Writing to Time

It’s hard to get all your camping equipment in the back of a 1979 Triumph Spitfire. I know this from bitter experience. But it is possible to get enough for a week if you pack cleverly… and leave out all the things that are not really important. Leave behind the airbed. the guitar, the cooker. (I can live off tree moss for a couple of days.)

Like mine, but mine had wire wheels.

It’s amazing how many clients think they can simply add words to their crafted radio commercial. “Can we just say we’re open 7 days a week… including Sunday?” (really… Sunday is included in those 7 days?) “can we just add our phone number?” The answer is yes, you can add more words but you will have to move to a different duration… from a 30 to a 40, or a 30 to a 45 (depending on how airtime is sold where you live).

It happened to me again today. The client gave us an ad (written by an advertising agency) that they said was a 30 second ad. I timed it at 50 seconds. They cut it back… I timed it again… 40 seconds. They insist that it was do-able in 30 seconds because they had “done a word count” and it came to 100 words… which in their opinion was OK for 30 seconds.
A few problems… they had not allowed time for the sound effects, they had not realized that the client’s name looked like one word but was in fact three words, and that a phone number (yes, a completely pointless phone number) was actually ten words. My word count… 125 words!

Even then, 3 words per second is quick… so 90 words for a 30 second spot is a little optimistic.

There is only one way to get an accurate time on your radio commercial. Read it out loud, with a stopwatch, and put in the sound effects while you’re reading it through. Project your voice a bit and read it clearly, don’t mumble a hurried script.

My belief is that a commercial SHOULD be as long as it needs to be to do the job. But if I’ve written it to a certain duration, and you want to add words, we need more time. It’s not like press where you could maybe reduce the font size.
No, I can’t make the voice go faster! It will ruin your ad!

No, I can’t speed it up, scrunch it with clever electronics and cut all the breaths out! It will sound false (or like Mickey Mouse on speed… not that Mickey would take speed… he’s been clean for years!).
So, buy a stopwatch… and read it out loud!

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