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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Radio Ads: The Secret Formula

Okay, so where am I?

I'm on a conference call with the big bosses of Strong Zero based in Tokyo trying to get them to change the radio ad that I penned. Why should I campaign for change? Take a look at the television version they made:

This is definitely NOT what I had in mind when they said they would float me an extra $800 in royalties for the added exposure on TV...Ugh...

All of this got me thinking about what makes a great radio ad. I have written nearly 100 radio commercials over the years. Some were great. Some were smart. Some were shlock. Nearly all worked and the clients were happy.

Why were they good? Well, I use a few principles that guide good copy. Take a journey with me...

A barn.
Blue skies.
A horse running through the fields.

A great image just came to your mind reading those words, right? But what color was the barn – red? What color was the horse – brown, white, black, spotted? And while the horse was running through the fields under the blue skies, was it a winter day with snow on the ground or were there wild flowers growing. Whatever your answer was, it doesn’t matter. The image that came to mind was relevant to you and that is the power of radio commercials.

Therein lies the the secret formula: regardless of who you speak to and who works on creating radio ads, they all share the same thought – ads on radio always tell a story and, if done well, it’s memorable.

When working on radio ads, here are some quotes that can help you remember what makes great radio.

“Speak softly…” While that may be a portion of President Roosevelt’s memorable phrase, it can also apply as advice if you want to get the listener’s attention. You could yell, and that might get the listener to remember you – remember that they don’t like you.

“I get no respect.” Yes, that’s a famous Rodney Dangerfield line and when he said it, it made people laugh. Humor doesn’t always work, and in fact it is difficult to pull off so you have to do it right.

“You really like me!” Sally, who wouldn’t like you? And like Sally Field, making sure that listeners like your commercials means that they will remember the message you send.

“I have a dream.” Those were the words of Martin Luther King.  Those words drive a strong and emotional reaction today as they did back in 1963.  Radio ads should always prompt an emotion – whether it is sad, funny, happy, etc.
“Rome was not built in a day.” Writing great radio takes time, patience, and work. Sometimes things that look good on paper may not sound.

“Tried and true.” Just because it’s been used before doesn’t mean it works. Keep away from clichés.

“If you build it, they will come.” Putting together a script for a great radio ad is good but why stop there? Make it great by putting just as much work into producing it as you did creating it.  You can’t fake the sound of someone running when creating a sneaker commercial.  It’s not believable and they won’t buy the product.  Now, have someone really run while speaking.  It takes it to a whole new level.

What is the most powerful use of sound?  Silence.  Sometimes the most effective sound is no sound at all.  It causes the listener to “lean in” and really hear the message.  When it comes to radio creative, silence really can be golden.

Radio will surpass newspapers in local ad revenue by 2021

Usually I bring you a clever new or TBT ad to spark nostalgia or your creative energy. But today, I couldn't resist telling you that radio is growing again! A new report from industry giant BIA/Kelsey foretells digital ad spending for local radio stations will increase with the fastest growing segment not being over the air, but rather on digital platforms.

BIA/Kelsey’s 2017 Investing in Radio report details that the 2016 digital advertising income of U.S. radio stations was up 14 percent. Online radio includes locally targeted online streaming advertising on services like Pandora as well as online properties of over-the-air stations.

The report found that by 2021, radio will surpass newspapers and become the fifth-largest media category among advertisers. Over-the-air income raked in the biggest piece of the pie at over $14 billion.

“In an age where consumers have many entertainment choices, local radio maintains its strength and popularity in the marketplace among national and local advertisers,” said Mark Fratrik, SVP and chief economist at BIA/Kelsey.

Direct mail remains the most lucrative segment of local ad spending. Radio revenue is expected to hit $14.9 billion this year, and by 2021, it will top $16 billion, according to the report.

The news-talk category wins the most improvement category with robust presidential campaign spending taking Washington DC's WTOP to the top spot with $67 million in revenues. $67 million? Who know that local radio could generate like this?