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emails from a car dealership

A series of emails between a car dealership and a radio voiceover company.

FROM: Timothy Richards
Business Development Manager
Cookman Auto Sales LLC

DATE: March 20, 2021

See “baseball season” radio spot, attached. Email Terry with questions. This has been approved by Dave and Thomas Cookman.

NOTE TO VOICE ARTIST AGENCY: Keep to under 30 SECONDS!!!! This is important and will be checked internally.

Excited to work with your team again. To reiterate our primary note: Ad MUST be 30 seconds long. At 31 seconds, we pay an additional $500 to three of the 78 local stations.

These are ANNUAL CONTRACTS, which is problematic in the baseball communications vertical.

This was partly our fault last year, though not completely.

We did not acknowledge the actual extent of the radio contract in our communications. You may be surprised, as I was: There are 162 games (baseball) per year, not counting rainouts, and almost exactly as many broadcasts! Please keep this in mind during performance.

This is our concern because an extra second can create a substantial decrease in ROI and other tracked metrics. In fact, last year, we paid over $240,000 extra for the 31-second ad your firm submitted, owing mostly to extraneous pauses and (if I may) languorous pronunciation. 

We attempted to cut out a second of audio, but were unable to recreate the natural sound of the talent with our in-office technology. Our CEO Douglas Cookman remarked that the finished product sounded “fruity,” which pertained to the quality of audio itself and was not a homophobic inference (Douglas has many gay and non-binary friends and clients). We decided to use the 31-second ad, which resulted in the aforementioned overcharge.

Needless to say, this is totally unacceptable. As mentioned last February, our budget assigns a maximum of $150,000 for production errors. Last year’s overrun resulted in a restatement of financial expectations in our internal Q4 report, which created an undue burden that forced one of our administrative assistants to work on Christmas Eve. 

As a partially family-owned company, this was a major concern for us. We are thankful for our administrative assistants and compensated the employee (Deborah) appropriately.

Despite last year’s mistake, we continue to use your firm because, frankly, you are the least expensive (but still very capable!) option in the greater St. Louis area. We also noticed better-than-average ROI for last year’s longer advertisement, which is why we sent an official “thanks” in our holiday package to your firm. 

So with that in mind, we can let these “bygones be bygones,” but to be clear, I will not sidestep or shirk the issue: We would prefer to make all creative decisions IN-HOUSE!!! This is VERY important to our CEO Douglas Cookman.

Please contact Terry if you are unable to make this ad fit into the 30-second (NOT 31 SECONDS!!!) spot. Also, we will need time for the 5-second bumper at the end of the spot.

So, actually, please keep ad to 25 seconds. 

PLEASE PROVIDE TIMING WITH COMPLETED AUDIO FILE AND PLEASE CC: TERRY.

Ad follows. PLEASE READ AS WRITTEN! Last year’s ad included an ad-lib by talent, which was not appreciated by Douglas Cookman (Cookman Auto CEO). The copy read, “That’s a great deal,” but talent read, “Wow, that’s a great deal.”

The addition of the hyperventilative “wow” may have contributed to aforementioned time issue.

Distressingly, we also received poor social media engagement as a result of this addition. Several Twitter users noted that “wow” is synonymous with, and I quote:

white middle-class feelings of subterfuge – @Proper_Yoda

This is NOT the brand we’re building at Cookman.

Our target audience is, in fact, middle-class, but we take pride in honest pricing, and we have explicitly declared in our company literature that we do not prefer customers of a particular race (see first attachment, paragraph 2, sentence 7). 

This is not a cavillous point: Voiceover performances should reflect our company values. Please review the attached materials for an even more thorough explanation.

AND PLEASE EXPRESS THIS TO TALENT, FIRMLY BUT POSITIVELY!!! We cannot allow for ANY ad-libs. To this end, I have included extensive (and explicitly detailed!!!!!!) guidance. Any performance decisions should be checked with Terry. 

If any talent has questions regarding this script that cannot be addressed internally, they MUST receive a sign-off from either Terry or Douglas (please do not contact Douglas unless Terry is unavailable for a minimum period of two days).

Script follows.

PERSONAL NOTE: Personally, I loved last year’s radio spots provided by your firm. No-Nonsense Voiceovers delivered on its promise, with the obvious exception of the unnecessary ad-lib(s), and the timing issue detailed above. We saw an increase of 18.56% ARGS and nearly 40% HTR, which I explained to Douglas Cookman in our quarterly meeting.

However, Douglas (he prefers to be called Douglas) expressed restrained consternation regarding some of the decisions reflected in the final advertisement. His concerns are my concerns.

I do not blame your firm entirely, though the fault was not wholly mine, either.

My wife had started a new job at the time, and our schedules rarely lined up, which inhibited my at-home productivity significantly from April-June. Regrettably I was unable to provide an extensive overview of the submitted materials before their publication. I have created a three-point plan to resolve this oversight over the next quarter.

This is why I have provided so many notes on this draft. Put yourself in my position; Douglas is not a micro-manager (this is noted in our company literature). He entrusts his team to “act like a real team,” or even a baseball team, if you will, and I’m sure you will. As the “captain” or “starting pitcher” of the audio marketing division, I have extensive responsibilities (and quite a bit of power) to leverage company resources as I see fit (“throw a strike”). I am expected to “knock it out of the park” and will not settle for a “single” or even a “triple.”

When a radio spot fails to meet the basic metrics (time, lack of adlibs, etc.) set by my office, this reflects on me!!! And you, to a greater extent. 

We’re happy to have you “on deck,” but please don’t “strike out!”

With that in mind, PLEASE REITERATE TO TALENT THAT SCRIPT MUST BE READ EXACTLY AS WRITTEN.

Script follows.

