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Why You Should Make Your Own Radio Commercials

Jeff Duff has sixteen years' of experience in selling radio advertising, designing radio advertising campaigns and writing radio ad scripts.

A beautiful reproduction of an old-time radio

A beautiful reproduction of an old-time radio

Why You Should Make Your Own Radio Commercials

If you read my two articles about local advertising for small businesses and professional practices - or you just know something about local advertising - then you know that the four most popular types of advertising media are newspaper advertising, billboard advertising, television advertising and radio advertising.

For small business men and women - plus self-employed professionals - the idea of designing and writing newspaper, billboard, television and radio advertising seems difficult, time-consuming and probably absurd. That's why these four media have 'people', you know, people who understand all the technical and graphic stuff about these four media. True enough, but that does mean that your business' or practice's marketing and advertising message is going to be - at least, to some degree - determined by strangers, many of whom you will never meet and do not know.

Frankly, although you will provide the key information and input for three of these media, you will never control your message down to the final product. Only in relatively simple radio advertising will you control your message down to the last steps: putting your message into permanent or long-term storage and send it out to your local audience within your local world. Unless you have a whole bunch of free time - and who does? - only radio is so simple and understandable that you can learn it's basic methods and rules in under an hour, so that you can control the entire advertising process down to, maybe, the last couple of technical steps.

High-quality, memorable radio advertising can be made with nothing more than a note pad and pencil, plus a good microphone and recorder. That's it! Your radio commercial will be 90% written and produced with those four items: paper, pen or pencil, microphone and recorder. (If you can't control or understand those four items, you probably didn't graduate from the 8th grade!) There a few other things that a good radio commercial may need, depending on it's complexity, but those technically-educated strangers at the radio station will do those for you.

Antique cathedral style radio by Philco.

Antique cathedral style radio by Philco.

Start Your Script with a Bang, End it with a Contact!

Almost all radio commercials last 15, 30, 45 or 60 seconds, from start to finish. They are priced according to length and time of broadcast. I would normally emphasize that your advertisement's script should emphasize the important information only, but that's pretty logical to most folks, I think.

All radio radio advertising scripts have the same competitor for the listeners' attention: EVERYTHING ELSE GOING ON AROUND THE LISTENER! Your advertisement has to compete with the act of driving a motor vehicle, cooking in the kitchen, surfing the internet, keeping an eye on the children, a hundred different hobbies, someone talking to the listener, the listener simply daydreaming, the listener is thinking about the previous radio commercial, etc., etc. Your commercial has to be able to break through (most) of these distractions or your commercial will not be heard by that particular listener (or group of listeners). The foreground of your listeners' thought is called their "attention" and your successful ad must break through into the attention of most of your commercial's listeners! No attention means the listener never gets your message, so you wasted you advertising dollars, at least as far as him or her is concerned. (Obviously, you're hoping that thousands or tens of thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of listeners are paying attention to your commercial's marketing message!)

So, how do we break your listeners preoccupation with other matters, right at the start of you commercial's script. How? Well, you could start with a literal gunshot, or a woman's scream, or an anguished cry for help ... but unless your advertising has something specifically to do with these kind of dire emergencies, I suggest that you stay well away from such outrageous attention grabbers. Annoying your commercial's listeners is not going to motivate them to buy something from you or to contact you! There are less crazy ways to draw your prospects' attention to your commercial, such as sounds with positive associations or interesting sound effects or using one of words that people are very quickly drawn to. When you hear a baby giggling, a child laughing, a dog barking, a cat meowing, etc. ... does that tend to draw your attention? What about an ambulance siren, a church bell, a crowd yelling, etc. ... does that tend to draw your attention? What about if one of the first words mentioned in the script are proven 'ear-grabbers', such as "Free", "Save", "Solve your problem", "I love", "avoid", 'dangerous", "money-wasting", "hazardous", "watch out", "make money", "have fun", "beautiful", "unbelievable", "bizarre", etc. ... do one or more of these words draw your attention? If you are like most people, many of the items I just mentioned will break a listener's preoccupation and cause him or her to immediately alert to your radio commercial.

Old antique radio in great condition.

Old antique radio in great condition.

Be Nice! Always Give your Listeners some Guidance

So, we've discussed how to draw the radio station listeners' attention to your commercial message, right? What next?

Believe it or not, some radio ads have been written that didn't mention the advertiser's business or professional practice's name! I don't believe they were actually recorded as they were caught upon re-reading or editing. Also, mention your business name at least once in a 15-second ad spot, at least twice in a thirty second spot, at least three times in a 45 second spot and three or four times in a 60 second spot. (These are not 'hard and fast' rules, but strong suggestions, alright?)

