Everyone talks about "production values" when it comes to making TV commercials. But how often do clients and agencies sit down and talk about "production values" for their radio campaigns?
Well, luckily - mainly for the poor radio listeners, who have to sit through hours of "low production value" commercials each week - these conversations are happening more often.
Sometimes it's the client who gets the ball rolling, because they want to see their radio pound work harder. Sometimes it's the agency, by finally admitting that, although their TV work is breathtakingly original, they find radio a little, well, "difficult".
So exactly how can you increase radio "production values"?
Put simply, "by taking radio more seriously". This means giving the creative and production process more lead time and the radio production budget more money.
Ah, "more money", I hear you say. "I thought there would be a catch." But I'm not talking big bucks here. Radio production budgets are tiny compared with TV budgets, so a little more can go a long way. I find just allowing a couple of extra hours in the studio to "polish" a production can make a remarkable improvement to almost any ad.
Also, push for creative casting when it comes to choosing the voices.
If you always opt for the bloke you used last time, or that talented new comedian from the telly (who, by the way, is also voicing everyone else's commercials), don't be surprised if yours blend seamlessly into the rest on air.
And make sure you have a pre-production meeting. I'm amazed by agencies who still don't take radio seriously enough to grant it half-an-hour of their time to have a pre-production meeting. Lord knows, I've saved thousands of pounds on budgets over the years by simply sitting around a table and talking everyone through the production process. It's the easiest way to avoid costly hiccups in the studio.
Mind you, using a radio specialist to direct - or even write and direct - your commercial is another easy way to improve production values. But I would say that, since it's how I've made my living at Eardrum for the past 16 years.
But the simple truth is, whether directing an agency-written commercial (or one of their own), radio specialists already have all the processes and procedures in place to ensure radio commercials have "high production values". After all, it's what they are paid to do.
- Martin Sims is the managing director of Eardrum: the most award-winning radio specialist company.