Days after Eastwood’s improv routine with the chair, the Internet is still ablaze with opinions – in both directions – about the effectiveness of the Oscar winning actor/director and former mayor of Carmel’s performance.
I’ll bet that most radio PDs, however, saw it differently. We’re accustomed to standing side stage and watching DJs, hosts, and teams do what they do. Most of the time, you know what’s coming because you’re a programmer – and a control freak. But there are those moments – like in the Eastwood speech – where there are surprises, and they’re not always good ones.
The Republican honchos were probably excited before the speech because of their great “get.” Most of the time, the Democrats own Hollywood and showbiz. So here was an opportunity to upstage the other party with a bigger than life celebrity. But it didn’t work out that way.
In many ways, Eastwood’s unscripted conversation with the chair was cringe-worthy for the Romney people, but avoidable. Here’s why this shoulda-coulda-woulda event didn’t go as planned:
- They let their guest star call the shots. Enamored with Eastwood’s star power, they simply gave him their talking points and hoped for the best. They let his celebrity overshadow the importance of the night and the moment.
- They did not demand a rehearsal. Even the most talented actors work better once they’ve done a run-through. But that wasn’t asked of Eastwood, and it showed when he hit the stage.
- They did not push their time limits. What was designed as a 3-4 minute speech ran more like 12 minutes. PPM PDs will tell you they’ve learned that even the best bits usually have to be shorter and more concise. And Eastwood’s sloppy ad-libbing delayed Governor Romney’s speech as prime time was running out.
- They didn’t know what was coming. Like the lawyer who asks questions that she knows the answer to, it sure helps when you know the direction and the message ahead of time.
- They didn’t review his script. How many times have PDs winced when a jock rambles off without the facts, getting important details wrong? Eastwood made several key errors, from criticizing lawyers who are Presidents (both Romney and Obama passed the bar) to chiding Obama for using Air Force One.
- They allowed Eastwood to win the night. Americans should have been talking about Romney’s speech the next morning. Instead they were debating Eastwood’s strange conversation with a piece of furniture.
But there was some upside, too. When every day sounds the same, people tune out. At the RNC event (like most political conventions), there really weren’t many surprises – speech after speech by current and past officeholders on a stage we’ve seen dozens of time before in a convention center filled with the same faces, weird hats, and placards.
I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the benefits outweighed the deficits. But as the folks at MTV might tell you, they depend on bizarre events at their Video Music Awards to provide memorable moments – the Madonna/Britney kiss, Howard Stern’s Fartman entrance, the Kanye West-Taylor Swift “interruption,” and others.
Those are the moments people talk about years later, but of course, that’s what the VMAs are about – controversy, outrage, and shock.
Not the usual qualities and takeaways the Republicans – or the Democrats – are going for.
While change, surprise, and spontaneity are all elements that can work, there’s a lot to be said for going in prepared, rehearsing a new bit, knowing your facts, having a plan, being mindful of the clock, and being aware of why consumers seek out your brand to begin with.
Former Mitt Romney adviser, Mike Murphy, tweeted: “Note to file: Actors need a script.”
So do most radio personalities.