The Creative Circle Ad of the Year awards were held recently and with an impressive increase in entries and creative quality, it’s great to see the radio category enjoying a considerable shot in the arm! Here, King James Creative Heads Paige Nick and Devin Kennedy are refreshingly honest about what springs to mind the moment a radio brief lands on their desk…
WRITING RADIO THE HARD WAY
The first is a fizzle of excitement, because radio is often a nice opportunity to make something lekker. But this feeling is very short-lived and is almost always immediately followed by angst, stress, and low-grade panic. Which, once I’ve read through the brief a couple of times, and opened a blank page in Microsoft Word, then elevates itself to high-grade panic and flat-out anxiety.
That’s because writing great radio is hard. Like reasoning with a four year old-hard, explaining the theory of relativity-hard, or running the comrades-hard. That hard.
There’s nowhere to hide. It’s usually just you, facing down a blank page and a deadline, and when it gets late, that blinking cursor can tend to mock you a little bit.
With other media, like print or television, you can always try to rescue an average idea with fancy art direction, or a spectacular grade, but in radio you’re more than just a little naked, it’s just you and your concept.
But when you eventually crack it, or even when you just suspect you might have cracked it (there will be false starts) you get a funny feeling in your tummy. And while that might be the four bags of MSG-coated Cheesy Pouffs you anxiety-ate while you were stressing over not cracking it, it’s more than likely the feeling that if you write and rewrite your heart out, and if your CD loves it, and if your client buys into it, and if your voice-over doesn’t cock it up, that then you might just be able to create that special kind of spot. The kind of spot that when you hear it, everything else disappears, and you hear a piece of communication that is so simple, so relevant, so effortless and so effective, that it makes your stomach fall out of itself, and it makes you think, dammit, I wish I’d written that.
I’M NO RADIO GENIUS
But here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:
- Write a lot. I try to write as many spots as possible for one brief. It’s a game of averages; I find that if I write twenty spots, two of them will be good.
- You don’t always have to go it alone. I try and get my Art Director to brainstorm radio concepts with me as often as possible. Two brains are always better than one.
- Listen to great radio. But don’t copy it. Thanks to the internet, some of the best radio ever written is only a couple of clicks away. It helps inspire and inform what makes a great spot, but I always have to remind myself to make my own great radio, not a copy of someone else’s.
- Some writers are naturally good at producing their spots, I really have to work at it. Find your allies at the recording studios. A talented sound engineer can make a really big difference, the same goes for brilliant voice overs.
- Never eat more than four bags of Cheesy Pouffs at a time.
Paige Nick, Creative Head
Whether you’re writing for a bank, a sport shoe or an online brand, the rules aren’t vastly different. You’ll be judged on the same principle – how good, compelling or creative your ad is. The key to good and effective writing is understanding the brand you’re writing for. The product you’re selling, tone, the humour etc. Also, the line between brands and online brands are blurring. These days most ads, especially radio ads drive consumers to a website as the primary source of information as opposed to phone numbers.
If you’re trying to drive people to a site to take advantage of an offer, it helps to have a good offer. An average ad can drive a lot of people to your site if the offer is good but even a great ad will struggle to drive consumers to an uninspiring offer. And of course, this is where we’re lucky with one of our online clients, kulula. They’ve always been a champion for the people and continuously strive to push the envelope in terms of offerings. And if you start off with something compelling to say, it makes it a lot easier to do great advertising.
It’s also great when you have a brave client that wants great advertisingor spontaneously loves an idea that might scare other clients and bombs an idea because it’s not crazy enough. If both parties want good work, everybody wins in the end.
Devin Kennedy, Executive Creative Director