When people stop trying

I’ve been noticing something a lot lately. I’ve been noticing spelling errors made by people who are supposed to know how to spell things. I’ve been reading errors in grammar made by people who are supposed to know how to write.

I’ve been hearing things spoken incorrectly by people who get paid to speak.

Is the world becoming more and more full of folks who just don’t care enough to bother, or am I becoming a curmudgeon?

Thankfully, I’m still an exuberant, virile, young man…so the answer appears to be the former.

Dachshund
Poor little guy had no idea he was going to be the basis for a blog post.

Lack of communication in the communications industry

Seriously – what is going on these days? Everywhere I turn I’m bombarded with mistakes made by precisely those people who should not be making these mistakes.
A few examples:

– A radio news reporter was relating a story on-air about a domestic dispute involving a man, his girlfriend, and his dog. When the woman doing the reporting made reference to the man’s “dash-hound,” I had no clue what she was talking about until it occurred to me she apparently had never heard of a dachshund. Granted, the average American might not recognize that word as being pronounced “DAHK-suhnd,” but one of the first lessons in radio I ever learned 25 years ago was, if you don’t know how to pronounce something – ask!

– A local TV news outlet shared a news story on their Facebook page recently, recognizing the anniversary of the discovery of the bodies of two young girls, whose killer is still unknown. The headline noted that the girls have never been found. Now, not to be insensitive, but if their bodies were discovered some 15 years ago, I’m pretty sure the girls aren’t going to pop up anytime soon. Who writes this stuff??

– The other day, I heard a radio commercial I almost couldn’t stand listening to. The audio was thin and distorted, the person speaking sounded completely unenthused about whatever he was talking about, and I can’t even remember what they were selling because I just kept waiting for it to end. The commercial sounded like it had been recorded over a telephone…because it probably had been.

Make an effort, people!

Granted, you may be prone to a malapropism from time to time. You might use less-than-perfect grammar when leaving a Facebook comment. Heck, even I find spelling mistakes in this blog sometimes months after I’ve posted!  But these are examples of glaring errors made by people paid to not make these mistakes.

The person who didn’t know what a “dash-hound” actually mispronounces words all the time; it became a nearly daily occurrence before I stopped listening altogether.

TV news departments have large staffs of people who are paid good money to communicate the news, so grammar and syntax should not be a problem area.

No radio commercial should ever be recorded over the telephone…ever. Even the ones that are written to sound like they’re telephone conversations should be recorded in-studio. The particular commercial in question is either the result of a lazy producer or a sales rep who was given way too much control over the production process.

Grammar-Yoda

Human error…or something worse?

We all make mistakes. As I said, I understand that. But the preponderance of examples such as these leads me to wonder if something else is going on…something much worse.

In each of the three cases I shared above, a simple solution would have been to take one extra step. The radio reporter could have asked someone how to pronounce this word she’s never seen before. The TV news headline writer could have had someone proofread the post first. And the business owner who recorded the awful commercial could have come in to the studio.

But instead, that one extra step was neglected. It could be called laziness or ineptitude.

I prefer to call it apathy.

…and apathy IS worse

Laziness is a human condition, a state of being. Ineptitude is a lack of skills capable of completing a task.

But apathy is a lack of concern for that which one should have concern! Apathy, as inactive as it may seem, is actually a very active thing. It prevents people from producing good work not because they are lazy, inept, or otherwise incapable. It prevents them from performing because they just don’t care.

So whether it’s your job, your marriage, or any kind of project of which you find yourself involved, don’t be apathetic.

Don’t not care.

And if you recognize that you truly don’t care about the project, step back, step aside, or step down – and let someone who does care do the job.

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This just in: I had not even had a chance to hit “post” when a Facebook friend shared this ridiculous headline about an “amphibious” pitcher!  That’s right…he doesn’t just pitch with both hands, folks, he can live underwater, too! Once again, where’s a proofreader when you need one??

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SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

One busy night

I’m a day late. Sorry.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I had blog posts written a week or more in advance. But with a right knee still recuperating from a torn ACL, stay-at-home dad duties for a 4-year-old and 6-month-old, AND my voiceover business…getting a blog post done can sometimes be challenging.

