Comp-3Hard working. Straight ahead. No nonsense. Beer. Meat. Potatoes.

For those who sweat the job site or earn their bacon toiling in steam filled kitchens across the country, those words are worn like a badge of honor …or a pair of kick ass boots.

Red Wing Shoes, a Minnesota company, has been making shoes and boots for working people since 1905. When you’re creating radio ads for an iconic brand like that, which has a “can-do” customer base at its core, you’ve got to be smart about what you say and and how you say it.

A couple of weeks ago we helped Colle+McVoy record, produce and stitch together a whole series of dealer kit radio spots for Red Wing Shoes and its subsidiary brand, WORX. The project gave us a chance to re-connect with John Neerland, a veteran of Cub Foods sessions with whom we used to spend hours in the aisles talking over tins of tuna with other waxy white suburbanites for Minneapolis ad agency, OLSON.

A few places you’ll catch the Red Wing and WORX badge.

This gig also provided us the opportunity to chop up audio for the first time with Colin Corcoran, a very savvy writer who was most recently at Hunt Adkins here in town.

From the start of the recording session it became clear that, for Colin’s Red Wing radio spots to work, they needed to speak clearly and concisely to an audience that doesn’t have wheels of brie in their fridge, or ringside seats at chessboxing matches. Lot’s of needless ornamentation and set up was out of the question. Problem was, could we make something so stripped down be entertaining and engaging?

Colin had this to offer about that predicament – “It’s amazing how a straight announcer read on paper can seem so lifeless. That is until you put that voice into an environment the listener can relate to. When you have that, the scripts practically write themselves. And the sound effects pretty much tell the story why you need Red Wing boots as much as the words do, but with a lot more dimension”.

The sound-design and audio post for these spots ended up being a lot of fun to create. The spots are heavily layered but they don’t feel that way – which took a little forethought and preparation. In Colin’s words, that “…led to sounds and textures I didn’t have time to think of; making the spots themselves that much stronger. There weren’t any tricks or comedy involved in concepting these. They were just simple and hard-working. Much like the voice talent was. Much like our target audience is.”

The most complex of the spots, called “Machine”, literally called on us to create a large inhuman automated background right out of the Hudsucker Proxy. We fashioned a rhythm track from various noises and then layered in steam, clanks and ratchets to complete the scene. Here are the radio ads “Machine”, “Waterproof”, “Insulated” and “Oxford”
Neerland returnsThe spots for WORX had the same audience dilemma, but Neerland’s approach for this radio campaign varied from Colin’s;”The challenging part about these spots was finding a way to speak to the WORX niche audience of construction and foodservice workers through a broadcast medium. So we decided to lean on that age-old radio axiom: when in doubt, sound effects. The result was a sort of radio Mad-lib…” that gave an overall more comedic approach to the spots.

Here are the mixes of “Oblique” and “Slip Resistant” for WORX from Red Wing Shoes and Colle+McVoy.

Greg, Amelia, and former “Guru of Grocery” John Neerland