7 radio copywriting secrets – radio advertising ideas that grow companies

To grow companies, broadcast advertising (TV and Radio) often prove more capable than all other types of advertising media.

When you want more customers, radio for its price, often jumps to the top of the list as the most cost-effective medium for small business. We learned these radio advertising ideas through more than a quarter century of testing.

Here’s the qualifier: You need to know effective radio copywriting and how to use radio correctly. Amazingly, even many in the radio industry don’t know.

Learn these seven rules about radio advertising ideas to help you make your ads pay:

1. “What you say is more important
than how you say it”

David Ogilvy said it in his book, Confessions of an Advertising Man. But, he claims Abraham Lincoln voiced it first with, “You must have something important to say.” How do you determine what to say?

Get to know your products thoroughly. Know everything there is to know about your product features and benefits and your Value Story (the written story and description of your Value Package). Click here to learn more about Value Story.

Pull the important points out of your Value Story to use in ads. When you present them well, they always make interesting listening.

2. Make believability
your #1 goal

Sincerity must shine through each and every ad you or your writers make. Your announcer must telegraph sincerity. To inject believability, avoid brag or boast. You must believe in your product. Refuse to exaggerate or make excessive claims. If you believe every ad must “scream” at the audience, believability flies out the window.

If ego and “#1-itis rules your manner you’ll suffer for it. Nothing kills believability faster. A little honesty, sincerity, and humility improve your advertising, your working atmosphere, your organization, and you.

3. Make a story of your ad

Give your ad a story line. One interesting fact piled on another, then woven into a little narrative makes a powerful presentation. But, one interesting fact, unrelated to another, simply bores everyone with another shopping list. And who wants to read somebody else’s shopping list? It ranks next to the phone book in dull information.

Tell stories as examples to illustrate and explain your points. Stories make your arguments real. Christ told stories in His parables and they’ve enlightened the world for 2,000 years.

4. Get on one topic and
stay with it

You can choose an item, an idea, a sale or an event for your topic. Get on one of those topics and then load in one feature/benefit after another . . . one argument after another, in support of your single topic.

This observation differs from what we learned about Print. If you bring multiple major topics into a Radio ad, your listener cannot follow it. Your customer only hears another form of “losing your train of thought.”

In Print, ad designers may feature up to seven unrelated items (in large layouts usually called omnibus ads). Or, a writer might put a box somewhere in the print ad and write about another topic. However, in each case, the topic should qualify as a complete sales presentation by itself.

The broadcast industry demands short ads, usually 30 or 60 seconds. This ad structure works very like a person-to-person sales presentation. Think about it. If you’re personally selling a sofa to someone, you’ll destroy the sale by trying to sell drapes at the same time, won’t you? You might sell the drapes in a follow-up, complementary presentation, but seldom in the same sales presentation.

In the same way, it’s hard to promote two, three or four different items in the same broadcast announcement.

That means if you try to throw several items into the same ad, you end with a shopping list that seldom sells. No salesperson would countenance skipping from one product to another in his live presentation because he knows it’s a sure-fire sales killer. So, why should it work in a radio ad? Avoid shopping lists of products or services.

The solution? Make a different ad script for each topic you want to address. Then, decide how many times you should broadcast each script to get effective sales from it. You can learn how to do that and hundreds more tips for excellence with Maverick’s Radio Tool Kit.

5. Use specifics

Listeners believe and respond better to specific statements than to generalities. Once you choose your appeal or major benefit(s), translate it into a very specific appeal.

For instance, suppose you make an appeal or benefit around the idea “Protect your health.” When you build your ad headline around this benefit, it may translate into a specific line such as, “Now you can stay fit and active in three easy ways.”

When talking about more than one of an available item, try always to give specific numbers: “We have 13 of these in stock.”

Eliminate generalities such as, “We give good service.” Instead, get specific and explain exactly how you serve your customers. “When you purchase here, our professionals teach you all about the product and even help you install it.

6. Common production forms
often destroy your “sell”

Example: a humorous format can sell (and powerfully) but few expert humorists dwell on the local level where most of us work.

Other destroyers: amateur actors’ dialogue (the kind you find in local stations). Irrelevant music. Inappropriate sound effects. All kill your credibility.

Invariably in my seminars, some member counters with a specific outrageous ad they’ve heard or used and tells us how well it works. Perhaps it does. However, in nearly all of our analyses of “outrageous ads”, we concluded usually the advertiser was measuring “feedback” from listeners – the number of people who remarked on the ad. Yet, actual sales increases were often hard to nail down.

How to Make Your Advertising Make MoneyThe great direct-response master, John Caples, offers some of the only research available on radio ad design in his book, How To Make Your Advertising Make Money. Click on the cover to learn more.

Mr. Caples applied direct-response research techniques to Radio campaigns. Among his results – no other format of commercial delivers results for him like an announcer reading a straight ad. No music. No sound effects. Just the announcer.

He and colleagues tested several different formats. They used music background, sound effects and dramatizations.

Scripts read by the regular announcer reaped the most sales response. Caples also concluded your own local announcer gets more response than the “big, famous voice” from out of town. Your audience accepts even a bad voice if it’s sincere and local because it feels more familiar with it.

Unfortunately, many stations discourage live presentations. Management panics at the possibility an announcer might err and anger the client. Gutless.

Special rule: Encourage your announcer to work on copy delivery. Show him or her how to deliver an ad with understanding and sincerity. This feat takes concentration. Insist he read aloud and practice each piece of copy before opening the microphone.

In our training sessions for station staffs someone invariably asks, “Won’t all those straight-voice commercials make our station sound boring?” Not if your writers focus on constructing words and phrases that sell.

Let’s answer the question with a question. Aren’t you making a false assumption . . . that all advertisers will do what I suggest? That’ll be the day. I’ve sold advertising. If more than 15% of advertisers ever agree to switch to this single discipline, I’ll fall dead in my tracks. Don’t worry about it. There’s a reason why the title businessman(woman) is usually preceeded by the term, “independent”.

A few station writers do focus on language and use numerous voice-only ads. Their ratings . . . and community acceptance . . . indicate no such problem with banality. In fact, these stations often rate particularly effective with their audience.

Most stations’ spend about 75% of their airtime entertaining listeners now. I believe pure entertainment less interesting than a combination of information and entertainment.

Wouldn’t you serve your audience and the station better with a few interesting and informative minutes per hour? Stations have to support themselves with paid advertising. Make your ads captivating and compelling.

7. Length of ads

Your half-minute ads should run about seven to eight lines; a full minute, approximately 14 to 16 lines. Make sure your ad length allows the announcer time for a normal delivery pace.

Studies show listeners misunderstand many – maybe most – communications. Why compound the error by forcing your announcer to speak too fast as well? In any media, people better understand a simply worded (not fewer words, but simple, clear words) and simply presented message.

Clarify your message even further when your announcer can speak at a normal pace. This rule stands out as one of the most important among radio advertising ideas.

Read each ad aloud to yourself to make sure it comes through clearly. Then read it to others and watch their eyes. You’ll recognize any error immediately when that glazed look of incomprehension appears.

P.S. Stop worrying that people will think you’ve reached advanced senility just because you seem to talk to yourself. Remember the adage:
“Everybody seems normal . . . until you get to know them.” 🙂

These seven rules are important but there’s so much more to radio advertising ideas. If you’d like a whole training system to help you or your writers turn out superior radio copywriting, plus radio strategy, budgeting, and recommended ad scheduling, click here to learn more about the Radio Tool Kit.

I wish you well.

Rod Rademacher
Maverick Strategy
785-783-7756 or
E-mail us here

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