The humble comma, the magnificent full stop

I’m not great at spelling and grammar. I am in awe of the spellchecker on my computer and often frustrated that it switches to US English (whatever that is!) from time to time. But something that is central to what copywriters for radio do…is writing for the spoken word. So now when I write by blog I use those three little dots to indicate the pause in the speech, that slight rise in intonation.

(I always notice spelling mistakes on this blog AFTER I hit publish!)

Often when clients write their own scripts, or even new copywriters, they forget that they are not writing to be read, but to be read out loud. That is why, when you write a script you HAVE to READ IT OUT LOUD.

As you read it, with a stopwatch, you will notice where the voice would have to take a breath, a pause, break a sentence. Put the punctuation in. Make it clear. Help the voice over by putting a new sentence on a new line. It helps them because they can see the sentence end that they are aiming at.

Also, don’t use caps lock. Proper sentence case writing will help give meaning to the words and using uppercase words tells the voice you wanted this delivered firmly… or in certain context, shouted. (shouting in a radio commercial is not a great idea unless there’s something being dramatised). I was taught at school that the word “and” does not require a coma. But on a script, from time to time I will add one to give that increased sense of a pause,(sic) and possibly a new thought.

Make sure your producer knows what you mean when you put in CAPS or italic… or underline!
Make the font big enough to read and 1.5 line space it so the voice can put in their own notes. Some voice over artists have their own way of marking up a script so it you ask for a particular emphasis on a word they can repeat it exactly take after take. (usually if you take more than 4 takes of a script with and experienced voice over, there’s something wrong with your communication and not the voices ability.*

So read it outloud.
Put in the punctuation.
Write for the SPOKEN word, not the written word.

*I was once assisting with an agency session at a radio studio with a voice over friend. I walked into the studio to hear the voice pleading with the agency “producer” to give him some direction on how he wanted it differently. They had just completed Take 30 something. The agency bod turned off the talk back and said to the sound engineer… “I think we have it anyway… let’s use take 2”.

I’m glad the voice over didn’t hear it!!

read out loud

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Footfall…. on your website?!

I was sent a brief the other day, and the Sales Person had mentioned that the client wanted “footfall” to their website. I hate the expression “footfall” anyway… but when it’s related to a website! What’s that all about?
This almost falls into the category of “I just want to get my name out there!”

No Mr, or Ms. Client… what you want to do is make sales!

Footfall means “people through the door”… which on first looking seems like a reasonable request. If a business can get people through the door surely that’s half the battle?

Wrong. Maybe 5% of the battle.

OK here’s an admission. I have a little hobby, which is doing some simple close up magic and a handful of card tricks. One weekend a car dealership was having an open weekend. They booked me to do some card tricks at a table… and a clown, and a bouncy castle and a few other bits and pieces.

For two days the showroom was filled with the wrong kind of people. People who wanted freebies, or someone to entertain their kids. The sales people were too busy chasing unsupervised kids to actually do any selling! And if there WERE any suitable prospects they would have been lost in the crowds of freeloaders.

A good radio campaign will target the right people, people who want to buy your product or use your service and get them to visit your outlet or website (if you SELL online). Would you rather have 20 people who WANT to buy through your doors… or 200 people who have no intention of buying?

Of course if you have poor sales staff on the floor, those 20 may get away. Radio can bring you customers, but only you can convert them to sales.

Tell people what you want them to do… give them a good reason to do it…. And be prepared to sell to the people who respond.

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A Bouncy Castle to brighten your day.

Radio – Getting Back on the Path

I found this today. Challenging and in my opinion… spot on!

http://www.audiographics.com/agd/110811-1.htm

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Not “too little information” just “not the right information”.

The sales person looked across the desk at me. The look.. a little bit frightened and confused. I know that a trapped animal can be dangerous… I once worked in a facility that rescued abandoned animals and I’ce seen that look before… just before the claws come out. I try the explain that the brief she’s given me is just rubbish… that the person who took it… namely her… has not used an ounce of common sense. That a 5 year old child with no radio advertising experience could have done a better job. That she was using up valuable oxygen that a sentient lifeform other than her could have been putting to good use.