Last but not least, your ad script should include a 'call to action'. Be firm-but-nice and give your listeners some guidance! Tell them (nicely) what they should do after they have heard your commercial. Do you want them to come down to your car lot, then tell them to do that. Do you want them to call your office for an appointment, or to stop by your bakery today and pick a dozen donuts, or to bring their children to your pizzeria on Saturday for a Pizza Party, then tell them that! Don't assume that listeners will know what to do! Be nice and help guide them!

Finally, believe it or not, you need to provide your listeners with the information they need to call your office, or stop by your store, or visit your website, or reach you by email. This location or communication information should come at (or very near) the end of the commercial. Why? Because if you keep your commercial 'talking' after your contact information, your listeners are more likely to forget this crucial information!

A TRAGIC STORY ABOUT A ROOKIE ADVERTISER: This story is about a small regional newspaper but probably could have happened with billboard, television or radio advertising, too. Anyway, a few years ago, I looked at an advertisement on the bottom front page of one of our region's weekly newspapers. Pictured there was a smiling young couple standing in front of a small, generic commercial building with a sign in the window that read, "Health Club". It was the Grand Opening for their brand new health club and the printed text talked about their variety of exercise machines, the free trial period, their client rates, the married owners' first names ... and the fact that their Grand Opening was coming up this Saturday, with balloons for the kids, raffle gifts, free imprinted sweat bands, a musical duo for entertainment and many healthy snacks. Being on the bottom quarter of the newspaper's front page (the most expensive advertising space in newspapers), you just knew that front-page advertisement - and all of those Grand Opening goodies - had to cost that young pair of new business owners a big chunk of cash. Unfortunately, this front-page newspaper advertisement was missing some key information ... their street address, city, phone number, web address, or even their email address! Most people had no idea where this Health Club was located! It took me a couple of weeks to find out the health club's location was in a small village about twelve miles from my home town. This little health club was out of business a few months later.

Mel Blanc: "The Man with a Thousand Voices", started on radio, branched into cartoon animation and then into movies.

Mel Blanc: "The Man with a Thousand Voices", started on radio, branched into cartoon animation and then into movies.

Why Your Everyday Voice is Usually Better than a Professional Voice in Radio

For most radio advertising, the commercials that the advertisers don't voice themselves are voiced by the radio station's production or programming staff. (There may or may not be an additional fee for voicing your commercial, sometimes called a "talent fee".) Radio stations also have extensive music and sound effect libraries which the station will usually let you use for free - just ask. Either way, using a professional member of the staff to voice your advertisement means you will get a smooth, professional-sounding announcer to voice your commercial. So far, so good, right?

Well, yes and no. You do get a good-quality voice reciting your commercial script, but ... there are at least 3 problems with this method of producing your radio commercial. First, there is the additional 'talent fee' some stations charge, which can range from $200 to $5,000 or more. (Make sure you know what it is up front, before you sign any contracts.)

The second issue is that there may only be 2 - 5 announcers and production staff who do almost all of the station's commercial voice production. That means that most of the station's commercials use the same few voices, over and over again, all day long and every day of the week. Variety is the spice of life, the old saying goes, and this is especially true when it comes to radio advertising. Steady station listeners may grow weary of hearing those same few voices, all day long, and start to tune them out (which means - YIKES! - they might start to tune out your commercial). In addition, radio stations have audio editing equipment that can make even a very voice sound better, which is a secret tool of professional announcers. (By the way, no radio station has an announcer with the multiple-voice talents of the great Mel Blanc!)

Finally, when it comes to promises, guarantees and warranties, YOU are always going to be more convincing than a professional announcer. When you voice your commercial, you will use 'first person' language, which sounds like this: "My name is Chuck Jones of Jones Roofing and I warranty our roofs for 20 years. If anything goes wrong with a roof that we put on your home, in the first 20 years, then you can call me and I will personally make sure that you are satisfied!" Here's how an announcer has to say this in 'third person' language: "Chuck Jones of Jones Roofing will warranty their roofs for 20 years. If anything goes wrong with a roof that they put on your home, in the first 20 years, you can call Chuck and he will personally make sure that you are satisfied!" Which one sounds like the stronger warranty, even though both of them extend it out for 20 years. One is Chuck's personal promise, while the other is the announcer's promise ...

This doesn't mean that you have to voice your own commercial, but just realize that there are advantages and disadvantages to voicing your own commercial - even if you don't have a particularly pleasant voice. Perfect voices aren't always the best!

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There are two other articles I wrote which review and comment on the biggest local advertising media, such as local newspapers, billboards, radio and television. Jump over to, What is the Best Local Advertising for Small Businesses?: Part 1 and it's sequel, What is the Best Local Advertising for Small Businesses?: Part 2. Please enjoy and share with your friends!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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