#178 In which our hero writes about work, instead of working at writing which, incidentally, is the thing he is being paid to do.
(I’ll actually wrote this on Wednesday, but I'm posting it now because I'm not up to writing up another story -- of which I have a dozy -- but I don't want to miss a NaBloPoMo entry. So don't be confused when I talk about being at work when it's a Saturday.)
So, I’m a bit stuck at work. I’m supposed to be writing some radio spots right now, but I’m not feeling especially creative. There’s a couple reasons for this (and I’m about to get really vague because this is client stuff for a promotion that doesn’t start until 2007, and putting forth any real details would probably get me in big trouble. I even hesitated to write that it was radio, but it would probably not make any sense then):
Nameless client asked for several approaches to their new radio campaign. We brainstormed several in-house, and then brought in a couple freelancers to give an outside opinion. We narrowed it down to half a dozen that we really like. The client came in and we presented our scripts. This was pretty cool, but a little nerve-wracking. I felt really good about my scripts, but I only had one chance to really “sell” the concept. My ideas, in particular, really depended on fun voice actors. So I go into a room with the client, plus four account people, a media person and the president of the agency.
I walk in and think, boy, there’s a lot of people in this room.
But I go for it and act my little heart out. The client laughs at all the right spots, as do most people in the room. As I’m walking out I hear the client say, “Nice read!” So, y’know, score one for me.
The client then picks 3-4 (don’t remember) that are strong, and we produce them.
The idea was to create polished radio spots for the president of the company to hear (this is the final decision-maker, ‘natch). Something much better than just words on paper or me trying to act like a real voice actor.
I get to listen to the audition tapes of several professional voice actors “acting” my script. This is quite a thrill, I have to say. I have very little radio experience, and most of the stuff I’ve done before is simple, announcer-read stuff. But the spots I’ve written for the client have characters in settings and jokes… it’s cool. I pick my favorites for each role, and we check to see if they’re available.
I get my top pick for each role.
So, I got to the studio (along with a much more experienced writer) to act as “producer” on the spots. Basically, I’m the director, giving the voice actors cues on how to “act” the scene and so on. Awesome. Again, this is really my first time doing this, and I’m all excited, but trying to play it cool, y’know?
The actual voice actors are out of state, so we’re recording them over special phone lines or whatever (I have no idea how that works). But I press a big button and they can hear me; which is fine -- they don’t need to see me smiling like a goon with every funny line.
We use a total of three actors in two spots. Then I work with the sound engineer to finalize sound effects, time and the sniggly details. These produced spots are then sent out to the client, along with the produced spots for the two other concepts.
Now, getting back to why I’m not into what I’m supposed to be writing. Everyone likes my concept the best. “This is the winner,” the AE tells me. Cool. I start telling friends that you might be able to hear some of my stuff on the radio soon.
But… the agency does some focus groups, and my concept doesn’t test the best. It tests second best. The one done by the freelancer tests best. So that’s the agency’s recommendation. The client takes our recommendation and I’m out. Shrug… that’s the way it goes.
So part of it is that I didn’t get to sell my idea. But I’m a professional, I can deal with it. Except for one thing: the idea the client has bought is dumb.
Here’s the thing: there’s going to be a heavy radio rotation, so we’re going to need lots of radio spots. So the in-house writers (including me) are going to have to take this scenario, and repeat it over and over, keeping it fresh, funny and engaging every time. But the problem is, as previously mentioned, is that it’s dumb.
It's alarmingly similar to the Holiday Inn Express commercials from not so long ago (which I also thought were dumb).
But my big beef here is that the guy buying the product -- THE CUSTOMER --- is too passive throughout the spot. He should be the hero, but he just sounds confused. I have a big problem with that.
So I brought up my objection again, then went ahead and "fixed" the spot, making the customer a problem solver, , not just a stander-by. This makes for a better spot, but a more difficult premise. Especially when you need to repeat it a dozen times.
So I’m stuck.
UPDATE: An hour later and I'm unstuck. Told myself to get over the fact that I think the entire premise is dumb, and just start writing. Do I think the spots I've written in the meantime are as powerful as they could be? No. But are they funny? Yeah, I think so. But we'll have to see how they test.