To many ad agencies, radio is considered advertising's ugly stepchild.
It's not sexy like television and is treated as a necessary evil with little effort put into
it. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the listener ends up hearing.
What advertisers and their ad agencies have forgotten is that radio truly is a "theater
for the mind". Anything you can dream up can be in a radio spot. Elephants doing
the back stroke in your soup? No problem. Landing on planet Neptune and finding
the alien of your dreams? Done. Recreating scenes like that on television would cost
a fortune for the computer graphics alone, not to mention the animal trainer.
So how do you write a great radio ad? I've written over 2000 in my career and if
there's one helpful point I can pass along it's this:
Less is more. The less copy you write, the better your radio spot will sound. One of
the biggest mistakes made with radio copy is when the client insists on trying to tell
the company's entire story within sixty seconds. You've heard them before. The
announcer is talking a million miles per hour because they've been given two
minutes of copy for a one minute ad, the end result being a verbal assault on your
eardrums. Combine that with having to endure five or six of these spots in a row
and it's no wonder stations are losing listenership!
Writing humor is another problem. That's because humor in radio requires the
timing be perfect, much like the way a standup comedian tells jokes which means
even less copy than normal is needed. Plus, and this is very important - it has to be
funny. It takes talent and skill to write humor and unfortunately, this has not
deterred many from trying. If you're attempting to put humor in your radio copy, try
reading it to unbiased ears (not your husband, wife, or parents) first to see if they
"get it". If you find yourself having to explain the funny part, it ain't workin!
Another common mistake is when the client feels the need to repeat the phone
number a half dozen times. Studies have shown that repeating the phone number
over and over again does not guarantee the listener will remember it. All it will
probably do is irritate them. Many people listen to radio in their cars and can't
write the number down anyway. But the real truth is, most don't hear the number at
all. If the number is still a requirement, your best bet is to put it in once or twice
towards the end of the spot so it is close to, if not the last thing the listener hears.
The most effective way to get your product or service to stick in the minds of radio
listeners is to have a clever message that rises above the others and does so often.
As I've stressed in past articles, repetition is your friend. However, remember that
the downside to clever radio is that it "burns" quickly. This means that because the
ad is clever, people really listen to it which makes the "bit" or spot lose its appeal
faster. Many times I've heard a clever ad and the first three or four times I heard
it, I chuckled, but the next 12 times it aired I wanted throw my radio out the
window. If you're writing clever creative or having it written for you, make sure
you've budgeted for at least two different spots that can be rotated within the
campaign. This will keep your message fresh while giving you the opportunity to
present different features in each spot.
Some radio stations are now selling thirty second spots which is fine if you can get
your message across in that limited time frame. However, unless you've been on the
radio a long time, I would suggest sticking with the sixty second format for awhile,
at least until you feel you've established your brand.
The next time you hear a bad radio commercial remember that writing clever radio
is not something everyone can do. It takes skill, imagination and practice but if you
get it right, it can be the most effective advertising tool you'll ever use.
Hal Eisenberg is an award winning copywriter, voice over talent
and producer, as well as owner of The Eisenberg Agency, a full
service advertising agency specializing in creative ads that get
Visit his web site at http://www.eisenbergagency.com