Thursday, January 28, 2010

Should you take advantage of a station's offer to produce your ad for free?

Just about every radio station, and many TV stations too, offer their advertisers free commercial production. To advertisers pinched by today's economy it's a very attractive offer that's hard to refuse. But should you refuse it?

I think so. From my years of experience in the broadcasting industry, I believe a very strong case can be made for declining the station's offer and instead using a professional, independent voiceover artist.

First, if your ads are being produced by the station on which you've bought time, your ads are being produced by one of the station's staff announcers. The voice will be one of the five or six people who voice probably 80 percent of all their spots - those of your competitors too! I'm not saying that the staff announcers aren't good at what they do; on the contrary, they're probably excellent. But your spots will end up sounding like every other spot on the station, and listeners will easily tune them out because they don't sound any different from everything else they hear. They'll just be part of the "clutter".

To be their most effective, it's very important for your ads to stand out and sound different from the rest. This is particularly important with 10- or 15-second "shorts."

Secondly, auditory memory plays a big role in the success of your ad. If a listener dislikes a particular personality for whatever reason - maybe they think those dulcet tones are too syrupy, or they don't care for the subject matter of that DJ's show (think of your local "shock jock"), that voice will have made an unfavorable impression. That impression carries over, subconsciously, to your product - it's quite likely that just hearing the voice of the announcer they don't like will work against you.

If you've ever found yourself talking back to the radio or arguing with a particularly annoying or stupid commercial you know what I mean.

But when you use an independent voiceover announcer, you're using a voice that's not heard every day - day in, day out for years. So your spot cuts through the clutter, is more likely to command attention, and won't suffer ill effects from a listener's auditory memory of an unfavored personality.

Many voiceover actors have spent years in training, taking acting classes, courses on dialects and accents and the like. The result is not just a "read" of your copy, but an interpretation of it. Even with relatively straightforward copy, professional, independent voice actors bring elements of drama, credibility, and showmanship to your spots. They don't get lost in the clutter.

In the end, your advertising is more successful because it commands the listener's attention and gets results.

Finally, there's the price issue. Free sounds great, but how much is that "free" actually worth? Most voiceover actors, myself included, operate their own studios and can provide complete creative services - from copy writing to voiceover to producing a finished spot at very reasonable rates.

You also gain the benefit of a professional who gives your spot complete attention and wants to earn your repeat business. Radio DJs and staff announcers don't get paid extra to do your spot, and they may not be happy about it either - it's just one more spot on the list of 5 or 10 spots they have to do that day, in addition to doing prep for their on-air show, paperwork, and the show itself. Because they simply don't have the time to give you their full attention, you might end up with a spot that's not great, but "good enough."

When you think about the total cost of your advertising schedule, the cost of choosing a a pro voice actor versus the station's "free production" offer works out to a small percentage of your ad budget. But the results a pro voiceover actor will get you are much greater!

So when the sales exec from the station offers you free production, tell him "no thanks." Then get in touch with, or one of the many fine VO talents working today.

- Fred Pagano


BullShots! is written by Fred Pagano, and is published by Brown Cow Studios of Boston.

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