In the late 90’s, I worked as a copywriter at a radio station. The idea, back then, was to try and write stuff that was moving away from the accepted idea of a local radio ad – to avoid the clichés and cheesy crassness that (we were told) lost the station thousands of listeners. Instead, we were to make ads that were a bit less annoying and, hopefully, more bearable, if not likeable. That was the somewhat optimistic notion of the day. Of course, the repetitive nature of radio ad campaigns often kills that hope stone dead after about three days. No matter how well its written performed or produced, it’s ultimately going to get on people’s tits. It was my happy task to compose the jaunty jingles that, under the guise of informative entertainment, plagued the homes and workplaces of Humberside and beyond.
There were moments of grim hilarity to be had in the job, not least when the clients insisted on writing and making their own little personalized monsters of the airwaves. These advertisers all held certain beliefs in common: that an audience of potential consumers could best be wooed by 1) shouting at them and 2) pretending to be mentally ill. Hence, Mad Mike’s Tiles N’ Floors, Big John’s Big Car Superstore, Krazy Kolin’s Kastle Of Kunting Karpets, etc etc. Stick a microphone in front of the manager of a shoe shop in Grimsby and you got thirty terrifyingly frantic seconds of public self-delusion. And then they’d ring you up on the phone and complain their ad wasn’t loud enough.
The gaffer wrote the script, allocated the voice-overs, and directed them to within an inch of their lives. Legend has it that he did not let any of them go home until they had performed their parts to his satisfaction
Sometimes, though, you were gifted pure aural gold. Radio commercials you would want to play again and again and again. The best of this glorious bunch was undoubtedly SuperScreen, a large retail outlet in the Teesside area that sold TV’s and Videos.
The story goes that the gaffer of SuperScreen was not happy with the efforts of the local stations Creative Team. Their ads were not good enough. They had missed the brief. They didn’t make the right sort of impact. SuperScreen was not like any other TV and Video retail outlet, he reasoned. SuperScreen was massive! SuperScreen was the best! He wanted his ad to explode from the regions speakers and stick like glue on the minds and lips of his captive audience.
To demonstrate his point, he locked his entire staff into the office one Saturday night and made them all record a radio advert into a cassette recorder. The gaffer wrote the script, allocated the voice-overs, and directed them to within an inch of their lives. Legend has it that he did not let any of them go home until they had performed their parts to his satisfaction. I think they were there until midnight, on this industrial estate in Middlesbrough. Listening back now, fifteen years or so later, you can still hear the terror in their voices. No more words – listen to the greatest radio commercial in the world – SuperScreen!
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