By Pete Gustin
Voice Over Artist & Creative Services Director
BOSTON — “Imaging” isn’t nearly as difficult a concept to define as you might think, even when it comes to radio imaging. In fact, it’s quite simple. What is the image that you wish to portray to your listening public? Is it cool? Is it smart? Is it irreverent, connected or quirky? When done right, your radio imaging will give your listeners the overall impression that you are exactly what you tell them you are. It’s extremely powerful in fact. If you’ve ever heard the old saying “act as if”, that’s exactly what you should do when it comes to your radio imaging. Act as if you’re cool, or in this case, image as if you’re cool… and you will be.
So what happened? Why is the true art of imaging fading away? PPM consultants are breaking everything down into 15 minute segments and telling us that the most important thing to do is to get people from one block of listening to the next. So how do they propose we do this? It’s simple. Just tell the listeners what’s coming up next and they’ll stick around to hear it, Right? Maybe, but probably not. I can’t remember the last time I went to see a stand-up comic who, after delivering a really fantastic joke stopped to tell the crowd “Hey, if you liked that joke, stick around. I’ve got plenty more to come.” The show just keeps on going… until it absolutely has to stop.
For the comic, his show ends when his set is done. For us in radio, it stops as soon as the commercials start. Not as soon as the hosts stop talking, but as soon as the commercial starts. Understand that the imaging is a part of your programming. It’s a part of your brand. It’s a part of who you are. Don’t waste valuable imaging time beating people over the head with facts and teasers you want to sell them. The moment you do that, your imaging turns into an ad.
Coca-Cola has spent hundreds of millions of dollars showing you images of polar bears playing in the snow. For years, Budweiser let you watch their bottles of beer play mock football games. What did these two things “sell” you? Nothing really. Nothing more than an image, or a feeling. The polar bears are cute, and fun. Watching them play just gives you a good feeling. So, the next time you look at a can of Coke in the store, you smile, remember that feeling and hopefully pick it up and take it to the cash register.
What if however, the coca-Cola commercial went something like this:
“Coke tastes great. You can drink it with pizza, hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches and more. it comes in cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles and in all sorts of different sizes. Coke also makes Sprite, Barq’s, Fanta, Fresca and more!”
You know what you’d think? You’d think they were trying to sell you something, and in truth, they are. The trick however is not to be so blatant about it.
The local car dealerships scream about their deals and discounts. The car manufacturers however brand their vehicle lines with high end music, breath taking imagery, top notch actors and subtle innuendo.
Don’t be a local car dealer screaming at your listeners.
Take the time to sit down and figure out exactly what image it is that you’d like your listeners to have of you. You have the platform. You have the power. Just tell them what you want them to think, and if it’s all done right, they will think it. Write smart. Stay current. Choose a talented voice over artist to deliver your copy… not just read words on a page. Take time to select meaningful music and poignant sound effects. Hire an imaging director that you think of as a fine dining chef and not a fast food cook. Your chef should constantly be coming up with new recipes. He should be checking the trends and staying on the cutting edge. Let the other guys hire the fast food cook. He can bang out promo after promo after promo after promo until all of their listeners are sick of hearing the same old thing and decide that they deserve better.
Most importantly, don’t let your imaging turn into a signal to your audience that it’s time to flip the channel and come back in a few minutes. Imaging is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get into the mind of your listener, to implant yourself into his subconscious and to brand yourself exactly the way you want. Imaging is an opportunity. Use it wisely.
Pete Gustin is a nationally recognized voice over talent and creative services director most known for his work in Boston at WEEI and WRKO as well as the Dan Patrick Show, Sports USA Media, the Miami Dolphins, and the original production guru for all of Sirius Satellite Radio’s rock formats. He can be phoned at 781-817-5451 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.