Essentials Of An Effective Radio Commercial


    The main thing is to keep the main thing “the main thing”!

    The more sales messages you have, the less effective your commercial is. Narrow down your sales message to a very basic thought. Put it in one sentence, then resist the temptation of throwing in other stuff just because you have 30 seconds. Instead, spend the time you have incorporating the following elements to get a response from your listener.

    Make sure your core message isn’t without substance. ie: The best prices, better quality, better service. Why are you better? What’s your marketing advantage? What do you do better or what do you offer that no one else does? Why should people give you their money? Then prove it with a tangible statement!


    Your product has to fit in with radio’s benefits and limitations. Radio may be perfect if your product or service can be explained without the use of sight or motion. If a visual demonstration is necessary, particularly with new or unique products, consider using print or TV instead. However, if your product is visually oriented but your target prospects are already familiar with it, radio may work if you reinforce those recognizable benefits with emotional appeal.


    The less complicated your radio direct response offer is, the more likely it is to be effective. Since most products and services need more than 60 seconds of audio explanation to convince a listener to call a toll-free number and buy immediately, the best offers for radio are lead generation offers, where the listener is under no obligation to purchase. If listeners have the opportunity to receive free information, a free estimate, or a free product sample, then they are more likely to initiate a relationship with you and ultimately become customers.

    If your offer carries a lot of legal qualifiers, you may want to reconsider using that offer. In radio, there’s no such thing as small type to bury legal requirements. And a fast-talking delivery of legal disclosers can oftentimes add confusion or suspicion, not to mention the time it takes away from selling your product.


    Find out what the emotional state of your target audience is, and tap into it.

    Why can Grandma relate a story to you that happened 70 years ago, but she can’t remember what the old folks home served her for lunch? Simple: The story stirs up emotions embedded in her memory, whereas lunch was just plain boring.

    No one will remember your sales message six months from now, which is when they may be ready to buy your product, unless it is embedded in their emotional psyche.


    Radio is a visual medium. Imagine you’re a kid growing up on the farm. It was a blistering hot day on the bald prairies. The sky was clear blue and you could see the heat waves floating on the horizon. Out comes mom with a tall glass of ice cold lemonade. Beads of condensation had formed around the outside of the glass… lemonade never tasted so good. I just painted a picture in your mind. Did you picture the blue sky? Did you see the heat waves in the distance? Did you imagine the beads of moisture on the outside of the glass? That’s the power of radio. Step 3 and 4 go hand in hand. Telling a story is painting a picture in the listeners’ mind using emotional experiences they can relate to.

    This is such a vital point that one thing needs to be made clear. Telling a story does not necessarily mean every commercial needs to start with “Once upon a time…”. It can be as simple as the sound of a car that won’t start, howling wind in the background, and the chattering of teeth. Anyone with an unreliable car will relate to that scenario and think about how annoying it is to have that happen. Then, tie in the sales message: “A tune-up at Al’s Auto will prevent…” etc.

  6. CREATIVE that Exploits Radio’s Strengths

    The basic principles of writing and producing direct response advertisements are universal to all media. You need a strong introduction, a good offer, a benefit-oriented approach and a call to action. Effective radio advertising is no different. But when you play to the intimate, one-on-one qualities of radio and the loyalty people have to their favorite radio stations, then your creative will go the extra mile for you. And it doesn’t take expensive, highly-produced commercials to go the distance. Just make sure your approach is benefit-oriented and emotional, with copy crafted for the spoken word. Be sure you reinforce the most important points and repeat the call to action at the end of the commercial. Without visuals, radio can often paint a much more dramatic and convincing picture than other media.

    Pacing is particularly important. The copy needs to be written for speaking, not reading. It’s too easy to cram so much copy into your spot that it requires a really fast delivery. Try to restrain yourself because otherwise your message will lose its impact. Normal, conversationally-paced commercials with pauses will be understood and comprehended better than a spot that becomes a race against time.

    One more thing: Although humor is commonly used in radio advertising, it probably won’t work in radio direct response marketing. Being funny usually doesn’t make the phone ring.


    This is as old as advertising itself. The listener has a problem. You have a solution. Demonstrate the product. What are the results of them paying you money? While your product or service is dear to your heart, the listener doesn’t care about it. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and ask yourself the question “what’s in it for me?”

    Michelin doesn’t sell tires – it sells safety for your baby. Crest doesn’t sell toothpaste – it sells cavity free kids. Gatorade doesn’t sell colored liquid in a bottle, it sells thirst-quenching energy!


    This is similar to the previous point, and it’s also a tough one to swallow for many business owners, but the fact remains… people don’t care about your business. They only care about themselves and the ones they love. Therefore, to captivate their attention, you need to talk about them. Where is their “headspace”. What are their problems? What do they value in life?” Once you’ve reached them “where they live” you are better prepared to have them answer this question: “Why would I pay my hard earned money to this business?”


    Not every ad needs an offer to be effective, but it’s one more bullet in your arsenal. This point is mainly for retail outlets looking for high traffic in a short amount of time. ie: Clothing stores, audio video stores, jewelry stores. Even if it’s a larger purchase like a computer or a car, once people have shopped around and made up their mind, they will respond to an instant sales message. Don’t be afraid to price the offer, but stick to one appealing example of savings. Use the rest of the time to incorporate the necessary points for effectiveness.


    What is it you want the listener to do? Since we’ve discussed making your commercial about “one main core message”. There will also be one thing you want them to do? Why not tell them to do it? It’s the “nail” of the commercial… driving home the message. Does the new listener need to call a restaurant to make reservations? Do they need to buy tickets? Do they need to drive to your store to buy a product before it’s gone? A call for action generates the need to respond.


    One of the least understood ingredients of the radio advertising success formula is scheduling. Radio requires frequency for your message to be heard and for the responses to come in. A traditional 12 to 18 spot per week advertising schedule on a radio station doesn’t cut it. You may need as many as two to three times that number. Is this overkill? Not at all. You can’t expect listeners to respond after hearing your commercial only once (although your spots should be written with that goal in mind). It may take two, three or more repetitions for listeners to respond, based on their consideration of your product and where they are when they hear your message.

    With that in mind, you probably won’t see an immediate spike in responses the day the schedule starts. It’s more likely that response will build over a period of days or sometimes weeks. To DRTV marketers who are accustomed to immediate results, this can be a turn-off. (And if they tried radio before, maybe they turned it off too soon.) But if your response levels are growing, it may pay off in the long run to stick with it.

    If you’re considering radio, you’re probably using other direct response media already. A secondary benefit to radio usage is its synergy with your other media efforts. Radio helps lift the response of other direct response media just as other media sources help radio. You may be surprised at how effective this can be.


    The misunderstandings and assumptions about radio have probably caused many potentially successful direct response campaigns to die or to never advance beyond a fleeting thought. If you’re thinking about a test, talk to an expert who specializes in direct response radio advertising. Not only will they guide you, but they’ll guide the radio stations, who depend on feedback and advice.

    Radio has a language and structure of its own. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are about 44,000 Radio stations worldwide; each with its own personality and nuance. And, the radio industry in general has an ever evolving business structure at the local as well as regional and national levels.

    Radio is a routine part of most everyone’s lives. Think of how you use radio in your home, in your car and/or at work – your prospects probably listen to radio as much or more than you. If you’re currently using other media sources successfully and know what you can afford for every response generated, radio advertising could be a great addition to your marketing program.

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