John Trenton Memo to the WTMA DJs
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One of the WTMA/WPXI production rooms

Below is a transcribed memo to the WTMA airstaff
from the Production Director from sometime in the 1970s.

WTMA PRODUCTION

Since the produced commercial is the station's bread and butter, it is important that start and stop dates, production cover sheets and general copy mentions be carefully checked by the production man to insure that all is in order and correct. An incorrect spot is not paid for by a client. The production man is the last inspector of this material and shares the responsibility with the production department for scheduling and copy errors.

Since the produced commercials amount to up to 10 minutes of our airtime every hour, it is imperative that all of our produced commercials be of the best quality. Bad production retards our over-all air sound greatly, while good material can help us tremendously.

All production men should be well schooled in production techniques and delivery in order to maintain this quality. When a piece of copy and/or production is of poor air quality, it will be reassigned to its producer. Final copy cuts are at the discretion of the production man. If copy cuts are necessary, make them, but use common sense in cutting.

Certain specific policies should become habit after a time, because they are used to aid the jock in control. Be aware of these at all times.

We are capable of the best production in town. Just reading the copy over a record is not enough. You have the creativity to come up with some really superb commercials.

Be certain you understand our target audience (that means much more than just knowing who they are). This will greatly effect the approach you may use. We strive to eliminate the abrasive, hard-sell sound that competes for attention with all that surrounds it. We won't produce such spots, and whenever possible, we won't accept such abrasive spots even from agencies. Use judgment. If there is ever any question, ask the Production Director if it's acceptable.

Shoot for smooth, well-produced product on each order. Vary your approach; extend your style. Be tasteful. Be Understandable and communicate meaning and emotion. The most important factor to take into consideration is believability!!!

Any commercial containing questionable material, and/or any commercial of such poor quality that it might not meet our standards should be immediately called to the attention of the production and/or program director.

Production men should be aware that the primary function of a commercial is to sell a product. Delivery and production included in our spots should sell and at the same time be of sufficient quality to be listenable to all audience members.

Production men are responsible directly to the production department for producing material within the specified time. Don't wait until the last moment to do an assignment. This will help us keep on top of the load.

The procedures set forth in this manual may seem complicated at first, but they are all logical and have an important purpose. Become familiar with the following information and stick to it.

PRODUCTION ORDERS

There will be a "Production Order" attached to all copy. This is the form filled out by the account executive and has all pertinent information about the order on it. Usually, any questions you may have about the order can be answered by simply examining the production order form. Most of the time you won't need to refer to this form, however, if you do have questions and the information you need is not contained on the form, contact the account executive. It is wise to make sure of everything involved in the order so you don't end up spending an hour on a really fine piece of production only to find out that you mispronounced the client's name. When a piece of copy is completed it should be stamped with the stamp provided and returned for filing to the traffic department.

PRODUCTION SHIFTS

The Program Director will inform you of when you are to be available for production. During your production shift, you and only you are entitled to the production studio. If someone is in there dubbing an aircheck or whatever, politely tell them to get out.


J.J. Scott in one of the WTMA/WPXI production rooms

MUSIC

Occasionally, cold voice spots are effective. As a general rule however, we utilize music to keep our pace constantly on the upswing within each commercial set. Keep this in mind as you consider the use of music. If you are doing production, you know music. You know not to use Ricky Ricardo's band. Use music that fits our sound and will compliment and help sell the product. Ie: good rock, uptempo jazz. Avoid strident abrasive music. Sound effects add a lot when they are used properly. The sounds behind your voice should always compliment your style. In reference to variety, don't use the same type of music on a spot this week that you used on a spot last week. Avoid at all costs the use of music which has been used on station promos.

Don't be afraid to use classical/classical-moog material. It helps to keep a "prestige" sound about our spots. Do avoid using Beethoven's 9th and the like, which may have religious con-notations.

The production albums are in the production studio. Production albums are to be filed in their proper place.

IMPORTANT RULES CONCERNING MUSIC

1. Current music: Only in two cases can a current, golden or any programmed music be used.

a. A spot involving the song itself, such as a record and a tape spot, movie theme, etc.
b. A spot involving the artist to promote a concert or album sales.

2. Intros: Do not start a spot with the beginning of any song we play, or that is recognizable to the mass audience. If possible, don't use the beginning of any song we play even if it doesn't come at the start of the spot. It's deceiving, makes folks think we are about to play their song.

Remember pace, and keep it building any way you can. Don't let the intensity drop. Example: if there is a tag to be added, don't just throw it on cold....produce, add similar music and make it sound like apart of the original spot.

