SMI’s Payne Ratner Finalist in Machigonne Fiction Contest

Written By

Liz Iversen

Published On

Tuesday, Apr 06
Payne Ratner Headshot
Payne Ratner has been writing ads for 30 years. Outside of work, he is a playwright and fiction writer who was recently named a finalist in the Machigonne Fiction Contest. In this brief interview, I pick Payne’s brain about his literary background and how it helps him craft winning radio ads.

Can you tell me a little about your award-winning short story, “Eat Jimmy”? What is it about, and where did you get the idea for it?

I have no idea where I got the idea. I never do. I once bought a small can of ideas at the grocery store but, when I opened it at home, it was empty. The story is a kind of fable/fairytale/fantasy/faintly futuristic/mythological/who-knows-what tale about a mother who, in order to save her life, must literally eat her child. The story is about the mother and the son trying to come to grips with this fact. It also brings in an important (to me) Christian element. It will be published in early winter of 2022.

So you write fiction, plays, and ads. Which came first? Can you tell me about how you came to each of these very different forms of writing?

I started with short stories when I was young. In college a friend coaxed me into auditioning for a play. I discovered I had a talent for acting and a tremendous love of theatre. I started trying to write plays. Writing can be a lonely business, but knowing I was writing for the stage, that the characters on the paper would eventually become real people I could interact with, and actually give me suggestions about the writing, made writing plays more exciting and writing itself (seem) less lonely. As for ads, I was bartending and a man who had just started an ad agency needed someone to write some quick commercials. He heard that I liked to write and asked me to help him out. He later hired me, and that’s how I ended up in advertising. 

How does your background in fiction and playwriting inform your ad writing?

As for ad writing, I love writing for radio most of all. Because, as they say, it can be “theatre of the mind”. In television, what would take a massive budget, actors, make-up, costumes, special effects, etc. can be accomplished in radio for a couple bucks, some voice actors in sweatpants and a microphone. And, of course, in radio there’s always the opportunity to write dialogue.

Where do you get ideas for the ads you write?

I think, “What is the most relatable problem this client’s product would solve?” Then I try to figure out a way to illustrate the problem and the solution. To show the problem and solution in a way that touches the listener’s emotions, not just simply state “here’s the problem, here’s the solution”.

What elements of fiction do you think are most applicable to ad writing? 

Trying to be truthful and make things up at the same time.

Has writing ads made you a better fiction writer? Why or why not?

Maybe staying aware of how an audience will hear and respond to your ad (an ad has to be relatable) keeps me more aware of how a reader will respond to my writing. Maybe. On the other hand, in fiction, it’s nice to have the bit taken out of the mouth, the saddle pulled off and be released into a whole pasture free to kick about and play without any restraints. 

What makes a successful radio ad, from a creative standpoint? 

If a product is genuinely helpful to people, if the spot touches the emotions and leads people to discover something that improves their lives, that’s a successful ad. It begins and ends with sincerity.

Can you tell me about some of the ads you’ve written that you’re most proud of? What made them great?

That’s a tough one. The ads I think are great, may not be considered great ads from a response standpoint. The ones I love, that make me laugh or get a little misty-eyed, sometimes don’t do as well as ads that follow a more tried-and-true formula. One ad I liked was a popcorn kernel which had been left in the seat of someone’s hot car. The kernel is speaking more and more frantically about the benefits of tinted windows (for cooling). The spot ended with a “POP”. I don’t know whether it sold any tinted windows. 

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Payne Ratner has been writing ads for 30 years. Outside of work, he is a playwright and fiction writer who was recently named a finalist in the Machigonne Fiction Contest. In this brief interview, I pick Payne’s brain about his literary background and how it helps him craft winning radio ads.

Can you tell me a little about your award-winning short story, “Eat Jimmy”? What is it about, and where did you get the idea for it?

I have no idea where I got the idea. I never do. I once bought a small can of ideas at the grocery store but, when I opened it at home, it was empty. The story is a kind of fable/fairytale/fantasy/faintly futuristic/mythological/who-knows-what tale about a mother who, in order to save her life, must literally eat her child. The story is about the mother and the son trying to come to grips with this fact. It also brings in an important (to me) Christian element. It will be published in early winter of 2022.

So you write fiction, plays, and ads. Which came first? Can you tell me about how you came to each of these very different forms of writing?

I started with short stories when I was young. In college a friend coaxed me into auditioning for a play. I discovered I had a talent for acting and a tremendous love of theatre. I started trying to write plays. Writing can be a lonely business, but knowing I was writing for the stage, that the characters on the paper would eventually become real people I could interact with, and actually give me suggestions about the writing, made writing plays more exciting and writing itself (seem) less lonely. As for ads, I was bartending and a man who had just started an ad agency needed someone to write some quick commercials. He heard that I liked to write and asked me to help him out. He later hired me, and that’s how I ended up in advertising. 

How does your background in fiction and playwriting inform your ad writing?

As for ad writing, I love writing for radio most of all. Because, as they say, it can be “theatre of the mind”. In television, what would take a massive budget, actors, make-up, costumes, special effects, etc. can be accomplished in radio for a couple bucks, some voice actors in sweatpants and a microphone. And, of course, in radio there’s always the opportunity to write dialogue.

Where do you get ideas for the ads you write?

I think, “What is the most relatable problem this client’s product would solve?” Then I try to figure out a way to illustrate the problem and the solution. To show the problem and solution in a way that touches the listener’s emotions, not just simply state “here’s the problem, here’s the solution”.

What elements of fiction do you think are most applicable to ad writing? 

Trying to be truthful and make things up at the same time.

Has writing ads made you a better fiction writer? Why or why not?