Of course I tried to put it more diplomatically

The problem was the brief. Since the advent of email it’s been all to easy to just take what a client has mailed and paste it into the brief sheet, without taking any time to process, thing about it, and more importantly… to discuss with the client about how radio works and fashion a brief that will actually help the client.

When I joined a radio station in the UK I was bombarded with piles of information… the previous writer had told the sales execs that they were not giving enough information. The problem wasn’t the quantity but the quality. Masses of information just confuse me. You give me 6 points in a brief, I will chose the one that I have a great idea for… but it may not be the most important point to the client (or more importantly, the potential customer). Then we get the backwards and forwards of “the client doesn’t like the script”.

When you hear a local radio ad and you’re wondering “what was that about?” you’re asking the same question the writer had when he wrote the commercial. If it’s not fixed BEFORE the briefing, you will never get good commercials

A good brief is short.

If it’s longer, it’s probably 2 or more ads.

If it’s got several Selling Propositions… you should be thinking several ads!

The problem, as I see it, is that Radio Stations worldwide don’t invest in training their sales staff in radio advertising. I am happy to say that most of the groups I have worked for in the past have…. But there is still too much emphasis on “double glazing” sales techniques, and closing… than there is on being advertising consultants for their clients. The GREAT sales people I have worked with have made huge commissions by helping their clients to achieve their goals… and by standing up to their clients when they made the kinds of descisions that can RUIN a client’s campaign. Here are some useful phrases to help you on your way….

“I can’t get you on air tomorrow… we need to make sure your ad is spot on… and that takes a bit of time!”

“Thanks for all the information you gave me… now I’d like to ask the questions we need to answer to create you a great radio campaign!”

“If you want to say that… let’s create another commercial… now… why is it important to our listeners?”

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Back again… and the Earshot Creative Review

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. The main reason was, I got married.
I had a huge amount of fun on the wedding day.

Back at work now and thinking about radio and radio advertising… and trying to help clients get the most out of their advertising. It wasn’t a good first day back with a client who can’t seem to get the fact that their visual pun doesn’t work on radio. Ah well… onwards and upwards.

While I was working in Sierra Leone I was interviewed for the Earshot Creative review. The publicity says… “Also this time, Nairobi-based radio advertising consultant Simon Rushton says we should always prioritise effective advertising over creative advertising and he explains how to do it. On a beach.”

I just want to say it’s right to say “prioritise” since I think radio advertising can be and should be entertaining, witty, funny, emotional, creative and innovative. But that should come along side the selling… and back up the motivation to act.

Did I say that in the interview?

Listen Here!

Scary Floating Heads... that's me on the left!

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Is it just me…

I could get myself into trouble. But this is where I’ve found an example of when “Award Winning” commercials are probably not the best advertising. I don’t like to pick on individuals, but I found this website… http://flyingbrickradio.com/spots.html.

Now I got worried when I saw…

“At Flying Brick Radio, we make the kind of funny radio commercials your uncle insists on describing at Thanksgiving dinner. Writing and producing funny radio campaigns is our specialty.”

As I’ve said before, “funny” should not be the objective of the commercial. “Compelling” or “effective” would be much nicer.

But after looking at their list of awards I thought I might be in for a treat.

Fly Brick Radio do have some excellent ideas… but I have lots of criticisms. OK. I know, it’s easy to sit here and throw bricks, but if you lay your creative work bear by putting it up on a website, be prepared for it! One problem seems to be, they have to fit their ideas into the US “standard” spot length of 60 seconds.

Have a listen to the Flying Lube one. To start with a great idea, and use of eidetic experience. But it just goes on too long… it’s at most a 40 second idea! And it even drizzles off at the end. Shame… no punchline, or strong resolving… just a long music tail.

Operation Lifesaver “Common Sense” you have to struggle to keep up with it. A great example of where the creativity out weighs the message. Just too much. This is a great example of where I can here a series of 20 second spots, but they’ve put everything into 60 and drowned the idea.

Utz Potato Chips “Anchorage”… again a gem of an idea. But we spent to much time to give the joke… which in this case seems to be Alaskans are stupid. Riiiiiiiight!

My impression is that these guys are trying to be funny first, and not thinking about how to communicate an effective message.

But I could be wrong! What do you think?

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