SPOT ENDINGS

Unless the production instructions specifically say otherwise, all produced commercials should end cold voice (two words) or simultaneous stinger with last word in the copy. This policy was created to give the station sound a consistency and superior on-air sound. Music trail out is not acceptable (except when there is to be a live tag added by the jock.) If a spot comes in from an agency with a music trail of stinger, remove it. Example: (spoken) "...Gladys Knight and the Pips for Coke... (sung)...ooh lalala Coke." Fade it smoothly, but quickly after the announcer's last word. The same thing applies to a spot which is all singing. Example: (sung) "....Coca Cola is so swellllalalala..." We cut it at "...Coca Cola is so swell." This may shorten the length of the spot by a few seconds, but that's okay.

COPY

General: You are the announcer. The spot you produce represents not only the client, but also you. You are a big part of the station's on going image. If the copy is redundant, ever hip, or hokey, change it. If you need to change a line or a thought in order for you to communicate the message properly, feel free to do so. This is not to encourage extensive jock rewrites. Those persons writing copy will strive to provide fresh imaginative copy, but it must fit you and your interpretation. Amend it to compliment your approach. Always be sure to retain the original meaning through your changes. Watch connotative meanings. Use judgment and clear any major changes through sales.

IDENTITY

Never include yourself as part of the sponsor's claim by saying "we". Example: "....Tonight's sale here at Sears. We invite you..." Never elude that you are in fact there, by saying "come" instead of "go". Example: "....The Texaco grand opening. Come on out". Don't mix identity, and never endorse. No station call letters in commercial copy. Never include your name in a spot. Ie: "...Hi, this is Jim White for Sam's Tattoo."

UPDATES

No fun but necessary. When a spot refers to a specific upcoming event, several spots will be cut, so that as the event date approaches, we will have a spot specifically and clearly referring to that time and date.

Example:

1st copy) Beatles coming Sunday, July 22nd. (runs thru July 15th)
2nd copy) Beatles coming Sunday. (runs thru Friday the 20th)
3rd copy) Beatles coming tomorrow. (runs Saturday only)
4th copy) Beatles coming tonight. (runs Sunday only)

Update information will be provided with production orders. Unless update instructions are provided you can assume that only one spot is required. If there is any question check the stop date, or call the salesman who had that account. All update spots should be produced at the same time to avoid last minute hassles.

TIME REFERENCE

If a concert is at 8 P.M. on a Saturday, the copy should say: "....Saturday night at eight." or: "...Saturday at 8 P.M." Not: "...Saturday Night at 8 P.M." Night and P.M. are redundant and not acceptable. When a spot refers to a sale or event, "...happening noon 'til nine Thursday.', it is inexcusable to hear that spot on the air after noon, or after the sale is over. An update spot should be cut which would begin at noon saying: "happening now 'til nine tonight." When a spot does refer to a sale ending time notify traffic to insure the spot will not be logged after the sale is over. As a further safeguard, put a note on top of the cart: "Do not run after 9 P.M."

OTHER MENTIONS

If a spot mentions a product which that client doesn't normally sell, a notation should be made on top of the cart. Traffic should also be notified. Example: "Go to Sears and have a free Coke and register for a Yamaha mini bike". This Sears spot shouldn't run in the same spotset with a Dr. Pepper or Honda commercial.

LENGTH

As a rule of thumb, we are primarily concerned with not going over the allotted time rather than being under. Naturally, try to come as close to 60 or 30 seconds as you can, but if there is just no way you can stretch the copy farther than 52 seconds, fine. When it comes to going over, here is the rule: 60 second spots should be no longer than 61 seconds. 30 second spots should be no longer than 31 seconds.

Any spot heard on the air which violates any of the preceding or following guidelines, ie: over-length, poor quality, questionable copy, incorrect end-cues, etc., should be called to the attention of the Production or Program Director.

SUMMARY AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

1. Run carts past splices, and never record over them.

2. Clean heads on both the reel-to-reel and cart machines before and after each production session.

3. Don't use slapback echo unless you are putting it on a voice track which will eventually have music under it...even then do not use much.

4. Be quality conscious. If you are dubbing an agency spot which you think is of questionable taste, get the Program Director and get his opinion on whether or not we will air the spot.

5. When you have finished a session in the production room, clean up after yourself. Old labels should be thrown away. Tapes, records, sound effects, unused labels and the like should be put in the respective places. Cover sheets and copy should be returned to Traffic for filing.

Are you a former WTMA employee or listener with a story to share?
We'd love to hear from you! E-mail John Quincy.


 

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