I had planned on writing the post Mon. night, in advance of Tue. publication. Thing is, priorities take – well, priority. And I had a bunch of ’em…

Business before pleasure

AC pic
A small section of the interior of American Cottage Rugs’ showroom

Once the kids were in bed, I had to get hopping. First up: radio commercial production. A good client of mine, American Cottage Rugs, needed four :30 commercials edited down from four :60s we had produced last fall. While there was no new voicework involved in these new spots, there was a BUNCH of editing, which takes time to do correctly. I figured if I could get them edited, I could fine-tune and mix them down on Tue., which is what I did.

I also needed to get a voiceover audition submitted before the end of the night, so I took care of that, as well.

And wouldn’t ya know – more auditions came in while I was working, so I had to sift through them to see if there was anything appropriate for me. Having completed my studio work for the evening, I set to work on my other pursuit.

Those manuscripts aren’t going to write themselves

As you may know, I write children’s literature. For the past week or so, I’ve been working on a rhyming picture book manuscript that I really want to see completed. Sometimes it feels like I’m flying through it – and then I get stonewalled by a rhyme or plot issue and the process draaaaags. Keep in mind, I’m used to writing poetry, so anything longer than 16 or 32 lines is a tremendous challenge for a brain like mine. I needed to work on this, because I need to get the first draft done to see if what I’ve written is worth polishing.

But…

I also had to help a fellow writer and friend edit another picture book manuscript that we co-wrote over the past year, so that came first. I think it’s gone through 17 drafts at this point (I’ve lost count, honestly) but I’m pretty sure we’ve finally nailed it. I will admit I’m afraid to check the Google Drive for fear she’s made another tweak. We seem to do that to each other. A LOT.

Speaking of poetry…

A poem of mine has been accepted for publication at the online journal, The 5-2 : Crime Poetry Weekly. In addition to the text of the poem, the editor, Gerald So, likes to include readings of each poem he publishes, so I wanted to record my audio and email it to him in time.

So guess what I did before I went to bed?

DSCF2068 (Mic - Katie)Interestingly, the fact that I was so tired at that point helped my recording. I wanted the reading of the poem to exude a tired, run-down kind of emotion to it, and that’s precisely what I got!

Funny how if you put yourself in the position of where your character is, you can often nail the read. I once had to voice the part of an aerobics attendee who was out of breath, so I jumped up & down in the studio for a few minutes; when I opened the mic, my read was spot-on.

But wait, there’s more!

Did I mention our 6-month-old woke up at least three times while I was doing all of this? She normally sleeps through the night, but the poor little thing is teething like crazy and has a hard time staying comfortable. Her first tooth came in a week ago, and there’s at least one more trying to push its way up; needless to say, she’s not pleased with that. Life is pretty rough when you’re a baby.

I couldn’t wait to fall into bed around midnight. Until, that is, I remembered I still needed to do my second set of “prehab” exercises in advance of my ACL surgery later this month. Half an hour later, I was finally sleeping. As I think about it, I don’t know if I even completed the exercises – but at least I was on the bed when unconsciousness hit me.

So my Mon. night, as you can see, was a bit…full. I managed to get some of my blog post prepped, but didn’t write it until now. I’m very happy with my responsibilities – dad, hubby, voice talent, children’s writer, poet, blogger – but cramming all of those responsibilities into a 4-hour time frame can wear a person out.

Now, then…time to get working on that picture book.

Did I just hear the baby?

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

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The importance of being earnest…enough to advertise

Most dictionaries would probably define “earnest” as “serious in effort” or “sincerely passionate.”  If someone is earnest in what he or she is doing, they put their full heart, body, and soul into it. Which is why, if you’re trying to motivate people to take a specific action, it’s important to tell them.

I felt like I needed to post a short reminder about the importance of advertising, following a conversation I had with a political candidate over the weekend.

ID-10021920 (Times Square)
Hey, wait a sec – did I just see an advertisement?

If you have a great message and no one hears it…does it make a sound?  I’ve written about the subject before, but if you missed that previous post, my main point is, if you want others to know what you’re doing – you have to let them know.

That should be obvious, but unfortunately, it’s not always so.

