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Posts Tagged ‘commercials’

When Copyrights Trump Commercial Creativity (Spoiler: Always)

copyrightI was listening to radio this morning and heard a spot for a local restaurant trying to be relatable by exemplifying how hard it is for working adults to find time to eat breakfast. They preached the importance of the first meal of the day. And wouldn’t you know it? They have a quick, easy, affordable breakfast sandwich you can pick-up on your way to the office to help solve your problem. Not a bad spot overall, but at one point the announcer says, “before you know it Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho it’s off to work you go!” and then fairly quietly layered underneath was the unmistakable original recording of the seven dwarfs singing the song.

That’s a problem.

  • It’s not an original work created by the advertiser.
  • It doesn’t qualify under “fair use” exceptions.
  • The song isn’t in public domain. The only songs that are public domain in the USA are songs and musical recordings published in 1922 or earlier. This song was released in 1937. (Check out the website here with examples of public domain works http://www.pdinfo.com/)

So, that means either Disney licensed copyright permissions to a local breakfast joint in central coast California or the restaurant and radio station stole it. It probably wasn’t intentionally and in fact, it was a solid creative choice, but the law doesn’t factor in intent, creativity or ignorance.

What should they have done? Here’s some advice from business law firm Brooks/Pierce:

“To secure a license for a musical work, you will need to contact the publisher directly. You can obtain publisher contact information using the repertory databases maintained by ASACP (www.ascap.com), BMI (www.bmi.com), SESAC (www.sesac.com), and/or the Music Publishers’ Association (www.mpa.org). If a sound recording license is also needed (e.g., for dubbing an original recording), you will also need to contact the record company directly. Record company contact information can sometimes be obtained by the music publisher and is often also available on the copy of the recording (e.g., the CD liner notes). Publisher and record company contact information may also be located on the U.S. Copyright Office’s website (www.copyright.gov).”

That’s a lot of time, work and likely money for a :07 sample of a song in a :30 radio ad that you’re charging 50-bucks a spin for on your radio station.

Here’s the kicker. Even if the radio station didn’t produce the spot they can be held liable for copyright infringement. (Production Directors and Traffic Directors listen up!) Penalties can range from $150,000 to $250,000 per infringement and up to 10 years in prison. And in this case, Disney doesn’t shy away from going after little guys, because once you knowingly allow one entity to infringe a precedent is set. Typically a cease & desist will be the first action taken, but I wouldn’t press your luck.

Be careful out there.

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Clocks, Spots and Sponsorships – Oh My!

commercialsI recently monitored seven news-talk radio stations across the country to analyze their spot loads, sponsorships, and programming clocks. The stations were all Top 20 radio markets with varying ownerships (iHeart Media, Cumulus, Bonneville, Cox and others).

Among my findings…

Stations average just over 16 minutes of commercials and promo time per hour in morning and afternoon drive. That includes blinks, :10s, :15s, :30s, and :60s. That being said, one station was as high as 20 minutes each hour while another was a low as 12.

On the whole, these stations seem to abuse the PM drive listeners more than the morning drive audience. Nearly all are guilty of loading up more commercials and longer stop sets on the drive home. Several stations increased the spot load by three minutes in PM drive, another punished listeners with a seven minute commercial break.

Six of the seven stations have neglected their live streaming presentation with overlapping audio, announcers cut off, out-dated spots, commercials replaced by extended (120 second) show promos or worse (four minutes of PSAs). Luckily, no one was using rights-free music to fill the void.

As it pertains to sponsorships, five to 10 “name mentions” per hour for news tags, traffic center, studio sponsors, etc. seems to be the average. These are name mentions only with no call to action. However, I listened to one station that only had one element sponsored the whole hour — and it was a little sad. On the flip side, there was a station that sponsored everything and sometimes with as many as three different clients simultaneously. That particular station had a whopping 23 sponsored elements in each hour.

The clocks were all different; some had long segments and long spot breaks while others chose bite-sized segments and easy-to-swallow commercial breaks. There are stations trying to sweep the quarter-hours to increase AQH, others are driving for occasions with non-stop teasing, and then there are the hosts who just talk and talk and talk in hopes of extending TSL — or more likely they’ve abandon all formatics in favor of their ego.

It was an interesting exercise that reminded me about the importance of balance. Like with everything in life, radio shows need balance. Too many spots, too long of a segment, incessant commercial breaks, or a NASCAR approach to sponsorships all get in the way of the listening experience. Oh, and stations please assign someone to listen to the web stream often, take notes, and fix ‘em.

Top 10 Posts of 2014!

