Nobody (well, almost nobody) reads the fine print. Whether it’s warranty information or a software app’s end user license agreement, those pages and pages of legalese largely go overlooked.
This reality isn’t lost on radio commercial producers. Sometimes a radio spot must include a disclaimer — usually for a bank or credit card company or an automobile leasing service. Anything, really, involving credit. But those disclaimers can take up many precious seconds of air time. Who wants to waste twenty seconds of a sixty-second spot on legal mumbo-jumbo? Not your average ad agency!
So let’s call in the geek squad … those Melvins with the thick glasses who know how to use digital thingamajigs to do magic tricks with audio. First they record the talent reading the disclaimer, preferably in a monotone. Then they import the audio into the computer and cut out all the breaths and pauses.
Finally — and here’s the magic — the audio is run through a time compression algorithm which speeds it up without altering the pitch. Kind of like the Chipmunks, but digital.
Here’s an original disclaimer from a recent Capital One ad on 1010 WINS:
Say what? Something about FDIC? This goes by in a breezy thirteen seconds and is fairly incomprehensible.
But suppose you, too, had access to some digital audio tools. You might be able to record this commercial and slow it down — by a factor of 65.6%. If so, this is what the disclaimer would sound like (with pauses and breaths still omitted), stretched out to twenty seconds:
So would you go for this offer if you knew everything could change after the first year? Or if you had to maintain a $5000 monthly balance? Well, that’s up to you, but the question is — how would you know?
The problem I have with the sped-up-disclaimer production technique — and it’s all over commercial radio — is that it’s not possible to understand the disclaimer. A print disclaimer you can read — if you want to. It’s there, it’s readable. But time-compressed audio is not understandable. It’s like trying to make sense of a livestock auctioneer. No way you can follow it, even if you’re hopped up on Red Bull and amphetamines.
So is this a fair production technique — or is it so far off the dial it’s reprehensible? Let me know in the comments.