Political season gears up

Over the weekend, I had a wonderful opportunity to chat with a political candidate during a meet-and-greet sponsored at the business of one of my clients.  She was in the early stages of the campaign – just starting to reach out and let folks know who she is and what she stands for – but was very well-spoken, friendly, and knowledgeable.

The attendees and I talked with her about what she believed, what she thought she could accomplish, and why she was running. Each time she was asked a question, she responded with a direct answer and was unapologetic for her beliefs.

I was surprised that a person this comfortable with public speaking had not run for office before.

And then she told me…she had.

You ran for what? When??

I was shocked to learn she had run for another political office a mere three years ago.  I stay pretty well-informed about our government and political issues, so it came as quite a surprise that she had run a campaign for an election that featured at least two other candidates – and although I remembered both of their names, hers did not ring a bell at all.

I told her I apologized for not remembering her, and half-joked about the importance of advertising…but the fact is, it’s not even close to a joke.

Of course, campaign fund-raising is important, and it can be very difficult to do any kind of promotion without a significant budget these days. Campaigns have to deal with a lot of quirks that normal businesses do not, such as having to raise vast amounts of cash in a short time for the express purpose of advertising; having to pay radio, TV, and newspapers in advance, before any advertisements or commercials can run; and trying to grow as quickly as possible, rather than being able to take a longer, more measured approach.

But the fact is, you won’t get the results you’re looking for – whether it’s an increase in widget sales, customer volume, or an election win – unless you advertise.

If you’re not advertising, you’re keeping it a secret.

shutterstock_134415755 (blurred lights)
There are a million messages out there. Is yours getting lost?

How do you plan to let potential customers or constituents know what you can do for them? How do you plan to showcase services, products, benefits?

If you’re not budgeting for it, how do you expect to get the word out?

Next time you’re reading the local newspaper, try this:  search through the pages quickly and make a mental note of what types of ads you saw. Then flip through it again and pay attention to all the ads, and see if any new ones pop out at you. Finally, flip through it a third time and scan each and every page until you find an advertisement you didn’t notice the first two times.

Then ask yourself, how many people who weren’t diligently scanning the paper missed that ad?  How many people do you think actually saw it and were moved to action?  Was it money well-spent?

It’s not about money; well, ok, it is

Yes, money helps buy commercials and advertisements…but actual “advertising” is more than that. It’s word-of-mouth, it’s meet-and-greets, it’s press releases, it’s phone calls with news directors and show producers, it’s talking to everyone and anyone who’ll lend an ear.

ID-10039778 (stand out in crowd)
It’s great that you’re different. But if no one knows, does it really matter?

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure to help businesses spread their message and grow, and I know for a fact that if they weren’t online, on the radio, or on social media, they wouldn’t be where they are now. Money will buy you the number of ads you’ll need, but the real value is in the message itself – what it says about you or your business, how it portrays you, and how your business can help the people you’re trying to reach out to.

So don’t let that message go unheard or unseen.  Advertise.

The people who hear about you today will become your customers – or, in some cases, your constituents – tomorrow.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

The stand-up comedy rule that can make you be a better writer

IMG_1839
photo courtesy of Linda Baie

At the “Highlights” workshop I told you about last week, we discussed a variety of things, from how to write better poetry to how to better perform our poetry. One of the topics that came up was how to find a unique angle to write about. After all, every topic in the world has already been written about – so how does a children’s poet (or ANY writer, for that matter) figure out how to create something new and different, with a fresh perspective?

One of my ‘tricks’ which I shared is this. It’s a way to discard the worn out phrases, the clichés, the ‘also-rans’…and find something special, whether you’re writing poetry, novels, or even commercials.  This was only the fourth post I ever published on my blog (Aug. 13, 2012), long before my followers numbered in double-digits!  So I thought this might be a good time to resurrect it in case you, too, have struggled with finding your own personal spin on a subject. And please let me know your thoughts, below – I’d love to read your comments on this!

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See if you can come up with a humourous joke or ending to this line:  “Rutgers University fired their head coach for verbally abusing players…”

It’s ok, I’ll wait…

So, how long did it take you to come up with your response?  Fairly quickly?  Or did you take some time thinking about it?  If you answered with the first thing that popped into your head – congratulations!  You’re just like most people.