Each year I find it gratifying to look back and take stock. It’s been a fun, frustrating-at-times, insightful, enlightening, empowering year thanks in a large part because of you. What I write on these pages is a reflection of what I’m experiencing in the world as it relates to radio. Here are the posts that drew the most attention this year for one reason or another.

photo 310. Stop Questioning, Start Creating. This was a talent-focused piece on how to best engage listeners and a plea for the world to stop asking so many questions. It’s an engagement device that really doesn’t work as well as you think it does.

9. 1,000 Miles of Radio Listening. This entry was inspired while moving my family from Seattle, WA to Atascadero, CA. It reflects my time in the role as a real radio listener. (Spoiler: Radio remains, to my dismay, mostly cliché, predictable, forgettable, and crammed full of poorly written commercials.)

8. Radio is Overloaded. I WANT to love radio, but I am increasingly dissatisfied with the return on my investment of time.  Gang, we got a spot problem. There’s way too much clutter.

PETE CARROLL LOMBARDI 27. Building a Championship Team. Sometimes we need to look beyond the four walls of the studio or station to be inspired for greatness. This entry focuses on Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and how he built a World Championship team.

6. How to Quit Your Radio Job in 10 Steps. There is going to come a time when you want out of your radio station. Here is how to do that with dignity and grace.

5. Fun Cannot Be Formatted. This was a 50% inspiration and 50% kick in the ass. A major portion of people in radio have forgotten how to have fun. The future success of the industry depends on the spontaneity of personalities and giving them permission to try new things and fail.

4. Six Tips for Co-Hosting a Radio Show or Podcast. Co-hosting a radio show or podcast seems like it should be easier because there are two of you, but that also means there are twice the problems. Here are some tips to get you started in the right direction.

3. Making Sense of Another Radio Firing. Anthony Cumia, the second half of Opie & Anthony, was fired by SiriusXM over the weekend for a series of offensive tweets he made about African-Americans after a woman physically assaulted him in New York City. I examine the firing from a radio perspective.

Leykis12. Seven Hours with Tom Leykis. This my takeaways from spending the day with former radio star turned internet radio star Tom Leykis. Tom doesn’t hate radio. He says he’s been doing it too long, made too many millions off of it and has too many friends still in it to hate it. “I love radio. NOT the appliance, but the concept.”

1. Prepare for the Pink Slip. This entry is the most viewed blog post of 2014 and it also originates from my day with Tom Leykis. It is full of advice from Tom to those of us still working in the traditional radio business.

Takeaways from a day in LA

Things I heard, overheard and thought about while driving around listening to radio and visiting radio friends in Los Angeles.

A perfectly good pair of earbuds sacrificed for 3D effects. (see picture)Beast5

Newscaster uses the phrase “via social media.” Reminder to self: never use the word “via.” It’s not conversational. It’s newspeak. It especially sounds ridiculously antiquated next to “social media.”

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to referring to “top” and “bottom” of the hour, but it’s also really just radio-speak. Most clocks are digital now and the reference is lost on anyone under the age of 35.

After some consideration, I find it creepy that a male morning host is doing live endorsements for a doctor who performs hysterectomies and other invasive, personal surgeries on women. The creep factor increases when he invites his female listeners to a weekend seminar and promises he’ll be there to greet you. Ew.

30 minutes is a long time to talk to one guest.

Spending five minutes to go through “what’s coming up on the show” doesn’t entice me to listen longer, it just leaves me frustrated for the time I just spent listening.

I’m a fan of what KFI is doing with customizing spots per day part. John & Ken (PM Drive) were heard addressing Bill Handel’s listeners (AM Drive) with an insurance endorsement. Good cross promotion and customization.

Beast3I spent some time with Fred “the dean of LA Sports” Roggin (center) and among our topics of discussion was the advice he offers young broadcasters.

“Be true to yourself. Radio is not going to make you rich. Do it for the love of radio. Do it because you want to communicate.” Fred continues, “Radio is a family. It bonds people. And it has to be in your blood. You’re not doing it to be a star and you’re not doing it to be rich. Never do anything for money. Do what you love and you’ll end up loving what you do.”

Radio is Overloaded

Radio Spots as TissuesThe other day I was flipping through the dial and every one of the ten stations I flipped to was in commercial at the same time. Yesterday, I was air-checking a new morning show and between the commercials, traffic, weather, and canned commentaries I listened for 30 minutes without so much as a “good morning” from the new personality.

Tragic. Opportunity missed. Quarter-hours lost. Radio listener’s discouraged.

I listen to quite a bit of radio. I love radio. I should say I WANT to love radio, but I am increasingly dissatisfied with the return on my investment of time.  Gang, we got a spot problem. There’s way too much clutter. We’re strangling content to squeeze blood from a turnip. Enough already.

I know I’m not the first to bring it up. I just watched a talk Jerry Del Colliano gave at Talkers 2014 and he brought it up too.

It was also a discussion in the #SRCHAT (Sports Radio Chat) on Twitter last night too.

