The Armory on Pima Gets It

One of our mantras when it comes to advertising is, “Be memorable.” An ad that doesn’t stand out in some way — that people forget immediately after they see/hear it — is an opportunity wasted.

The guys at the Armory on Pima in Tucson get it. I don’t know who wrote and produced this spot, but as local ads go, it’s one of the best examples of “Be Memorable” I’ve seen in some time.  Well done, you guys!

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Believing in Your Fee

Great story I’d heard before, but was reminded of while reading The Simple Dollar, a new blog I discovered recently:

A French woman, upon seeing Picasso in a Parisian restaurant, approached the great master and insisted that he put down his coffee and make a quick sketch of her. Graciously, Picasso obliged. When he was done, she took the drawing, put it in her handbag, and then pulled out her billfold.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked.

“$5,000,” was Picasso’s reply.

“$5,000? But it took you only three minutes!” she exclaimed.

“No,” Picasso answered. “It took me all my life.”

Picasso was always good for a quote that carried some impact, wasn’t he?

People with talent didn’t just come out of the box that way. Just because something appears easy doesn’t mean it is, or that the journey was. It takes years of education, years of practice, years of prior failure.

Pricing my services is probably my biggest ongoing challenge as a small business owner. In advertising production, many clients only have the perspective of seeing the finished 30-second TV spot, or hearing the 60-second radio commercial.  Far less often do they see the hours spent drawing animation artwork, editing and enhancing audio or video, searching for the right read, the right voice, the right take, and writing and rewriting copy to ensure that their advertising message is unique and salient and remarkable. That stuff not only takes time to execute, but it also takes time to learn to do, and get good at. And that’s what your clients are paying a premium for.

Very often prospective clients hesitate, hem, and haw when they inquire about my rates for voiceover, production, animation, etc., because to them it “seems expensive for just a 30-second TV spot.” All the more often, I find myself turning away business when that happens, rather than trying to justify my fee. As much as I hate to pass up work, I know that a client who dithers on price right out of the gate doesn’t value my time. And the client who doesn’t value my time ends up being the one who demands the most of it, usually amidst a constant debate as to why they shouldn’t have to pay me for it. I find that time is much better spent honing my skills, networking, and building my business in an effort to find better-quality clients who enjoy being involved in the creative process, and who appreciate what goes into it.

Don’t devalue yourself, your work, or your time just because others might not see the value in it.

Good luck!

When Do “Bad” Ads Mean Effective Advertising?

Take a look at this spoof commercial from The Midnight Show:

Maybe I have a different philosophy when it comes to advertising, and professional videographers who consider every commercial they produce to be “art” may put a bounty on my head for what I’m about to say, but I honestly don’t think that “good advertising” is defined by how the spot looks… Rather, it’s about what the message is, how memorable it is, and where, when and how often it runs.

We have a used car dealer in town whose TV spots positively suck, aesthetically speaking. He’s an annoying on-camera presence, and the ads are campy and poorly shot. He runs his ads heavily and non-stop all over cable TV, and EVERYBODY in town mocks him and his tag line, and talks about how bad the ads are.

Did you catch that last part?  Everybody in town is talking about him.  And if you have damaged credit and need a car, his dealership is the first place you think of.

Lousy ads?  Or effective?  When his ads come up in conversation, mine is usually the lone voice that says, “Aw, man, GREAT campaign!”  To me, the worst ads are the ones that get forgotten as soon as they air.  I’d name a few, but they were so boring and ineffectual that they didn’t make any sort of impression.

“Just because your ad looks good is no insurance that it will get looked at. How many people do you know who are impeccably groomed… but dull?”  — William Bernbach

Now, quite obviously the above video was done strictly for laughs, but I think an ad shot like the one above is actually MORE effective because of its (albeit intentionally) lousy production value. It makes it more memorable.  I probably wouldn’t use a spot like this to advertise video production services like these guys did, but I think I could make a case for any other product or service using a spot like this — something “so bad it’s good” — as an opportunity to poke fun at itself, give viewers something to talk about, deliver a strong, salient message, and create something really unforgettable.

What do you think?  As a business owner, would you care what people said about your ads if, at the end of the day, your sales went up, your revenue increased, and your business improved?

Vintage Local TV Advertising

As a guy who spent the first 18 years of his life plopped in front of the TV, I had a LOT of time to absorb the lilting, dulcet sounds of all the commercials as they wafted through my mind. If you grew up around the New York City area in the 70s/80s, you may remember such classics as…

The Ritz Thrift Shop… “You don’t need a million to look like a million…”

Mount Airy Lodge… “Have a fine winter time in the Poconos…”

Crazy Eddie — His prices were insane. (And I found some Crazy Eddie outtakes, too.)