If, on the other hand, you took some time to think about your answer so that it would be unique, unusual, unexpected…you just discovered a stand-up comedy rule that can help you write better stories, poems, commercials, even Facebook comments and Tweets!

Before we go any further, take a look at this. Go ahead and skip to 1:09 and see what happens:

Example #1:

Now, whether or not you like Jay Leno, he and his staff know how to write comedy.  The thing is, you don’t need to be a comedy writer to follow this rule:

Never go with your first impulse!

That’s the rule, plain & simple.  Don’t go with the first thing that pops into your head!  If you’re taking the SAT, well, sure – your first impulse is probably the right answer.  But when writing creatively, your first thought is most likely the same first thought as everyone else, and for someone who’s trying to appear original…that’s not good.

ID-10048131 (basketball)In the video clip, Jay makes reference to the embattled coach and shows video footage of what happened to draw you into a certain premise – that this is all real.  However, the surprise at the end of the news clips is funny because the audience never anticipated it.  He could have said something simple, like, “It’s so bad, Rutgers is considering hiring Bobby Knight!” (For those who don’t know, he’s another controversial head coach)  Now, that line isn’t extremely funny, but I can certainly see someone posting that on a Facebook or Twitter page.

But Jay takes the idea of the coach throwing basketballs to an extreme (exagerration is another trick to writing stand-up), and gets laughs because a) the image of the ball coming from out of nowhere during a news report is funny in and of itself, and b) it was unexpected.

Look at it this way:  how many times have you come across an interesting Facebook post or news article and was going to leave a witty comment but noticed someone else had already written it first?  Or how many times have you seen a comment that you just knew someone was going to write?

Example #2:

The following is a radio commercial I wrote, voiced, and produced for a Mexican restaurant called El Jimador that had just opened in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.  I think it’s a good example of how not to go the route everyone else might, and create a commercial that will stand out from the multitude of other restaurant commercials out there.

Backstory:  I was told the restaurant featured truly traditional Mexican food, not the Americanized fare with which most of us are familiar.  They offered all the items one would expect (tacos, burritos, etc.) but many items that might not be so familiar.  And they were just opening, so they wanted to get people’s attention, quick.  Yes, I could have started off by saying, hey, here’s a new Mexican restaurant, featuring all your favourites, blah, blah, and blah…but we’ve all heard those commercials and it really wouldn’t tell the whole story.  The story was about not just what they were, but why they were.

I grabbed a menu.

The cover featured the restaurant’s namesake, el jimador (an agave farmer), and explained who he was and why they named their establishment after him.  I loved it!  I took that information, condensed it, and used it as the basis of the commercial:

El Jimador_Image 6-7-11 (REV)

Notice I don’t even mention the name of the place until halfway through the spot.  Some advertising gurus will tell you that the client name should be mentioned in the first 5 seconds and at least 5 or 6 times throughout the commercial; that’s hogwash.  I eschew the ‘early and often’ rule of copy writing in favour of the ‘make it compelling and they’ll keep listening’ rule.  I could go on about that, but I’ll save it for a future blog post.

Also note that I didn’t spend a lot of time reading a laundry list of items; I did need to include some of the traditional items offered (at the client’s request), but overall, I’d say you probably have not heard many restaurant commercials like this one.  Most talk at the listener; I prefer speaking TO the listener.

I took a route that was unusual; I didn’t settle for the first thing I came up with.  For someone in the business of writing…

Steer clear of the trap of being predictable!

Trust your gut; it usually knows what it’s doing.  The next time you’re going to write something – anything – ask your gut if it thinks someone else would have thought of it, also.  Say, ‘Hey gut, old friend, what do you think?”   If your gut tells you it’s the same thing it would’ve said…scrap it and come up with something better.

As I said earlier, this rule applies for any kind of writing.  Whether it’s a novel, tweet, children’s literature, or blog post – use a critical eye.  Step back and look at what you’ve written objectively, and think before you hit ‘submit.’

You may be surprised at how creative you can be, when you force yourself to think just a little bit harder!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

An ace up your sleeve: making clichés work

ID-100105596 (waitress)“Quality ingredients!”

