When I grew up on Rabbit Hill, not only could I never have imagined that I’d still be in touch with some of the kids I knew then, but I would never have guessed how they would turn out as adults. One neighborhood boy, my brother’s best friend since 1972, grew up to write copy. We kids on the Hill had no idea that they paid grown-ups to do such things.
Mike’s a wizard of the tagline, those pithy marketing slogans that make you remember the product. (His tagline for the movie 102 Dalmatians: “This summer, Cruella’s pulling out all the spots.”) But no matter how a thing is advertised, he can write copy for it. Recently he’s been writing radio commercials – spots, they call them in the biz – for books their publisher hopes become bestsellers.
I’ve written a few radio spots in my time, too. Compared to Mike’s spots, the writing is good for a laugh. But I can say one thing he can’t: I got to voice my spots myself. Neener neener, Mike! But while Mike gets to write for the likes of Ben Stein, I got to write for the likes of motorcycle dealerships. And I had to live in Terre Haute to do it. So I guess it all balances out.
Here’s the spot I wrote for the motorcycle dealership.
The hardest thing about writing spot copy is getting it to fit within 30 or 60 seconds, the two most common spot lengths (in that order). Because I voiced this myself, I wrote it to fit the way I wanted to read it, which made it a little easier. It was often harder to read somebody else’s copy because either there were too many or too few words to fill the time. I would either have to speed up or slow down to hit the time target. Here’s a spot for tire dealer that somebody else wrote. It took me a dozen takes to make it work, but I’m sure a more experienced pro could have pegged it in one read. (The client chose the wacky music bed – I certainly wouldn’t have used it voluntarily.)
Truth be told, most of my production work was reading a brief tag at the end of national spots sent to us by ad agencies. I read somebody else’s words at the end of this Taco Bell spot.
I have plenty of radio stories. Like this one. And this one. And this one.