“The Amazing Story A Young Writer Told Me – How He Learned The Small Business Advertising Idea Behind Advertising Format”

When I started in advertising, the cry was “creativity”. Ad designers constructed their advertising format with an abandon that shrieked, “Anything goes. Throw it in if it strikes your fancy!” And clients’ results reflected that abandon with less than satisfactory sales results. Then, I received a fascinating insight into human nature and converted it into an effective small business advertising idea.

I discovered results often depended on who was paying for the ad. When advertising people designed an ad format that other people’s money paid for, they gloried in their creative freedom. However, when their own money hit the line . . .

Warren Krech, KJMO/KWOS Radio in Jefferson City, Missouri is a pretty good hand at ad copy. Warren says he learned the correct attitude about designing an advertising format at home – and most painfully.

His wife decided to stage a garage sale. Warren, being the “professional” in the family, was commissioned to write the ad.

Says Warren, “Always before, I just blithely ripped off a piece of copy for a client.

Warren goes on, “Not this time! When the ad is for your own company, your own merchandise, you’re desperate for the money, and your wife’s going to kill you if you don’t sell it – you cut through all the junk and get straight to the point.

You forget all about being ‘cute and creative.’ You make every word count.” By the way, “the garage sale was a huge success,” says Warren.

I assume you and I, dear reader, are kindred spirits. It’s your money. It’s my money. And we have scant bucks to waste.

That’s why, little by little, I discovered certain ways of putting together an advertising format, or the look of an ad, that consistently increases results. Others can and will cost you a fortune. Here’s how. If it doesn’t deliver, it costs the price of the ad plus the dollars your ad failed to deliver.

From that “do or die” attitude, I discovered many common advertising production devices scuttle your ad’s “sell,” although their form sounds or looks nice. Here’s what I mean in . . .

Tips for broadcast ads

In Radio & TV, a humorous advertising format can sell, and powerfully.

One small problem. Beware using humor unless you’re certain you know what you’re doing. Expert humorists are rare as Old Testament patriarchs down at the small business advertising idea level where most of us work.

Advice from an industry
giant, Stan Freberg

Even Freberg, one of the 20th century’s great advertising humorists, had his share of fiascos, fizzles, and outright bombs.

Stan related this incident as just one of many. He created a series of humorous ads for Northwest Airlines, which played on the hilarious aspects of “white knuckle” passengers who fear flying.

All the humorists Stan played the ads for were delighted. Seasoned passengers appreciated the jokes.

However, the remainder of the audience failed to see the fun. You see they, being truly fearful of flying, became the butt of the jokes. Sales dipped precipitously!

Now, think of some other destroyers: Amateur actors’ dialogue (the kind you find in local radio and TV stations), inappropriate music, and inappropriate sound effects. All kill your believability, which is your number one requisite for an ad.

Of course, in my national seminars someone usually brings up a specific instance of outrageous format and tells us how well it works. Perhaps it did. But I usually find other influencers were in play.

I must tell you in nearly every one of our analyses of “outrageous ads,” we concluded the business manager usually was happy because he received some kind of “feedback” from listeners – which had nothing to do with his sales.

Once we went deep enough to measure real sales results, they often didn’t pay for the ad – certainly not enough to make the profit Maverick expects. These frustrated managers had seen so little real results from their advertising, they treasured even a few comments from listeners . . . “Oh, I heard your ad.”

Feedback as payment is far too small for the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) each small business invests.

What’s the most effective
radio ad format?

After testing many ad forms I observed straight-voice formats get the most effect, day in and day out (preferably ad-libbed when the announcer knows what he is doing), recorded straight-voice local announcer, and customer testimonials.

Unfortunately, many stations discourage live presentations. Management panics at the possibility an announcer might make an error and anger the client. Gutless. They forget you can always fire the announcer if he blows it too many times.

Another master speaks

Later, I came across the same idea from the great direct-response advertising master, John Caples. Mr. Caples applied direct-response research techniques to some radio campaigns he used – rare in the industry.

Among other interesting things, he learned no other format of commercial delivered results like an announcer doing a straight ad read “live”.

He says they compared results of advertising formats with sound effects, dramatizations – what’s called “two voicers” in the industry – and music background.

They consistently drew the best response when the regular announcer read the typewritten ad.

Caples went on to say a “live read” announcement – meaning the announcer reads it live – beat a recorded announcement.

Early on, I discovered ads read by the station announcer, either live or recorded, usually get better response than those read by a “big” voice from out of town. It pains me to reveal this because now I must forever forego the dollars I earn “voicing” ads for clients. Caples came to the same conclusion.

Perhaps the station won’t allow your ad to be read “live”. That’s okay. Have them record it. Nowadays, stations often don’t even employ live announcers. When they do, many announcing “stars” demand a talent fee to read a live ad.

I cannot recommend this practice because the extra fee usually raises your cost so your ad no longer delivers enough results for the dollars you pay.

However, don’t be put off. You don’t need the local star announcer. If people are simply familiar with the announcer’s voice, that’s enough.

Announcers are more believable when the audience knows and already likes them. Even if your local announcers are not as polished as the big-time pros, they often get more response. So, tell them you want a staff announcer to record it.

Tips on how to record your ad

Encourage — insist — your announcer work on ad copy delivery.

Supervise your ad recording session. Insist the announcer read to understand what he/she is saying. Have the announcer read aloud and practice each piece of copy before opening the microphone. If they don’t, just veto that “take.”

After the announcer has read it several times, with your gentle coaching he will come to understand what he is saying. That helps him to deliver your ad with much more believability.

Won’t my ad be boring?

Before we leave this, let’s cover one more important point. In my training sessions for radio and TV stations, someone invariably asks, “Won’t nothing but straight-voice commercials make our station sound uninteresting? Make the ad sound bland?”

I answer this question with a question. Aren’t you making a false assumption Do you really think you can convince all your opinionated advertisers (and everybody has an “expert opinion” about ads) to do what you suggest?

Never fear. If more than 20% of all advertisers ever agree and switch to the Maverick discipline only, I’ll eat the many scripts I’ve written!

Some stations do use numbers of straight ad formats. Their ratings — and community acceptance — indicate so-called blandness is not a problem.

If your ad informs and sells, seldom will it bore.

Right now, most stations devote about 75% of every hour of airtime to entertaining listeners with music and programs.

Must the entire hour entertain? Is it okay if three or four minutes per hour offer interesting and informative material? I know so. In fact, highly informative ads (not the screaming pap you hear so often) add to the station’s enjoyability.

Best advice: If ad people build ads for you, caution them to view each ad as if their own money were on the line. You will reap more productive ads.

Maverick has developed an art and a science to using radio advertising that has delivered more than a half-billion dollars in sales to our clients. From a sample of only 25 or my more than 21,100 clients, their added sales totaled $152 million dollars. That’s an average of $6.08 million each.

If you’d really like to know how to use radio to make your fortune, click here to get acquainted with the Radio Sales Tool Kit. We train professional radio representatives. With this course, you move to the other side of the table and share all their knowledge.

Rod Rademacher
785-783-7756 or
Email us here

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