“Friendly staff!”

“Just like homemade!”

I think if I hear another restaurant commercial with these phrases in it, I’m going to do something embarrassing, loud, and possibly violent.

These are advertising clichés, and you don’t need to be a commercial copy writer to recognize them when you hear them. We’ve all heard car dealer ads that promise “no-hassle sales” and “ASE-certified mechanics.” We’ve all gone to restaurants with “reasonable prices” in a “comfortable atmosphere.” We’ve all been told that “conveniently located” businesses holding “inventory clearance sales” offer “rock-bottom savings.”

And we don’t buy any of it.

Worthless words

What’s that, you say? You use quality ingredients? Oh, what a relief – your competitors down the road probably use really crappy ones.

A friendly wait staff? Wow! I had gotten so tired of dealing with the witches at all those other restaurants.

ID-100174426 (mechanic)Let me tell you something: I’ve been producing radio commercials for nearly 30 years, and I still don’t know what “ASE” stands for, what it means, or why it’s important. (You’d think if it was THAT important, someone would have told us by now, dontcha think?)

Oh, and another thing: the next time you hear about an “inventory clearance sale,” just remember…

EVERY sale is an inventory reduction sale! That’s the point of a sale – to reduce the inventory!!

Whew, glad I could get that off my chest. Moving on…

Giving meaning to the meaningless

We hear these clichés so often, they’ve lost whatever meaning they may have had – if any – when they were first used. Having written and produced so many commercials over the years, my brain has a sort of cliché-radar, and I’m always quick to try to avoid them.  But then along came this client…

It was a new Italian-American restaurant that was opening soon, and they wanted radio commercials that would get their selling point (or, Unique Selling Proposition) across without sounding like every other commercial out there. Yes, they served delicious food made with quality ingredients, had a comfortable atmosphere and reasonable prices…but we couldn’t say that because no one would believe it. And if you serve good food with nice people – how do you set yourself apart from all the other places out there?

Answer: clichés.

I decided to utilize some of those overused, meaningless phrases and turn them on their heads, to illustrate why this particular restaurant was different. The client loved the premise, so we put together 3 different commercials, each one focusing on a slightly different aspect of the restaurant. They had to be :30s – I would have preferred :60s – so word economy was very important. When I was done, here’s what they sounded like:

I think that first line of the first commercial was what sold the client on my approach. Telling the listener to “go ask mama to make you something” completely turns the tables on the “home-cooked food” cliché, and sets the tone for the rest of the spot as well as the other two. The client was happy, the radio station was happy, and so was I!

All’s well that ends well

Just remember that when it comes to clichés, every cloud has a silver lining.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade; it’s for the best. If the cat has your tongue, take one step at a time – what’s the worst that could happen? And if you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know.

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Did you like this post? Find anything interesting somewhere in this blog? Want to keep abreast of my posts?  Then please consider subscribing via the links over here on the right! (I usually only post twice a week – on Tue. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day!)  You can also follow me via Twitter or on Facebook.

If you have a great message and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

As a children’s writer still searching for that first publishing deal, I know what it’s like to write and write and write and wonder if anyone knows or cares.

This blog is helpful in making known my name, abilities, and style…but still, if I only posted once every couple of weeks, it would not be as effective. I wouldn’t have the number of people, like you, visiting, reading, commenting, and sharing.  Conversely, if I was to post more than twice a week, my blog could, perhaps, gain more followers, acquire more voiceover or copy writing clients, and pique the interest of an agent or publisher.

I mention this to make a point. No matter what type of promoting you’re doing – marketing a book, promoting your blog, advertising a business – what you say is only important if other people read it. And the only way others will read it is if they know it’s been written.

I know, I know…this is all pretty self-explanatory. But let me explain where I’m going with this…

Image courtesy of ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.netThe necessity of advertising

Many of the folks with whom I correspond hate the idea of advertising. They know it exists and they know I make a pseudo-living out of it, but they feel like advertising is a 4-letter word. That it’s somehow subversive, mind-altering brainwashing that I’m involved in.  They hate Facebook ads and Google ads and TV & radio commercials and billboards – and act like they’re above it all because they don’t fall for any of corporate America’s ploys.

