Speak The Speech I Pray You …

“Speak the speech I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines.” William Shakespeare

Willy, I feel your pain. We’re in the process of casting voice talent for a spec radio spot. Since we will use this spot as a sample of our work, we want it to be really great. Gripping. Emotional. Life changing. Okay, maybe not life changing. But we would like to get some business from it, which could change OUR lives, so yeah, life changing.

I would like to talk a little about the audition process. I realize that doing a great voice over is hard. You have to get the right inflection, with everything timed perfectly, and just enough energy without sounding rushed. Plus you’ve got to sound like you’re REALLY jazzed about whatever service or product is being touted, no matter how utterly mundane or silly it may be. Pants on sale? AMAZING! Toilet bowl cleaner? YES PLEASE! Jalapeno-flavored water? CAN’T GET ENOUGH! It’s not easy. However, since a top voice over actor can make more money in one afternoon than most people make in a month, it’s not bad work if you can get it.

For the most part, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to voice over auditions. Most people will come in and read the spot just fine. But often it’s just not what the producer wants. Maybe it’s not what they heard in their head. Maybe the voice sounds too old, or too young, or just too voicy. “Can you try that again, but this time really make me believe you’re a disembodied head.”

And believe me, as the writer, I KNOW the words I have written are not great literature. However, I have labored long and hard over them. Each and every one. Shakespeare I’m not, but I assure you, great thought and care has been put into the particular arrangement of each word, each sentence. Please – I implore you – read the words as written, and resist the temptation to add, change, molest, or alter the language. It will be truly appreciated!

And so, I thank you, Kind and Gentle Voice Over Person. Without your voice, my words are nothing. Together, you and I – we will create ART! We will come together in a cosmic dance of love and understanding, and we will inspire and provoke and delight. We will reach new heights of vocal communication. Thank you! Oh – and on your way out can you please send in the town-crier?


Branding Snow Cones

This weekend Rick and I found ourselves at our little neighborhood bagel shop drinking something called a “chemy” and trying to brand snow cones.

Verdugo Bagels is about as far from Starbucks as you can get. This is not one of those hip places with designer scones and fancy lattes. They have good bagels and coffee, and if you don’t want to spend $30 for breakfast, this is a great place to go on Sunday morning. 

But – this was Saturday night, and as Rick and I passed by on a walk, talking once again about our hopes and dreams for the future, we noticed two unusual things. One – the bagel shop was still open, and two – they were selling “snow cones. ” Rick’s family is from Puerto Rico where they have their own version of the snow cone – called “piragua” (a pyramid of water!) and I grew up in New York and can vividly remember the tinkling bells of the snow cone carts in the summer. Snow cones seemed an unusual item for a bagel shop, so we decided to stop in and check it out.

A few minutes later we were sitting outside with the house special – called a “chemy” – a variation of the traditional snow cone, but this one made with real fruit, sweet condensed milk, and shaved ice.  Rick got the tamarind, and I got strawberry.  Delicious! As we slowly sipped our drinks, we started talking to the engaging woman from Mexico who makes the “chemies.”  She told us her nickname was Chapita, and she was very excited about  her “Chemy’s Chapita” (think “Oysters Rockefeller”). She showed us her handmade sign, where she had written “raspados” – the Mexican term for snow cone.  Except she had written it as “Raspa-2”. “2” is “dos” in Spanish. It took me a minute to figure it out, but I had to smile. Chapita was doing a little branding!

She told us about her special chemy – made with a combination of ingredients that are particularly good after a night of too much alcohol.  She asked us if “hair of the dog” was the right thing to call it, because her boyfriend had suggested that name but she didn’t really like the “hair” part.  We offered a few names and she carefully wrote down our suggestions, thinking about each one, pronouncing the words carefully, trying to understand a language that is still somewhat foreign to her. 

Then she told us her dream, that on weekends the little bagel shop would be filled with all the people of the neighborhood, hanging out, drinking cool chemies, listening to music, talking. She would love to be the hostess, overseeing all, offering delicious food and drink.