Carvel Ice Cream Stores… If my memory was ever completely erased, I think I’d still be able to identify Tom Carvel’s voice.

And finally, a JFK Express double-shot… “Take the Train to the Plane.”

Hope these bring back some great memories. If you know of any others, by all means, share ’em!

Mark’s Music – S#*% You Won’t Believe

Here’s a recent TV spot we produced for Mark’s Music in Brewer, Maine, featuring “Mini-Mark”, an animated cartoon character we created based on the store’s owner (who’s a character in his own right).

The client decided to turn a recently thwarted robbery attempt into a sale, so to advertise it, we went with a “Breaking News” approach, with Mini-Mark at the anchor desk.

These spots are always a lot of fun to put together. A great reminder that not all local advertising has to look like “local advertising,” y’know?

My Creative Homeless Shelter

One of the most valuable lessons of my career is one I learned when I was in college, interning for Michael Coleman at WZLX in Boston:  Keep everything.

I have archives with all my old scripts, and most of the stuff I’ve produced is still on file someplace (I’ve changed computers several times over the years, so I’ve lost some stuff, unfortunately). Why? Because you just never know when something will come in handy.

On the Plane – Danke Schoen Parody

I’m of the opinion that there’s no such thing as a wasted idea. Clients have sometimes rejected my ideas for commercials over the years. When I was writing and producing bits and parodies for Daily Comedy Network, submissions would sometimes not get picked up. Hey, let’s face it: You won’t hit the mark every time. But, you can still turn that rejection into a positive.

http://www.poptent.net/getplayer/17354

Whenever a concept or a spot, or script gets kicked back, I still keep it, per that valuable lesson I learned back in 1992. That piece immediately gets moved to a special folder I have on my computer, named “Homeless Shelter.” It’s where all my ideas live which haven’t yet found “homes.” I keep them well-fed. I visit them frequently; check in, see how they’re doing. And sometimes I can re-purpose one of them for a new project that comes up.

Portly Boy – Parody of Lonely Boy by Andrew Gold

For me, coming up with the initial idea — the jumping-off point — is usually the most difficult part of the creative process. So I’ll often visit the Shelter first, to see if any ideas can be recycled for the project I’m working on, but secondly, because even if I can’t re-use the ideas there, they often will be great thought-starters to spark something new.

http://www.poptent.net/getplayer/17168

The pieces I’ve posted here all currently reside in my Homeless Shelter.  They’re all pieces which have previously been rejected for whatever reason but which I still use as creative inspiration. I invite you to watch, listen, and most importantly, consider creating a “Homeless Shelter” archive of your own, where you can begin to amass a cache of ideas to draw from, as well.

Working Together, Living Apart: Chapter 2 – The Remote Studio

About six weeks ago, my wife Kelly started her new job in Tucson, Arizona, leaving me to contend with winter back in Maine. Well, a few days ago, I decided I needed a break, so I packed a bag and flew out for a visit. I’m now writing this post from the apartment we’ve dubbed “Slaterville West.”

True to winter’s form, a Nor’easter prevented me from flying back to Maine on my regularly scheduled departure date, leaving me stuck here in Tucson for a few more days. With projects due back home. So it’s been a great opportunity to set up our remote studio and take it on a little test flight. Frankly, I’m amazed at what technology enables us to do.

In addition to my computer and related audio and video editing software — all of which I already had — I’ve invested in two tools that have enabled me to complete all the work I otherwise would have had to push back. The first is a USB-powered Samson C01U microphone. It provides studio-quality sound with only the most minor enhancement needed, and is an absolute steal at about a hundred bucks.

The second: GotoMyPC.com. For an annual fee of $100, I’m able to access my main (or Maine) computer from anywhere, at any time. It’s quite literally like looking through a window into my home office. All my files, programs, e-mail, everything is accessible, usable, and transferable in both directions. Pretty awesome. It was easy to purchase, and easy to install. In fact, with the one radio spot and one TV spot I’m producing this week, both the mic and GotoMyPC will have paid for themselves.

(The view from my AZ computer to my ME computer via gotomypc.com)

As my wife and I prepare to make our permanent move west, there will likely be a lot of travel back and forth between Maine and Arizona over the next six months. I’d had some initial concerns about missing work opportunities due to the technical restrictions that working remotely might present. But it seems like every day there’s a new bit of software, a new equipment upgrade, or a new application that allows us to keep right on going with our lives, no matter where our lives may lead.

So while my travel plans may leave me in warmer climes for a few more days, I must admit, I’m kind of torn. While I’m thrilled that I won’t HAVE to miss any more work, I also won’t GET to miss any, either.