Make It Perfect

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I could tell from the sales rep’s tone of voice that she was unhappy. “What on Earth did you say to Joan this afternoon?” Joan was a local realtor who had been in the office to record a commercial for her agency. It had taken about 15 minutes, and it was like every other client session I had done.

“What did she say?” I asked.

“She was really upset with the way you treated her.”

I could not imagine what I might have done. “What did I do?”

“You made her read the spot over and over.”

That was true, I said to the rep. “We had to do it a few times before it sounded good.”

“Well, she wasn’t happy. Nobody ever asked her to do that before.”

Many clients want to voice their own ads. If the client is the best possible messenger for his own business, I don’t have a problem with it, although it’s not the case very often. Some clients insist on voicing their own ads, even though they aren’t the best possible messenger. If you want their ad buy, you’re stuck with them. It’s extremely difficult for a rep to say, “You doing the ad is a bad idea, and I’d rather not take your money.” Sometimes stations offer the client the opportunity to voice his own ad as an ego-stroke, or a way to close the deal. Consultant Dan O’Day considers the latter unethical. I wouldn’t use the same word. Unprofessional, maybe. If the rep can’t close the sale with all the other tools at her disposal, she probably ain’t all that good at the job.

Today, the sales rep might use the recording function on a phone, tablet, or laptop to record the spot right in the client’s office. In days of yore, the client had to come to the station and work with one of the jocks.

Joan had been a regular advertiser for a while. I’d never handled one of her sessions before, so I did what I’d always done. She fluffed a word, so I had her start over. One take ran long, so I had her start over. Then she came up short, so I asked her to do it a little bit slower. “You’re paying for 60 seconds,” I said with a smile. I could tell she was getting a little frustrated, but I said, “We want this to be as good as it can be.” I gave her some advice on how to emphasize particular phrases—to sell the message she was reading—and made her do it again.

After 15 minutes, we had a good one. I got it ready to air the next time it was scheduled. Joan went back to her office, called her sales rep, and blasted me over the phone.

I explained to the rep why I had done what I had done. I even offered to call Joan and apologize—although I wasn’t sorry.

If I’d been assigned to voice a spot for Joan and it came out less than perfect, I’d redo it until it was right. Why should Joan, or any client, settle for less when their own voice is on it? She’s paying for professional expertise—mine and the station’s—and to put a spot on the air that doesn’t sound at least halfway good is professional malpractice. If words are slurred or swallowed, pacing is wrong, and/or the client’s intonations are those of somebody who’s obviously reading, as opposed to speaking, that makes for a poor ad. A poor ad is usually an ineffective one, and the station does the client no favors by selling them something that doesn’t work they way they promised it would. In addition, poor ads reflect on the station just as much as they reflect on the client, if not more. A listener who hates a particular ad is more likely to call the station and complain than they are to call the advertiser and complain.

When a client insists on voicing his own ads, you can ameliorate some of the most common problems if you take the time. You can apply the expertise you possess to minimize his amateurishness to whatever extent is possible. If that requires coaching or multiple takes, so be it. The client shouldn’t be offended. He or she should welcome your effort to make it perfect.

4 thoughts on “Make It Perfect

  1. mackdaddyg

    There’s a local car dealer who voices his own ads on a couple of different stations here. He’s a loud rednecky buffoon. I always change the channel when he comes on because he sounds so annoying.

    I don’t understand why radio stations allow bad ads to air. I get the kitsch of a local vendor voicing their own spot, but it still has to sound professional.

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