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7 Sure-Fire Ways to Wreck Your Radio Ads

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Old fashioned radioBroadcast advertising—both radio and television—have been evolving as choice media options for many advertisers. Placement opportunities are up, costs are reasonable, and results can be strong. To illustrate, we wrote recently about how it might surprise you to find that television is still an effective beast.   

Although there’s a lot of fanfare around all-things-Internet, broadcast radio advertising (now more than 90 years old) has found fresh ways to attract large, loyal and local audiences. But radio advertising is not impervious to abuse. In our work with clients throughout the US, we regularly hear broadcast ads that are doomed. Most of the time an excellent radio opportunity, audience—and budget—is wrecked.

Typically, it’s a case of poor execution, and that can be attributed to one or more of these seven, sure-fire ways to waste broadcast time and budget:

# 7.            “Wide Aisles and Friendly Service” [Benign expressions do not differentiate.] There’s nothing convincing or compelling about generic copywriting, and it’s the autograph of an inexperienced (or lazy) writer. The words in your commercial need to be uniquely descriptive or motivating. Everyone or anyone can have “friendly service,” but common clichés cannot set you apart from the competition.

# 6.            Wearing a Clever Disguise:  [Confusion about who you are and what you’re selling.] Some commercials are so intent on elaborate creativity that the listener is confused about the product or service. We’ve heard 60-second “mini-melodramas” or attempts at humor for example, which obscure the actual features, advantages and benefits.

# 5.            Call-to-Action is Missing in Action: [Unclear what to do or why.] A call to action in advertising is a fundamental component. We’re at a loss to explain why it is overlooked or forgotten. A radio commercial needs to clearly communicate what the listener should do next, as well as providing a good reason to “call now” or “act now.”

# 4.            Because it’s My Favorite Radio Station: [You are not the target audience.] Selection of broadcast media, as well as effective media buying and placement, has nothing to do with your listening preference. It’s all about media where your target audience hangs out.

# 3.             Your Announcer is a Rookie: [Poor production values.] If your advertisement needs to communicate trust, or sound authoritative for example, a junior staff announcer and bland background music will not represent you properly. In addition to the right words in the text, your radio commercial communicates by way of its overall production values.

# 2.            The Racehorse Rush to the Finish: [Simply too many words.] Typically a 60-second spot radio announcement has about 150 words. This word count can vary a little perhaps, but not much. And since the radio station is selling a precise amount of airtime, there’s a (fatal) temptation to cram in more words. The resulting announcement will have poor production values, sound unprofessional and reflect poorly on the advertiser. If it is heard at all, that is.

And finally…too fast (#2) is usually a byproduct of the Number One way to wreck your radio ad.

# 1.            Kitchen Sink Copywriting: [Lack of focus and benefit.] The sponsor—particularly a new sponsor—wants to “say it all,” to “tell everything,” and/or to “include the works.” Candidly, if your intent is to communicate “everything,” the message received will be nothing at all. Effective radio commercials will focus on a specific topic and clearly defined benefit. (And if you have more than one message to communicate, you’ll want an announcement that’s devoted to each.)

Writing, producing and placing effective radio ads requires specialized talents and experience. And although there are no guarantees about what works in advertising, these classic mistakes will not only wreck your efforts, they will most assuredly waste an important part of your budget.

For more on this topic, see: 7 Media Buying Myths: Reducing Financial Risk in Healthcare Advertising.

Lonnie Hirsch


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