Jeff Duff has sixteen years' of experience in selling radio advertising, designing radio advertising campaigns and writing radio ad scripts.
The Sky is the Limit in Radio Advertising! Okay ... well, Almost.
Yes, the sky is practically the limit in radio advertising! If you can dream it, your radio advertisement can do it! In fact, it is far easier to explain what you can NOT do in your radio advertisement, than to try to explain all of the thousands of things that you CAN do in your commercials. So, let's lay out the three general types of topics that you either can not do (legally), you can not successfully do (due to constraints of time and the limits of normal human attention) or finally, that you should just not do (ethically):
What you can not - or should not - make radio commercials about, in the United States (and most other first world nations):
(1) NO commercials should have obscene or sexually explicit language, highly sexual images, graphically described violence or explicit bodily functions;
(2) NO commercials should have slanderous or seriously insulting descriptions of your competitors, other living people, or of any competing products or services (for example, it is perfectly acceptable to state that your gas station is the only one in the city that has a car wash attached - if true - but it is NOT acceptable to make that same assertion when two of your competitors also have attached car washes!);
(3) NO radio commercials should have highly detailed information, simply because most listeners (especially when driving vehicles) will be able to remember most of that detail - and frankly, a lot of details in your commercial will simply bore and confuse most listeners (as described in my other articles on local advertising options, highly detailed advertising is best done in newspapers or magazines).
By the way, don't sweat this "prohibited" stuff - the radio station staff will make sure that your radio advertising script (a.k.a., "copy") won't get you into trouble!
GRAB your Audience's Attention!
Although there can be exceptions, radio advertisements will generally come in four standard lengths: 15 seconds (approximately 3 average-length sentences), 30 seconds (approx. 6 sentences), 45 seconds (approx. 9 sentences) and 60 seconds (approx. 12 sentences). Commercials shorter than 15 seconds and longer than 60 seconds may be available, but these unusual commercial lengths aren't as effective.
Each of your radio commercials is delivered into a world of many distractions: visual, aural (sound) and mental. Although a few radio listeners may be looking at a blank wall or an empty sky, with nothing on their minds except to listen closely to their radio, the overwhelming majority are involved in a number (maybe dozens) of environmental images, sounds and actions. Your radio advertising must penetrate the conscious of the majority of the radio listeners. You want them to REALLY LISTEN to your advertisement and it's message. Your commercial is wasted money if nobody - or just a few people - in the radio audience give it any of their attention!
There are a few techniques for grabbing peoples' attention and the first sentence of your radio advertising is where you must use them. I call the first sentence of a radio commercial the "Grabber Sentence"! If you can't get their attention during the first sentence, then the rest of the commercial will probably be ineffective, too. What you need to do in the Grabber Sentence is: (1) Draw all or part of their attention from some of the other things they are doing when your commercial begins to air, (2) Say something enticing or 'ear-catching', (3) Mention a special offer or a new product or service, especially if few - or none - of your competitors are currently offering this, (4) Use an excited voice to begin (or even throughout) your commercial, whether yours' or a station announcer's voice; (5) Ask your listeners an interest-generating question as your first sentence can pique the audiences' attention, (6) Possibly - and very rarely and selectively! - use a relevant and possibly unexpected sound effect, such as a siren, screaming woman or a gunshot noise (your radio station will have a sound effects library you can use).
I once spoke to the owner of a new used car lot and as we were batting around ideas for attracting attention to his first radio commercials, he latched onto option (6) from above and wanted to use a gun shot to start his commercial. "A gun shot will really get everyone's attention, right?", he asked enthusiastically. It took me several minutes to point out that unless his new commercial somehow used a gun in the script, how would this be relevant to drawing people to his used car dealership? He reluctantly dropped the gun shot idea, but it reminds us all to attract attention to your advertising spot using enticing and relevant first sentences, not just a woman's scream (or whatever bizarre sound effect) to draw the audience's attention. You want the listeners' interest and attention, not their scornful mockery!
Where's the Beef? It's Right Here!
Your first sentence said something to grab your listeners' attention, but you can't just make bold and ear-catching statements and nothing else to back it up! Sure, if I hear some (crazy) radio commercial proclaim, "A FREE set of kitchen appliances! That's right, you'll get a set of kitchen appliances absolutely FREE, just by visiting Smitty Appliance Store during business hours, Monday through Saturday! Come to Smitty Appliance, on Main Street in downtown Des Moines!" Well, I and everyone else would love a new set of free kitchen appliances ... but we're all asking ourselves, what's the catch? That's where the "Meaty Middle Section" comes in, because that's where Smitty Appliance needs to explain their offer in more detail.
The "Meaty Middle Section" consists of every sentence between the attention-getting first sentence of your commercial and the last one or two sentences of your commercial.
The sentences in the "Meaty Middle Section" explain the features and benefits of doing business with you - whether it's visiting you car lot, shopping in your store, eating in your restaurant, getting treated at your chiropractic clinic or contacting their plumbing service to fix your house's pipe cracks. (This is where you get to explain how you can offer everyone a free set of kitchen appliances, for example - maybe by everyone buying their next new car at Smitty Auto Sales?).
If you have trouble coming up with much for a "Meaty Middle Section", maybe you should list all of the features of your business or professional practice and then list all of the benefits for your customers / clients / patients of doing business with you. Put these features and benefits in some sort of logical order and write them up into a coherent, interesting and positive reason for people to do business with you.
BUT, if you you just want to focus on your current or new special offer or service, then do so! This will often allow you to shorten your commercial from a 45- or 60-second commercial down to a less-expensive and 'punchier' 30- or 15-second commercial. Generally speaking, 2 x 30-second commercials may be more effective than 1 x 60-second commercial, but not always. Experiment with different lengths and messages, to find the most effective combination of commercial message and commercial length - and remember that your next advertising campaign may be a completely different combination of message and length. (This is because humans are hard - often impossible! - to predict. But people are the ones with the money!)
I have My Money with Me, but Where are You?
In a previous article on advertising, Why You should Make Your Own Radio Commercials, I told the sad story of a young couple that started an exercise and health club in a small town and spent a chunk of money on the Grand Opening. The Grand Opening was a failure and they soon went out of business - because everyone forgot to provide any identifying information in their Grand Opening advertisement in the local newspaper! None of the advertisement's readers knew where to go to participate in the Grand Opening! The ad even failed to mention the owners' full names or telephone number or email address. Don't let this happen to you!
This is why I call the last - and sometimes the second-to-last - sentence in a radio commercial script the "Identifier Sentence(s)". Be nice to your prospective customers: ALWAYS end your radio commercial script with a way for them to contact you ... or, at least, how to do business with you! That is the "Identifier Sentence" and it 'identifies' you and tells everyone how the radio listeners (and their friends) can begin to patronize your business or professional practice.
The "Identifier Sentence" (or two) always comes at the end of a radio commercial because you don't want your crucial contact information buried somewhere in the "Meaty Middle Section", where the subsequent information in your commercial message can cause listeners to forget how to contact you or how to visit your business or professional practice location!
So, be a nice advertiser and tell your radio listeners exactly how (and where and when) they can do business with you. This will make your potential customers / clients / patients happy ... and it will put a smile on your face and the faces of your accountant and banker!
Final Result: Happy New Customers!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.