Herzog in German, which was the remake of the silent classic Nosferatu. It starred Klaus Kinski as a sick, rat-looking vampire. This spot tries to parody that particular version (hence the German like accents). The "Freak Show" spot takes advantage of the fact that everyone knows the phrase "Hi, I'm Rick, the owner of Car Tunes!" It's a parody of the scene in The Elephant Man when Anthony Hopkins gets his first look at John Merrick. These are my babies. I love this series more than anything I have ever done. 3) Benefit to the client? Everyone loved his spots! That's how he got business, just because his spots were so wacky and fun! 4) Benefit to the station? More people staying tuned after music to hear commercials! The Car Tunes spots were actually played by request!!!
Spot #5: "I Want to Be a Bartender"/National Bartenders School: 1) What was the Problem? All bartender school spots sound the same and say the same things. How do you tell one from the other? 2) How Solved? Using music selections from the FirstCom library, I created a spot that sounded like a commercial for a Broadway Show. These type spots run all the time on New York radio and TV, so the audience has a good idea of what's being parodied. It seemed like an original way of letting people know how much fun being a bartender was. 3) Benefit to client? No doubt about it sticking out and being original. It also showed they were fun, creative type people who really enjoyed there work. 4) Benefit to station? Once again, another spot people enjoyed, thus keeping their dials set.
Next month, two more examples! And hey, be on the lookout for my new book, "Tales Of The Tape: A Production Director's Odyssey...or...How To Survive And Stay Creative In An Industry That Eats Its Young." It contains all of my RAP columns from the past 8 years, plus a few surprises. The foreword was written by none other than Gary Owens himself, and our own Jerry Vigil wrote the Introduction. It's published by the NAB and can be ordered by calling 800/368-5644. Ask for item #3845. It's $14.95 for NAB members and $19.95 for nonmembers! Hope you like it! Let me know what you think!