Sold Comic Final2We gave the well worn real estate phrase, “location, location, location” a completely new spin a couple of weeks ago while recording some new radio with Minneapolis Ad Agency, BBDO and their client, Edina Realty.

A significant amount of the time we spend crafting your average radio ad, TV spot or podcast is devoted to the sound-design; creating those essential environments and locations with special effects, foley, sound effects, and production music.

But, y’know, there are times, as this recording session proved, when simply bypassing the high tech audio production gear and running with your instinct gives you true “sweat equity”.

Gary Groomes in Studio B at Babble-On with Mark Benninghofen “producing”

The idea behind the radio ad, “Sold” was to create an ad within an ad using the typical dialogue that occurs between a voice-over talent and a producer/director. Ross Phernetton, the writer came upon the scheme this way –

“The goal was to launch a new campaign with a sense of urgency. So we went with a dozen 10-second spots and a one-word tagline. Then, in a Red Bull bender the weekend before presenting, two thoughts occurred to me. Yes only two. One: Clients will approve any radio spot if the tagline is mentioned every five seconds. Two: I thought it would be funny to do a spot about the making-of-the-spot that would be 6 times longer than the actual spot. Of course, it didn’t turn out to be funny for that reason… It’s works because I had [great voice over] talent

For our part, when we typically record dialogue, we stick both actors in the booth so that they can work off of each other. (Hey, there’s an insight!) Anyway, John Lukas, who was engineering this session, had a better idea – since this was supposed to be a real dialogue between an announcer and a producer, he put Gary Groomes (our voice-over guy) in the booth where he would normally be, but “re-located” Mark Benninghofen (our producer/director character) to the producer’s chair next to him at the console. Radio Verité. By recording with this setup we were assured of the natural energy that occurs with these interactions, and of getting that authentically crappy talkback mic sound (complete with clicks, room tone, off-mic head turns, etc) recorded into the final track. There was one big hitch though – if you try to record with the talkback mic open and the speakers live you’ll get hellacious, railroad-spike-in-the-ear feedback.

This gave rise to a fairly amusing recording scenario…

“so we turned the speakers off and everyone had headphones but me and my client. So there I sat on couch looking at one talent in the “captain’s chair” …(where I would normally sit)…with his back to me and the other talent miming his way through the script behind glass. Like listening to half of a phone conversation, I didn’t know if it was working or what Gary was doing until the play back of each take. …Gary really enjoyed having a writer not be able to hear him read…

…Of course, at first, they read it as imagined, with each “Sold” said in a different way. But the first time Gary did it as you hear it, we knew we had something, and that’s the take we used…Thanks to Susan Cowsert and the folks at Edina Realty for allowing the creative process to extend all the way through production….

With no real sound-design necessary at this point, all John had to do to finish the mix was to tighten up a few edits and adjust the levels. That sure doesn’t happen everyday. Here’s the spot, “Sold” for Edina Realty.

Mark Benninghofen can be booked through his agent, The Wehmann Agency. Gary Groomes can be scheduled through is representative, Moore Creative Talent, Inc. Thanks go to Angela Narloch as well for being the actual producer for this whole series of radio ads.