They’re too cool to be influenced or swayed by a message provoking them to turn over their money.

They don’t realize how ubiquitous advertising is, nor how effective it is, even on people like themselves.

No matter who you are, advertising affects you. We wake up in advertised beds, brush our teeth with advertised toothpaste, drink advertised coffee or tea before we leave our house or apartment (which was advertised before you bought it), and head off to work wearing advertised clothes while driving advertised cars, advertised bicycles, or walking on advertised shoes.

Nearly everything we own in our lives has been advertised, and we choose one product over another because of the benefit(s) we perceive from that product.

(Keep in mind, also, that advertising doesn’t necessarily involve money. Jesus advertised everlasting life, and never asked for a penny.)

Psychological egoism and why we’re all looking out for #1

hobbes
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), a proponent of psychological egoism

Psychological egoism is a richly debated theory that states that every voluntary action one undertakes is done for that individual’s self-gratification. In other words, everything that each of us does is done for our own self-interests (you can learn more about the specifics of this doctrine here).

Why do we buy a red car instead of a blue? Because we like red more. Why do we choose the steak over the haddock filet? Because we like steak more.

Why buy Colgate instead of Crest? Because of the perceived benefit of using Colgate.

Of course, some folks will argue that selfless acts of kindness or sacrifice negate this theory; however, one can argue that engaging in a selfless act of kindness is also done for one’s own gratification. For example, if I have $100, I could pay some bills, donate it to a local food shelter, or go to a strip club for a few hours.  The choice I make ultimately depends on which option brings me the most satisfaction or happiness.

And chances are, I’d be paying bills for products or services that were advertised, donating money to a food shelter that had been advertised (perhaps via a news article or Public Service Announcement), or going to a strip club that was advertised.

Now, about that message…

It’s not what you said, it’s how (often) you said it

Getting back to my initial thoughts, what if you had a great message and no one knew?  You could create the world’s greatest widget and develop a unique, effective commercial ad campaign…but if no one hears or sees it, you might as well not have bothered, right? That is where frequency comes into play.

In radio and TV, the more often you air your commercial, the better – because the more people will see or hear it. Run one commercial a day on radio and a few solid potential customers might take notice, but run it several times throughout the day – at various times in the morning, midday, afternoon, and evening – and then you’re really connecting with lots of potential customers.

But that many commercials costs a lot of money, right?  Well, let me give you a real-life example of how running on a low budget doesn’t mean you can’t attract big-budget numbers of people.

Many years ago, when I was working in Vermont as a radio producer, our sales manager met a restaurant owner who wanted to advertise but didn’t think he could afford ID-10068993 (sound mixer)4 or 5 spots (commercials) every day. So we suggested doing something unusual: we would run 10 spots one day a week – Friday. While this wouldn’t give him the weekly exposure of a more expensive schedule, he would pretty much own the airwaves that one day, with his commercial airing almost every hour all day long.

Within just a few weeks, he told our manager that customers were telling him they not only heard about his restaurant on our radio station, but they were telling him they were hearing him all the time!

“I’m always hearing your commercials!” one person told him.

“I hear you every day!” said another.

In the battle of perception versus reality…perception won, again.

Get your message out there!

Are you selling cars, furniture, or fertilizer? Are you selling yourself, your abilities, your experience? Whatever it is – whether you realize you’re selling something or not – spend some time determining the best way to promote your message. If you’re a business, a writer, a job seeker…you have to let people know you’re there!

And if you’re the type who doesn’t like promotion, advertising, or marketing…enjoy your obscurity!  You might think your message is awesome, but it’s only awesome if someone hears it.

Your product might change the world, but only if the world knows about it.

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I’m obviously happy to talk to anyone who has questions about advertising and copy writing and that sort of thing…if you have questions about creating a commercial or getting voice work (like on-hold messaging or video narration) done for your business, feel free to contact me at matt(at)mattforrest(dot)com!

Commercials: The little things are starting to pile up

Last week, I wrote about details in writing – whether it’s for commercials or creative writing. I spotlighted a couple of commercials that I thought could have been improved and one that I felt was well-done.

And because there seems to be no end to the number of TV commercials that annoy me…I present ‘Part 2.’