That last one caught the attention of many on the chat. We are willingly sacrificing what’s best for the listening experience to accommodate a revenue model that was introduced in 1921.

1921.

Let that sink in.

The same year radio began to sell spots; World War I ended, Warren G. Harding was inaugurated as President, and KDKA created the first radio news room and broadcast the first ever baseball game on the radio.

Radio commericals have had a good run. But, the time has come to rethink the way we monetize our content. We don’t need to eliminate them altogether, but we need to value our platforms at a much higher rate, creatively collaborate on projects with advertisers and be willing to say “no” a whole lot more often to spots that don’t match our brand or meet our production quality standards.

(Insert a spit take from GMs and GSMs across the country)

spittake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The more we load up our hours with limitless units of :05s, :10s, :15s, :30s and still even :60s, the faster we’re pushing the next generation of radio listeners to competing audio content providers.

Think about this. The #1 thing in every research project radio has EVER conducted (hyperbole intended), commercials are what listeners react the most negatively too. And you know what we say? “Oh, they always say that. Just ignore it.”

I’m afraid we can’t ignore it anymore.

It’s going to take creativity, guts, leadership, ideation and innovation. Raise your hand if you have an idea. The solution isn’t going to likely arrive from the corner office. I’m looking at the board ops, producers, talent, reporters, street-teamers, and sales assistants. We need to start asking different people how we can solve this problem. So, I’m asking. Do YOU have any ideas?

IDEA STARTERS

  • Co-branding opportunities / strategic partnerships (studio, phone lines, text, street team, events, etc.) I know this is happening in some stations already but usually it’s undervalued and tragically it’s often flighted-in instead of signing an annual.
  • Multiplatform solutions or coordinated Brand Takeovers (audio, video, text, web, stream, podcast, app)
  • XAPP Media – interactive online/mobile spots
  • Creating exclusive online stations for partners co-branded with radio station featuring exclusive promotions/access/messaging for partners. (Listen to the Jones Honda Hits Music Channel on thisradiostation.com for your chance to win a trip to the Honda 500)
  • Invest in great copy writers.

Add your ideas in the comments below or email me at larrygifford1@gmail.com

Look Who’s Talking: Jim Cutler

Jim Cutler Photo

Jim Cutler specializes in News-Talk-Sports voice-overs. He's heard on Nickelodeon, Judge Mathis, CNN, ESPN, Sunday Night Football on NBC, E!, TMZ, Nat Geo, Spike, E:60, Speed, Weather Channel, etc.

GIFF: How would you describe the state of radio production / imaging among news/talk/sports stations in America?  

JIM: It’s actually pretty good and getting better. Yes, people are working with less and some had even cut out their production person completely, choosing to save money with a national or group service for creative on barter. There was a time when I was reading only tags for stations that all ran the same national promo all over the country. Different tag for each station but the same promo for every market. But IRONICALLY when the bottom fell out of the economy and stations had even fewer resources to work with that radio did some soul-searching and figured out that being cookie cutter is what was KILLING us. Many realized that local creative was the last thing they should have cut. The less local you are, the more you’re handing your lunch right to the other national medias. But this has turned around. The group production services are killer great, and I voice for many of them to use as promo examples. But they are supposed to SUPPLEMENT and boost what you do, NOT REPLACE all your local flavor and local texture, issues, problems, joys…local relevancy, just to save money.  

You only have a certain number of promo avails each day to tell your story. If you just plug-in the same national “Glenn Beck rocks/Obama is bad” promos with your local tag every single day, there is nothing there that makes your city’s station special. People can hear the same promo in 100 different cities, along with the same music and shows. But instead if you take a clip of Beck and use it in something that promotes your town, your situation, your local politicians, your local personalities, your local political slant, your events and community vibe oh and by the way catch more of Glenn at 9am…then you’re taking Glenn and making him local. It’s strong, and that’s what I’m seeing more and more of.

If you’re not local you are going to go away. TV stations now know this. It’s why affiliate TV stations are putting on more local newscasts all day. What once was just 11pm local news, 6pm and a morning news hour is becoming news starting at 4:30am till 10 (not 9am anymore), news at Noon, again at 5p, 5:30, 6 and 11pm. Logically, your viewers can already get news anytime from FOX TV or CNN so why would anyone watch the local channel for more newscasts? Because in a time when listening and viewing is so completely fragmented among all the media screaming for your time, playing the LOCAL card actually is working. And you can make more money with it. I’m seeing a ton of really good scripts these days. it’s like the beginning of the return to creative thinking again. I’m VERY, very optimistic about radio.  