I got excited as she talked and suddenly I could imagine her dream too – the night air full of music and conversation.  Suddenly the little bagel shop was a cafe in Paris.  I could also see students from the nearby college rolling in on a Sunday morning after a wild party, ready for a bagel and a special chemy to cure them of a pounding head and a queasy stomach.

Rick and I were inspired by Chapita’s dream. Branding doesn’t just have to be about pushing product. It can be about bringing your own particular vision to life. Creating something that says “This is who I am and what I stand for.” I hope Chapita can find the right words to make her dreams come true. She has passion and is a hard worker. And I hope Rick and I can find the right words to make our dreams come true, as well. And when we do, maybe we’ll celebrate with a snow cone.


And Also, There is No Santa Claus

I got an e-mail from a good friend yesterday telling me about an amazing occurrence that was to take place in the sky.

Apparently on Aug. 27, at 12:30 a.m. the planet Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye!!! This will happen because Mars will come within 34.65 Million miles of earth!!! It will actually look like the earth has two moons!!! The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287!!! NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see this again!!!

Naturally, I was very excited about seeing TWO MOONS in the sky!!! I quickly sent this exciting news off to my friend in New York, who is into astronomy. I’m like that. I share. I immediately got back an e-mail from him, patiently explaining to me that this was an old urban myth and directing me to Snopes to read all about it.

All the exclamation points should have been the first tip off. But hey, no harm done. I informed the friend who had sent me the e-mail, and she had already been informed by the friend who had sent her the e-mail. (That’s progress, no? In the early days of the internet these kind of e-mails would go for months before you’d learn the truth. Now, we can find out very quickly that the huge cat is just Photoshop.)

huge cat
What does this have to do with marketing?

We, who in the business of marketainment (or is it entermarketing?) are of two minds with all this. Because hey, it’s FUN to make pictures of gigantic cats. During the home remodeling frenzy of the last few years, I wrote a (satiric) article about the government instituting a remodeler’s dress code, and I actually received an angry letter from someone defending their right to wear overalls. They believed me! Which … is kind of fantastic. But which also made me feel a little guilty. I never meant to trick anyone. I thought it was so ridiculous that no one would ever believe it. A government-imposed dress code for private citizens? That’s crazy! About as crazy as … two moons in the sky.


Dear Sir or Madam …

Pepperidge Farm

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to share with you a recent experience concerning your product. Today I opened a package of Chantilly cookies, touted on your website thus:

“The sweet raspberry filling of the Chantilly beckons beneath a latticed cookie with a powdered sugar dusting.”

I spread the cookies out on a plate. I was expecting company so I thought a plate would be the proper presentation, rather than straight from the package, which is my natural inclination. When I gazed upon the cookies on the plate, I noticed something rather alarming. THERE WAS NO POWDERED SUGAR! The cookies were bare.

The nude cookies not only startled me, I also found myself confronted by a confusing choice that I feel no consumer of a delicious treat should have to make. That being – should I return the cookies to the package and take them back to the place of purchase, requesting a refund? Or should I go ahead and serve them to my guest, hoping that the lack of proper topping would not so alter the experience of the cookie as to render it unacceptable.

As the arrival of my guest was imminent, I realized I had to be decisive. I sampled one of the barren cookies. As I had suspected, it was very tasty, bursting with raspberry goodness. However, I had to admit that the lack of powdered sugar did slightly alter, though not entirely compromise my enjoyment of the cookie. I would never wish to subject my guest to a lessoned experience, but as I had no other treat to offer, I had to make a very difficult decision. What, dear Sir or Madam, I ask you, was I to do?

Feeling that the raspberry flavor made a strong showing on its own, I elected to serve the cookies. My guest never remarked on the altered appearance of such. I suspect she would not have mentioned any lack of enjoyment of the treat, being a person of superior manners and upbringing. I will never know if I offended by my offering. I did notice that she partook of several of the cookies, so I assume they were not found lacking. But that is only an assumption.

Hence, my dilemma. I suppose I can not truly complain about an inferior product, as the cookies in question were consumed and enjoyed, to a large degree. But knowing that the experience was not as complete as it could have been, nay, should have been, leaves me somewhat sad. That greatness was within reach yet not attained is, perhaps, a statement on life as we live it these days. I know that your worthy organization strives to greatness, which is why I have taken the time to inform you of my experience. You may proceed as you see fit.