I hadn’t planned on doing another post on commercials today – or even on advertising in general – but soon after I had finished writing last week’s diatribe, I felt another one welling up inside me.  So please forgive me for indulging in a second little rant; heck, it’s my blog, after all!

Of course I hope, as always, that some of points I make about copy writing and production can be directly correlated to other types of writing such as poems, stories, and books.  Continuity errors, misleading untruths, and confusing messages are hardly confined to the advertising realm.

Which unravels faster: the clothes or the message?

Some things get better with time: wine, cheese, friendships. A sales message should not be one of them. In the case of the following commercial, it took repeated viewings – and an explanation from my wife – for me to understand just what’s going on. This is a perfect example of a message getting lost in creativity:

Here’s your trivia question: what’s with the yarn?? Why is this car unraveling all these clothes? If you don’t know, go ahead and watch it again and see if you can figure it out.

Now then, if you have the answer, congratulations – you did better than me.  I had seen this TV spot innumerable times and never knew what was going on.  It took my wife at least seven viewings before she suddenly announced, “I finally figured it out!”  She explained that the clothes are unraveling because winter is over and the car is bringing spring to the world. In actuality, after I paid close attention to it, the commercial is advertising a sale.

No prices, no features, no Unique Selling Proposition…just an announcement for a sale.  This commercial basically takes half a minute to say, “We’re having a sale.”  I could be way off base here, but wouldn’t it be nice to know why I should care about the sale – or why I should want an Infiniti? Is it too much to ask for a few little details? Perhaps, if one can afford to own an Infiniti, one already knows all about the features of the Infiniti and therefore one needn’t concern oneself with the price of an Infiniti.

But that negates the need for a sale now, doesn’t it?

Fun with science

Every time this commercial comes on the TV, my wife sighs. Not because of the commercial itself, but because of my reaction to a mere 1.5 seconds of it:

This isn’t a bad commercial…but it is misleading. Check out what’s happening :15 in. See those little yellowish critters, squiggling around in the sewage? Those are supposed to be enzymes, breaking down the waste.  Well, guess what?

Here’s a news flash:  enzymes are MOLECULES, folks!

They are naturally-occurring chemicals – not living creatures that scoot around inside your septic tank, chewing up your poop like Pac-Man chasing after a cherry.

This is what drives me nuts.  I know this dramatization has nothing to do with the true efficacy of Rid-X, but when I see this blatant error (or misleading animation – I’m not sure which), it makes me wonder what else I’m being misled about.  Be true to your subject! Whether you’re writing a commercial, poem, or novel…remember that suspension of disbelief only goes so far.

A good commercial, made better

This spot, by contrast, is a fine example of a clear, compelling message:

Zero Water TV spot: ‘The Waiter”

Zero Water filters are so good, they can filter out wine from tap water! I have no idea if that’s true, but it only took me one viewing of this commercial to understand that message. Like most good commercials, it’s a story: wine is poured into tap water, tap water is filtered, the Zero Water filter filters out the wine while the competition fails. And the genuinely surprised reaction by the man in the audience is a nice touch – a small detail, like we talked about last week – that makes a big impact.

But the commercial wasn’t always this good. Here’s how it first appeared:

The two biggest changes the ad agency made were the most important. First, they took the focus off the waiter; his goofy expression takes away from the straightforward, realistic style of a more-or-less-serious spot. And the reaction of the woman was, well, uhh – almost a non-reaction. She’s just sort of…there.  The gentleman in the newer spot appears to be honestly surprised and impressed, and that air of realism is important to the overall tone of the spot.

Be honest, be clear!

Don’t muddle your message with some cutesy ‘hook’ – like pulling strands of yarn off people to sell a luxury car in the spring. “Spring” is not the message, and “yarn” certainly isn’t, either.  And don’t assume your potential customers are too stupid to know what you’re telling them, such as enzymes that go chomp-chomp-chomping around your septic system.  Be honest, be clear, and make sure viewers (or listeners, if you’re in radio) know what you’re selling and why they should care.

Those two things – the product/service and the benefit of that product/service – should be first and foremost in your mind.

I’ll take “highly effective” over “highly creative” any day.