Of the hundred things I could talk about, let me give one solid tip you can use: In a PPM world, you have to make everything shorter. Promos should be 15 seconds instead of 30. I was just a part of an expensive focus group test in New York where we watched 100 real listeners each holding radio hand controls turn the station when they were bored. Anything longer than 15 seconds and they are gone no matter how brilliant you thought the creative was. and YES you can get it all in 15 seconds. When we moved from 60‘s to 30‘s people asked the same question, “How can you get it all into a 30?” You think about what you want to say, you keep your clips short and tidy, you write clear and distinct sentences and  you have a 15. In TV I read the daily news topical promos and they are only 10 seconds long. TV would love to have the luxury of being able to move up to 15’s.

GIFF: You talked about moving to the :15 promo, what are some keys to writing an effective promo in those time constraints?

JIM: It’s what TV does every time so it’s quite easy. Put in the important impact-full stuff and you must leave out the stuff that doesn’t matter. Once you get used to it you then think going back to 30’s feels wasteful. It’s the elevator speech, you have 15 seconds to impress and that isn’t hard. Leave out the stuff that isn’t important. And if there’s a ton of clients that have to be in you have to leave their slogans out of it. If a lot of clients are in the spot do several 15’s and just rotate 3 clients in each. Here’s an example of re-writing a 30 down to 15 seconds:

First the 30:

“WZZZ presents Lunch with a Legend. This month’s Legend is New York Giant‘s Quarterback Eli Manning. Thursday October 4th at Mortons the Steakhouse at 722 West 43rd street in Times Square. Come and meet giants QB Eli Manning. Reserve your spot now by calling Bonnie at 212-555-1212 , that’s 212-555-1212. Lunch With a Legend is presented by Capitol 5 Financial Management. WZZZ’s lunch with a Legend at Mortons the Steakhouse in times Square, Tickets are going fast. Join us for Lunch with a Legend by calling Bonnie at 212-555-1212.”

 Here’s the 15:

 “Are the Giants for real? Hear it from the QB himself, Eli Manning at WZZZ’s Lunch with a Legend. October 4th at Mortons in Time Sq. Presented by Capitol 5 Financial Management. Join Eli Manning and WZZZ for Lunch at Mortons, call for reservations: 212-555-1212”

Boom, your done.

GIFF: What advice would you give to account execs working with clients who want to shove 20 seconds of copy into a :10 sports update sponsorship? 

JIM: Ask them for help. You’re not blowing the order. You want to fulfill the order and make client happy, YOU JUST NEED THEIR HELP because there is something wrong. Tell the agency it doesn’t fit, send them the voice track to illustrate it and tell them you’re standing by. That puts the onus on them and after hearing the voice track there isn’t much they can deny about it. They will cut the copy. It’s when you don’t send the voice track that they live in fantasy land about “Well I can read it at my desk and it all fits”. Sending the voiced example and saying “This ten is coming out to 13 reading at warp speed as you can hear, please let us know what to do” does the trick.

I deal with this almost every day but more on the network or big agency level where people have already approved the way too long copy and legal has locked it in. It’s still way too long but it can’t be changed. I read it at warp speed and send it to them unproduced so they see the problem. 

How about a station promo that’s too long to be a 15 because of all the client mentions? Make several versions of the same promo that rotates the different sponsors in it. 

When you write this stuff from scratch, know that you only have 15 seconds to tell the story. That immediately should tell you to get to the point fast. Boom. Boom. Boom.

GIFF: As an amateur photographer and a v/o artist you’ve had the experience of telling stories with just the eyes and with just the voice – what have you learn from each to make you a better story-teller? 

JIM: GREAT question! Photography teaches a good a lesson about PPM. If you just take snapshots you won’t know the following: A Professional Photographer’s job is to think about what to capture so that you communicate what you want to say, but more importantly the job is to CUT OUT ANYTHING THAT IS DISTRACTING. If I’m making a Larry portrait outside Staples Center I might blur the background so the viewer sees that the focus is you. If there is a distracting sign over your shoulder or some people standing near you I’ll recompose so none of those distractions are in there. Just Larry in the clear well lit, with a creamy out of focus background (called bokeh) where the Staples Center is recognizable behind you but only as atmosphere. Most people don’t know that photography is the art of elimination so your story is clearly told without distractions. In a radio PPM world you need to be much shorter, much more to the point. Say it straight and make it interesting. Leave out the flowery language and the generic. People are going to tune away the first time you give them the opportunity: the ridiculously long intros, the generic writing that says nothing, the music bed that plays out of spots for 20 seconds before your host begins talking. So apply the same photography rule to what you do in radio, tell a great story and eliminate the distractions and the reasons to tune away.

GIFF: What does it feel like to be spoofed by Saturday Night Live? (see the video here)

JIM: Surreal. My coffee came out my nose. It was very funny and the Collinsworth imitation rocked. I think the guy who did me had me down pretty well. 🙂 The guys at Sunday Night Football loved it.

Jim Cutler is everywhere