Thank you very much for your time.


Brevity Is The Soul of Wit …

I recently watched this video about keeping power point presentations brief. It is not only entertaining, but it also offers some very useful information. Fortunately I have not had to give many power point presentations. I’d rather give a presentation using a puppet show or, perhaps, interpretive dance. I suspect this is why I have not been asked to give many presentations.

Something I have been doing recently is writing 30 second radio spots. 30 seconds is not a lot of time to create characters your audience can connect to, have those characters say funny things, include all the market speak and legal, and also tell the audience what you want them to do. It’s a challenge, but a fun one. You have to choose your words very carefully. Which makes you really concentrate on exactly what it is you’re trying to say.

Perhaps I can best sum it up in this haiku, which follows the traditional English 5 syllable-7 syllable-5 syllable format:

Thirty second spot
Be brief and also funny
Sell lots of product


Call Me Ginger

Ginger

When it comes to understanding market speak, I feel a lot like this wonderful FAR SIDE cartoon by Gary Larson.

The other day I read a sentence that went something like “… defining a methodology for the metrics of engagement …” I think he meant “figuring out how to measure the way the audience engages with your website.” So why didn’t he just say that?

I admit the word “metrics” has a certain appeal. There’s something about jargon that makes you feel like a twelve year old, talking all in code and stuff. Neat!

I realize this may be old hat for some of you. To you I say, “Cool hat! Can I borrow it some time?” For the rest of us, may I suggest Seth Godin? I have to admit that sometimes I still feel like Ginger when I read his site, but he offers good information and some entertaining videos. And, if I understand what he’s saying, he also seems to suggest that there is a place for individuality and passion in all of this jargon. Which I am totally for. Because I want to bring something original to the work I do. I’ll learn the language, but I don’t want to completely lose my inner Ginger.


Going Networking

So, Rick and I went networking last night. It’s a lot like going trick or treating. We dressed up.  My costume was the always challenging “I’m creative but I’m also in charge” and Rick went for the ever-reliable “owner of small but successful media company.” Then we set out to bag us some treats. (Don’t you hate the people who give out apples?)

I know that networking, at its best,  is about the other person.  Finding out what they do, what excites them, what they’re working on. Making a connection that maybe, somewhere down the road, might lead to a collaboration that will be mutually beneficial to all involved. Networking, at its best, is sowing seeds.  It’s is a long term investment with a slow but gradual payoff.  

But in “the biz,” where things move at the speed of light, gradual is a hard concept to get behind. Something happens when you get in a room filled with ambitious, hardworking people. The survival instinct kicks in and suddenly you’re bragging on yourself. It reminds me of that joke about actors:  “But enough about ME. Let’s talk about my career!” 

Last night we went to a party sponsored by a company we do business with. Because we do both post-production sound and creative, there were lots of different people we could potentially work with in the future, on many levels. We met talent – people we hope to hire to work with us, and we also met other producers – whom we hope might hire US to work with them.  At a certain point last night I started to feel like a used car salesman – “I got the perfect company for you right here! Ain’t she a beauty? Can’t you just see yourself sitting behind the wheel at Post Haste Media, taking her for a spin? Approving a campaign idea? Demanding last minute changes? Now, I’m gonna be straight up honest with you. You know if you don’t snap this little baby up right now someone else gonna come along and you’re gonna see ’em out there with a funny little promo and you’re gonna be kicking yourself! That’s right, kicking yourself, thinking ‘That should be me with that funny little promo.’ ”  

But all in all we had a very good time. We scored a few business cards, and there were these totally awesome fried goat cheese appetizers. And we had a celebrity sighting – the young actor who plays “McLovin” in the new movie SUPERBAD. He was charming and down to earth and working the room. At first I wondered what he was doing there, being that his movie was about to open and he was on the verge of being catapulted to instant stardom. But then I realized – he was there doing the same thing we were. Networking! Smart kid, that McLovin.