FINAL NOTE: Terry has not provided input on the first seven drafts (which have been forwarded to you for your preparation). Unfortunately, Terry is currently spending most of his time in the hospital with his male husband (Terry is gay, which I only note here to clarify the third paragraph of our company mission, which includes several clear — and bold — statements opposing discrimination, please review if necessary). 

Terry is still answering email and therefore should still be available for questions. Please keep questions brief, as Terry has limited time in just about every conceivable sense of the term.


PERFORMANCE NOTES

 When sentences end with exclamation points, read with excitement. NOT JUBILANCE. Some of these sentences require nuance. Please select talent accordingly.

CASTING: MAN SHOULD NOT BE OVERLY MASCULINE. WOMAN SHOULD NOT BE OVERLY FEMININE. Please listen to AT&T’s “Fiber Internet 2021 – Radio Spot” (attached) for guidance, but do not mimic. Do not strictly adhere (or shy away from) gender roles in a way that could alienate the target audience (middle-class consumers of any race who are “sick and tired” of traditional auto sales and wish to hit a “home run” with a reputable local family-friendly dealership located near the Crestwood Mall, but a safe distance away from the nearby smeltery).

Woman should not sound as though she is looking to Man for approval. Man should not sound aloof or incapable of making his own decisions. 

Woman should be confident, free, but not jubilant. Man should be easygoing, semi-confident, and curious. 

REMEMBER: We will request re-takes if necessary.

SCRIPT FOLLOWS!

MAN

Honey, that old clunker in the driveway isn’t doing too well!

WOMAN

Well, why are we keeping it around?

MAN

What do you mean?

WOMAN

Cookman Auto Sales is cutting the cost of new vehicles! We could head down there today.

MAN

Today? But the baseball game’s on!

WOMAN

Sure, but I love baseball too, and Cookman Auto is offering a real “home-run” of a sale!

MAN

A home run?

WOMAN 

Yes, a home run! Cookman Auto is “striking out” the competition with zero percent financing on all 2021 vehicles on the lot! 

[SOUND OF HOME RUN IN BASEBALL, ALONG WITH CROWD SOUND, PLEASE PROVIDE]

And the best part is that we can head there right now! The financing deal lasts all summer, so we can save on a brand-new vehicle whenever we have the time! We can even shop online!

MAN

Wow, that’s fucking great! Let’s head there now!

[END BUMPER]

Please provide FULL AD by end of day 4/10. We appreciate working with you!!!


FROM: Timothy Richards
Business Development Manager
Cookman Auto Sales LLC

April 25th, 2021

To whom it may concern,

In my previous message, I clearly explained the Cookman Auto Sales brand. I also wrote (and I have kept copies) that ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SCRIPT SHOULD BE REFERRED TO TERRY.

First, I will note that your firm followed most of our instructions (with one very clear, obvious, and unprofessional exception). Your talent clearly followed the guidance, and their performances were adequate, though not exemplary. In normal circumstances, I would not complain about the clear jubilance exhibited by the MAN actor in his penultimate line (“A home run?!”)

Now, for the elephant in the room. I will not skirt the issue. I admit that the typo in the script was my mistake. That is obvious. I was overwhelmed with family obligations at the time, which is why I was working from home for one day per week. I believe I had mentioned this in an earlier email (Jan. 1, 2021, “Setting Metrics for April Radio Spot”). 

This is not to excuse my mistake, as I do not make excuses.

This is simply to provide context which absolves me of any responsibility for the error.

I will not beat around the bush: If your firm is truly “no-nonsense,” I believe someone should have recognized the obvious flaw (curse word) in the final line of the copy. Leaving the errant entry in place was, frankly, unprofessional.

Playing this advertisement for Douglas Cookman, I became aware that your talent rushed the final line, perhaps (I hope not???) in an attempt to “sneak it by” us. Douglas certainly heard the error, and asked me, I quote, “what the (heck) was that?” I was able to offer an explanation, and an apology, which he accepted. To mitigate the error, I explained that your firm was no longer under contract with Cookman Auto Sales. Douglas (CEO) approved of this decision, and now I am relaying that to you.

I see no reason to hem and haw, straddle the fence, or even to equivocate: Our business relationship would likely end in litigation if you had not immediately issued a refund for the billed amount ($250). Needless to say, the advertisement (if it can be called that) was not acceptable for radio play.

We were able to use the advertisement on several fringe podcasts, which, frankly, do not fully conform with our stated brand identity. Through sheer ingenuity, I was able to recoup the moderate monetary investment (and a portion of the SIGNIFICANT TIME INVESTMENT) that we dedicated to your services.

Even so, I have several areas of disappointment.

First, I was under the impression that your firm would be more responsive. While you have provided the agreed-upon materials in a timely fashion, I have received limited interaction from your team after our initial consultation phone call. You have been absent on our firm’s proprietary communication tool (Cookman Auto Chatz, I provided 12 login tokens, only 3 of which have been used), and since last year, we have received a mere 37 emails from your firm (compare to my 113, not including Terry’s correspondence).

And this may seem “tacky,” but I kept an eye out for your firm’s holiday basket or other seasonal materials. When it arrived, I was disappointed at the lack of thought and the limited inclusivity. All items were exclusively Scandinavian. 

I cannot confirm whether you contacted Terry regarding the script, but I doubt that very much. While we have been unable to access Terry’s company account, his husband has stopped by the office several times and has relayed to me that Terry (his gay husband, with whom he surely discussed important matters) did not mention any of the script drafts prior to his (Terry’s) ultimate failure to lung cancer.

I am curious as to whether your firm has any records of such correspondence. Please forward if so. Regardless, we have moved on and will be using the services of a competing firm.

It did not have to be this way.

Timothy Richards

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