In Radio, Less Isn’t More. More Is More.

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Around 10 years ago, broadcast giant Clear Channel made a bold move by attempting to redefine the industry standard of radio commercial length. Their “Less is More” initiative pushed to cut the traditional 60-second radio commercial length to 30 seconds. The rationale was that shorter commercials would reduce “on-air clutter” and were better suited to listeners’ shorter attention spans. Yeah, right. Let’s be honest – it was, and still is, a money-grab.

As a copywriter, I know I’m not alone when I say that I cringe every time I attempt to “craft” a 30-second radio commercial. Truth is, there isn’t much “craft” to it. As soon as you fit all the mandatories into the spot (the offer, call-to-action, website), your job is pretty much done. Not much room left for creativity, unfortunately.

Fast forward to 2013 and one of my favorite Summer pastimes – listening to Reds Radio while working around the house. Early in the season, I was shocked when I heard something I’d never heard before: a 90-second radio commercial.

The advertiser is The Kentucky Department of Tourism, and they have obviously bought three consecutive 30-second spots, because :30s are what the Reds Radio Network sells. The commercials are interview-style, with a Reds announcer “interviewing” a representative of Kentucky’s Tourism Department, who casually explains all the fun things Kentucky has to offer visitors.

The spots are relaxed, informative, and in my opinion, groundbreaking. The ads truly cut through the clutter of all of the cram-packed 30-second spots. Are they going to win any awards for their creativity? Of course not. But they do their job extremely well, and to me, these 90-second radio commercials are among the best I’ve ever heard.

–Steve Schaeffer, Creative Director/CEO @ Creative Dimensions

Does a Mantra Make an Agency?

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Agencies love their mantras. And I understand why…kind of.

The mantra is the little sub-brand an agency trademarks that represents its point of difference, usually a process or philosophy. By definition, a mantra is a mystical formula of invocation or incantation. (Basically, a bunch of mumbo jumbo.)

One agency that touts creative branding has “Brand Storm.” Another that claims specialization in consumer behavior has “Rehavior.” There are others with “ABC” processes, brand “obsessions,” “simple solutions,” and ones who bridge, migrate, accelerate, empower, translate and basically enshrine a verb that suggests that cool things are going to happen.

Agencies are people, and people like to think they are unique. “Hey, I’m special and I like me. I have a mantra that tells others why they should like me, too.” We’re better at strategies, because the strategic thinkers at our place have “StrataGoodness.” Our creative is more attractive, because we are “Imag-O-netic.” We communicate better with youth audiences, because we’re “Just Kidding.” And our smiles are brighter, because we all use fluoride.

From a client’s point of view, when presented with three zebras, they see similar stripes, tails and hooves. Ah, but they also see the third zebra has “StripeForce™” that gives their messages to other zebras more…er, something.

What I’d like to see is what really differentiates agencies. You and I. People and the experiences each brings to the party define an agency. While not as trademarkable, I’d love to see an agency claim it’s better, because it has “Donald, Marie, Jess and Lee Who Have 82 Years of Combined Health Care Experience.”

Okay, that sucks as a mantra.

But, it’s the truth. None of us has a magic machine into which client wishes go in one end and guaranteed results come out the other. Few of us have certifiable geniuses whose x-ray minds see things others don’t. We, if we’re smart, have smart people, our “intellectual property,” as some say. If hired with a holistic view, all those juicy brains can interface well with one another and actually become a sort of machine that produces consistently superior results.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying, go ahead and appreciate our clever little mantras, but please, spend more time getting to know our people. That’s where you’ll get true “Ad-isfaction.”

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions

10 Steps to The Perfect New Business Pitch

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Every agency has its own idea of the perfect new business pitch. Here’s mine in ten steps:

1. Know your capabilities. While this seems obvious, some people—through desperation or delusion—will go after any new business, whether they’re suited for it or not. (EX: “We’re going after Nike.” “Do you have any footwear experience?” “Well, not per se. We did do a series of ads about diabetic foot wounds, though.”)

2. Know Your Prospect. What’s the history of the company? What’s the history of their marketing? Do you fully understand their product or service? Why are they looking for an agency? More importantly, why the heck are they considering you?

3. Assemble Your Team. Let’s say your agency has 200+ people. Your job is to identify who has the skills and/or knowledge to add value to your presentation and pick the fewest possible to attend. So, your agency only has ten people? Take the ones who own a suit.

4. Define your objectives. You’ll need to know the parameters of the presentation (length, venue, access to power/wireless, etc.) Then, you need to craft your presentation to deliver the most bang within those parameters. You won’t have time to discuss media, strategy, branding and public relations, while also showing thirty pieces of creative, opening the floor to questions and allowing your boss, who loves to stray off topic and tell stories about himself/herself, to say more than “hello.”

5. Research. Do some.

6. The Strategic Proposal. If the RFP states that the client wants someone to create a series of TV spots targeting adults over 65 who wear dentures, and that they’ll provide the media, you probably don’t need one. If you do, be sure the person who writes it knows what a strategy is. (EX: “I thought we’d just take boxes of chocolates wrapped in bows for everyone,” isn’t a strategy.)

7. The Creative. Be sure it comes out of the strategy. Don’t be afraid to do something different from where the brand has been before, as this can often win the day. If it’s really humorous or pushes the boundaries, don’t let your account execs see it before presentation day.

8. The Rehearsal. Know what every player is going to say and when. Don’t blow it off.

9. Presentation Day. Be professional and friendly in equal amounts. Be confidant. Be ready to answer questions. Laugh at their jokes. Bring hand sanitizer.

10. The Clencher. No matter how well prepared you are or how well you think the presentation went, something you didn’t expect will clench it. (EX: “Oh, you’re a hockey fan,” is a good reaction. “You guys did a great job, can’t wait to work with you,” means they’ve already made up their minds, and it isn’t you.)

That’s the perfect pitch on paper. In reality, the perfect pitch can’t be planned. It goes something like this. “Hi, I saw your website and would like you to help us expand our 400-store franchise into a 4,000-store franchise. Interested?”

So, basically, be sure someone’s around to answer the phone.

– John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions