During the last seven years in Toronto, I have been reading agency-produced spots ? almost exclusively. That's how us V/O guys get the big bucks ? even for local advertisers. We have agents and we work for agencies. Meanwhile, what is left unspoken is that agency-produced copy is no better or worse, overall, than anything coming from the keyboard of a hype-typer who is toiling at some local radio station.
I am embarrassed for my industry as I make that observation. Of course, with some brilliant exceptions from both sides, I can make this assertion with full confidence there will be no challenges. What clients end up paying for most agency-produced radio commercials can be described as the severest of travesties. But this is only when compared to the freebies from radio stations. Most spots just suck, particularly when judged against the criteria I have been continuously providing in these articles.
I continue to insist the only difference in most of the spots I was reading as a kid, part-time at my local radio station in 1964 are exactly the same as the ones I was reading last week. The only difference being in the moving of the decimal on the price point. This is unforgivable and should be a hanging offense. But it isn?t and it won't be. This tawdry behavior isn't even considered a mild misdemeanor worthy of a piddly patty-smack, never mind the enthusiastic application of a hickory switch.
I think we all understand that ad agencies would rather suck on a .45 than tie up staff and resources with retail advertisers or their radio stations. The money is being made in other media. Compared, say, to print or television, production invoices generated to produce radio are puny. Plus, an agency rep still has to go through the same hand-holding and put up with the same sniveling and fears for radio users as they do with the clients on whom they can, at least, make a little more coin. Only, it seems, when dealing with national buyers can the agency-scenario work. That is, if the agency gets to broker the time-buys, as well.
We can consider a very real-world example here:
I have just completed a package of 13, 30-second spots for automotive retailers that I have yet to take to the street. (Actually, there are 26 cuts, but they will be marketed as a single package of 13 ? with another series in the can should the client enjoying the ROI wish to carry on.)
The presented goal of the series is to drive traffic to a dealer?s website. That?s the conscious, "client enhancement" and obviously useful part of the commercials. The more important and unconscious aspect of the series is to represent the client to an audience as being human, friendly, genuine, and having a self-deprecating sense of humor. In other words: "real." ("Service, selection and great deals" are, in fact, occasionally satirized.) These spots are exceptional examples of Big-Time Branding -- with a call to action.
This 13-part series can be offered as either a 3-month or a 6-month campaign. This would depend on whether a spot would change up every week or every two weeks.
Here, then, is the median cost breakdown -- as supplied by major market advertising agencies.
-- Concept and Script $300.00
-- Announcer Voice $300.00
-- Music Composition, Arrangement and Performance $300.00
-- Singer $300.00
-- Studio w/Engineer and Producer $300.00
-- Hard costs are real - and consistent for single market advertisers.
Markup -- including sales commissions, administration, booking, and ongoing client-services @ 50%. Services include client education, begging for copy approvals, fear-suppression, diapering, and hand-holding $750.00
Single Spot Production Total $2350.00
Retail Costs of 13-cut series $30,550.00
Definite/Maybe Package Price -- based on further 40% cost reductions from all participants $18,330.00
As an independent operator with fewer hard costs and less overhead than a corporate shop, I am able to beat that price ? significantly. Even so, until those spots are auditioned, there are no assurances they would be considered as all that much better or more acceptable than something produced locally. (They are, anyway.)
My point: Until local radio stations can start producing exceptionally terrific spots and (possibly) even charging for them, there is little motivation to get that station to access some serious talent, or further educate the creative talent now available.
I'm already way too much of a realist/cynic to expect a station to significantly undertake the exercise only for the express desire to improve audience and advertiser-services, results, and station revenues. That is a position with which management would have just too difficult a time looking so far into the future ? about six months. There might, though, be some consideration for turning "creative" into a revenue source. But, I don't want to frighten the kiddies. The first part does involve learning how, specifically, to begin such a process.
By the way, all of these cuts satisfy my necessary criteria for effective radio advertising.
1.) Gain and maintain audience attention.
2.) Generate an emotional response in the audience. If the offer isn't up to snuff and doesn't do the trick, the concept must!
3.) Supply and suggest a behavior that serves the goals of the advertiser.
There are very, very few examples of local or national spots that unquestionably satisfy more than one of those criteria ? just like in 1964.
Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website www.voicetalentguy.com
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