Z100 Creative Services Director Dave Foxx reveals how the station can run many radio promotions and still deliver high-quality output to listeners and sponsors every time.
At De Radio Dag (The Radio Day), Dave Foxx talked about radio imaging at New York’s Hit Music Station Z100, where he works for over 20 years now. He shared insights on how to produce radio promotions much more easy, and how to “keep a consistent, good product going to your audience” because “that’s what they crave”.
- The proven workflow schedule to make your marketing & promotion team invincible
- How to produce effective promos that keep your promotion sponsors happy, too
- The essential step before writing and producing any commercial or promo
- How to use human psychology to boost your production creativity
Create a mastermind
Z100’s major promotions are New York’s talk of town. The annual Jingle Ball extravaganza is a good example. How do they pull it off? The secret is planning in advance. Every 6 months, Z100 has an Off Campus Day where they use the skills and brainpower of the entire staff. All deejays record their show using voice tracks, so they can be part of the mastermind group. They enjoy lunch together and brainstorm, using a carefully prepared Excel doc.
Organize your plans
The so-called Big Pix (big picture) is a blueprint for Z100’s programming in terms of radio promotion & marketing. It’s a dynamic document that every team member can access. Just a few people can change it. They create a timeline of all calendar events that are known to happen now and in the future, such as holidays, celebrations, shows, concerts, sports events, etc.
Get an overview
The spreadsheet mentions on a daily basis (columns from the top down)
- What event is the most important of the day
- What promotion is being held around this event
- What other promotion is running (like Z100 Pays Your Bills)
- What internal event is happening (like an Auditorium Music Test)
- Which promos are being played within the 3 promo positions in the format clock
- Which liners are being teased by the jocks within the 3 liner positions in the format clock
- Which other things are being communicated on air (like Public Service Announcements)
Try something different
“Instead of saying two weeks out ‘We need to do something about Valentine’s Day!’, we already talk about it in September of the year before and come up with an idea then.” Dave says that Z100 often decides to go for an original approach when doing a promotion. “Many people find this day depressing; they have no Valentine – but they may have an ex. So one of the jocks said: let’s do a Shred Your Ex Party.” At this stage, it’s just about the ‘what’.
Keep on track
The ‘how’ is being discussed every Monday in a Braintrust Meeting. Present are heads of all departments; Sales, Marketing, Promotion, Programming and Creative Services. They discuss the current promotions and especially upcoming projects over the next few months in detail. Foxx: “When we talked about the Shred Your Ex Party, I suggested: what if we put a big wood chipper on stage, where people can bring photos, teddy bears and more that reminds them of their ex, and actually shred it?”
Look way ahead
The further they get in the timeline, the more people get involved. “Everybody has access to the Big Pix, so everybody’s on the same page from day one. The habit of mapping promotions out in advance gives our program director and promotion team the opportunity to really get their teeth into a project. I think we have one of the most dynamic promotional teams in the world because of the way we do this as a group.”
Optimize your workflow
The biggest complaint that Foxx hears from other producers is about PDs that don’t plan in advance. They come in at 4 PM and ask for a promo that needs to air the next morning. “I never had to do that at Z100. We work everything out in advance. There’s never a panic.” Because he knows what’s coming, he can collect the audio workparts for a promo before it has to be produced. “When it’s time to put it together… bing, bang, boom! Instead of 4 hours, it takes me 20 minutes.”
Take your time
“The quality of my work goes up 500 percent”, Dave Foxx says. It also enables him to condense the copy down and use 200 instead of 400 words. Promos on Z100 are no longer than 30 seconds. “It’s more powerful and cuts through clutter. A workflow like this slows down the promotional rollercoaster that we’re all on. Instead of incredible highs and incredible lows, keep a consistent, good product going to your audience. That’s what they crave.”
Involve the jocks
It’s important that deejays know what’s going on, and how a particular contest will be promoted. Every Thursday morning, they have a jock meeting where promos for the upcoming weekend and week are being played. “I don’t always catch every little mistake”, the producer admits. A jock might notice a detail that can be improved, but even then there’s no panic at all. “Because its Thursday morning, I have two full days to make any adjustments that need to be done.”
Limit sponsor credits
Sponsor credits inside promos are limited, so they won’t crash the promotion. “The rule is one client per promo, for what we call a ‘presented by’. We don’t allow sponsors anything more than a name-only mention, such as Z100’s Jingle Ball, presented by H&M. But often their spot will play immediately after the promo.” Clients are not involved in the copywriting, but can pre-listen productions before they air, to check if their name is mentioned correctly.
Identify your goal
What’s the best point to start when creating a concept and script for a new promo? According to Foxx, the most important step in copywriting is identify what you’re selling. “A concert promo is not selling concert tickets, but it’s selling a lifestyle. What do you think Domino’s sells? Well, it ain’t pizza! They sell service; 30 minutes or less, delivered hot and fresh to your door. Once you know what you’re selling, the rest becomes a lot easier. It distills your thoughts.”
Create original stories
How to enhance your creativity as a producer? Foxx uses a psychological principle to develop promo concepts. In a string of events there are 15 things we actually see, while in reality 50 things have happened. The human brain fills in the gaps. “Creativity happens within that space. Picture several different events, and think about how you get from one point to the other. That connection is a story; that’s where your creativity comes into play.”
Dave Foxx started his career as a radio personality before becoming Creative Services Director for Z100 (and one of the station voices). Dave works at New York’s Hit Music Station for more than 20 years, not only voicing and producing promos & imaging – he also creates concepts and writes copy. Apart from that, he oversees the imaging of other Clear Channel brands, does voice overs for clients worldwide, and shares his production knowledge. www.davefoxx.com