Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Photo: Never is enough by TheAlieness Clever, playful image. Thank you

"Involvement seems to me to be everything in communication. If I do everything as the sender, the only thing left for the receiver to do is to refute it. Because the only contribution you can make is to disagree with me." Jeremy Bullmore

"It wins time.

Apart from Londoners on tube platforms reading posters until the train comes in, very few people have time to spare for all the messages people want to give them. How many people stop and look at a new pack on the supermarket shelf? How many spend time considering a new financial product when a brochure arrives in the mail? How many do more than glance at an annual report? The most precious gift a designer can give a client is the gift of someone else's time.

'Interactivity' is the buzz term for today. Depending on their energy levels and enthusiasm for the latest technology, designers are either trying to get to grips with it or trying not to think about it. But witty graphics have been interactive since the days of the long-playing record. The designer sets up an open not a closed system.

For example, most signs are straightforward, like 'Fire Exit' or 'No Parking.' What about a sign that gives information in a witty way? Suppose it says 'No Parking - don't even think about it'? This is a message with more than one layer. It acknowledges that not all drivers will simply go off and look for another space. Some people see the message, read the message, think about the message and decide to ignore the message. The 'don't-even-think about-it' sign accompanies that thought process, as it were. Then the mind considers the options, the sign makes a second hit. This is one aspect of participation, predicting and entering the dialogue.

Another aspect of participation is making demands on the audience. Imagine that there is a clothesline which stretches from the designer sending the communication to the person receiving it. If the communication is merely 'Fire Exit', the designer comes 100% along the clothesline, and the person at the other end doesn't have to move an inch. It is the same with any piece of straight information - it expects a passive recipient.

But when wit is involved, the designer never travels 100% of the way. The idea has to be 'seen' or decoded, and this demands an active recipient. The audience may need to travel only 5% or as much as 40% toward the designer in order to unlock the puzzle and get the idea. Wit invites participation because it asks the reader or viewer to take part in the communication of the idea. It is as if the designer throws a ball which then has to be caught. So the recipient is alert, with an active mind and a brain in gear." Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart from their wonderful book A Smile in the Mind. Amazon info here.

The notion of letting the reader, the viewer "fill in the blank" is very powerful. In film think Hitchcock's dark at the top of the stairs, arresting indeed; it's what you don't see. The concept also works very effectively in audio, one engages the listener mind. Let the listener fill in the blank. Encourage vicarious participation. Dare to involve the audience!

Opening Day: My thanks to programming ace Tom Teuber. Enjoyed a great lunch and some wonderful conversation. Tom has the gift of a storyteller. He painted vivid pictures from his childhood including his first time on the radio. It was the day he was an in-studio guest of the legendary Dan Sorkin on WCFL. Lucky for us the kid was never the same.

Thanks 2: Cara Carriveau checks in. She has some cool new audio now on offer - check out Cara's Basement here.

In all of art, it's the singer not the song: Seems fair to reprise the wise words of PJ. The Emmis Indy gang are getting out of the "remote" bidness. Fine but they have over-reached in making the claim that remotes don't work. What they should have said was commercial remotes, as they have been staging them, don't work. Check out the web page devoted to their announcement here. Those pics are just plain sad. They say it all. A jock phoning it in from a retailer, standing at a card table with station banner skirting or standing next to the station suv - nothing to write home about. Never has been. Where's the show? At least in the fifties a hop was, well, a hop. An actual event. An event that created traffic for the retailer and a fun experience for those who showed up.

As with any promotion the first question that should be asked is "are we asking folks to do something that we would never do? Would anyone have an interest in doing this? Why?" If the staff would never consider going to the remote why would a listener?

The same test holds true for gaming or contesting. Stations continue to ask listeners and viewers to do things staff would never even consider doing to have a chance at winning prizes no staffer wants. You know you are offering up the right premium when staff wants some. You know you're doing a remote "right" when staff shows up on their own time because they don't want to miss it. Here's the first clue. Broadcast from where people are or where they want to be. Nothing wrong with broadcasting from a retailer just ensure there is an appropriate reward, a pay off for their investment of time and attention. What's the attraction? What's the big deal? What's in it for the listener or the viewer? The idea is to broadcast from an event. Design the event first, the broadcast second.

Kudos to Emmis for having the courage to out bad execution and kill it. My sense is Paige Nienaber would have a creative solution and that is just what is called for here. The dirty little secret is remotes do work however they require thought, old fashioned hard work and a process most station folks simply don't understand. Station promotion teams, in the majority, don't know how to stage events from scratch; they don't know what they don't know. This is part of the "avail as blood sport" sales driven madness. The goal should be creating traffic. What would have to happen to get people into the tent? Once there what would make folks feel good about their decision, good enough to tell friends and family about the experience?

If the only thing happening is your talent showing up, if that's truly all you've got, you'd better have talent - talent people will go completely out of their way to meet.

In all of art, it's the singer not the song.

P.S. Clearly Emmis knows how to do the big remotes right - here's one example.

Red wine: Codice 2004 is another good Spanish red available for under $10. Vino de la Tierra de Castilla. The Eguren family are producers of fine wines in the old traditions of Spain. Hard to find better wine at these prices. Enjoy.

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