Maybe staying aware of how an audience will hear and respond to your ad (an ad has to be relatable) keeps me more aware of how a reader will respond to my writing. Maybe. On the other hand, in fiction, it’s nice to have the bit taken out of the mouth, the saddle pulled off and be released into a whole pasture free to kick about and play without any restraints. 

What makes a successful radio ad, from a creative standpoint? 

If a product is genuinely helpful to people, if the spot touches the emotions and leads people to discover something that improves their lives, that’s a successful ad. It begins and ends with sincerity.

Can you tell me about some of the ads you’ve written that you’re most proud of? What made them great?

That’s a tough one. The ads I think are great, may not be considered great ads from a response standpoint. The ones I love, that make me laugh or get a little misty-eyed, sometimes don’t do as well as ads that follow a more tried-and-true formula. One ad I liked was a popcorn kernel which had been left in the seat of someone’s hot car. The kernel is speaking more and more frantically about the benefits of tinted windows (for cooling). The spot ended with a “POP”. I don’t know whether it sold any tinted windows. 

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When it comes to audience targeting, nimbleness, and reach–the evidence is clear: audio advertising is a wise investment.  

That being said, marketing managers are more often forced to justify ad spend with ever increasing returns on investment. Budget and talent constraints–no matter how remarkable your product or service is–often put your brand at a disadvantage when it comes to breaking through the noise and seeing any meaningful ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) so relying on great creative alone is not enough. A multifaceted approach is paramount.

In order to launch, scale, and optimize a campaign for success, strategizing where and when your ad is heard is critical.

A group of gears stacked on each other

We Have the Expert Infrastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation.

influencers streaming a podcast at college radio station

We Have the Expert Infrastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation.

A group of gears stacked on each other

We have the Expert Infastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation. 

 

 

influencers streaming a podcast at college radio station

Collaboration Yields Results

Senior Media Buyer, Pam Wolfgram underscores the importance of our industry relationships:  

“Our media partners are exactly that: partners. They have a vested interest in helping us help our clients; it means more business! Even if they have to take it on the chin here and there for a client’s success–and they do–they know they’ll make it up in the long game, as we will send them every schedule that makes sense down the road. They want to work hard for us and for our clients.

As an example, we recently orchestrated a massive creative change affecting over 600 stations and it had to go off without a hitch, as “hitches” are mistakes that lead not only to credits being taken, but also to skewed results that make a test difficult to read. I reached out to every rep impacted by the change to express the importance of the test and walked away feeling completely at ease knowing that they were going to get with their traffic people and watch over the test like hawks. A little extra communication goes a long way!” 

All of SMI’s media buyers, researchers, and strategists have something in common: they know firsthand the value of respectful dialogue and perseverance. 

The motto of our Media team? 

There's always a workable solution to get meaningful return on ad spend. 

If you’re ready to invest more wisely in your audio advertising, start a conversation with us today! 

This is part one of SMI’s three-part series called Give Your Brand a Voice. Stay tuned for our next article focused on Creative! 

    facebook
    twitter
    linkedin
[/et_pb_section][/et_pb_post_content]
[/et_pb_row]
[/et_pb_column]

When it comes to audience targeting, nimbleness, and reach–the evidence is clear: audio advertising is a wise investment.  

That being said, marketing managers are more often forced to justify ad spend with ever increasing returns on investment. Budget and talent constraints–no matter how remarkable your product or service is–often put your brand at a disadvantage when it comes to breaking through the noise and seeing any meaningful ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) so relying on great creative alone is not enough. A multifaceted approach is paramount.

In order to launch, scale, and optimize a campaign for success, strategizing where and when your ad is heard is critical.

A group of gears stacked on each other

We Have the Expert Infrastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation.

influencers streaming a podcast at college radio station

We Have the Expert Infrastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation.

A group of gears stacked on each other

We have the Expert Infastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation. 

 

 

influencers streaming a podcast at college radio station

Collaboration Yields Results

Senior Media Buyer, Pam Wolfgram underscores the importance of our industry relationships:  

“Our media partners are exactly that: partners. They have a vested interest in helping us help our clients; it means more business! Even if they have to take it on the chin here and there for a client’s success–and they do–they know they’ll make it up in the long game, as we will send them every schedule that makes sense down the road. They want to work hard for us and for our clients.

As an example, we recently orchestrated a massive creative change affecting over 600 stations and it had to go off without a hitch, as “hitches” are mistakes that lead not only to credits being taken, but also to skewed results that make a test difficult to read. I reached out to every rep impacted by the change to express the importance of the test and walked away feeling completely at ease knowing that they were going to get with their traffic people and watch over the test like hawks. A little extra communication goes a long way!” 

All of SMI’s media buyers, researchers, and strategists have something in common: they know firsthand the value of respectful dialogue and perseverance. 

The motto of our Media team? 

There’s always a workable solution to get meaningful return on ad spend. 

If you’re ready to invest more wisely in your audio advertising, start a conversation with us today! 

This is part one of SMI’s three-part series called Give Your Brand a Voice. Stay tuned for our next article focused on Creative! 

    facebook
    twitter
    linkedin
[/et_pb_section]
[/et_pb_column]

When it comes to audience targeting, nimbleness, and reach–the evidence is clear: audio advertising is a wise investment.  

That being said, marketing managers are more often forced to justify ad spend with ever increasing returns on investment. Budget and talent constraints–no matter how remarkable your product or service is–often put your brand at a disadvantage when it comes to breaking through the noise and seeing any meaningful ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) so relying on great creative alone is not enough. A multifaceted approach is paramount.

facebook
twitter
linkedin
[/et_pb_social_media_follow][/et_pb_column]
In order to launch, scale, and optimize a campaign for success, strategizing where and when your ad is heard is critical.

A group of gears stacked on each other

We Have the Expert Infrastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation.

influencers streaming a podcast at college radio station

We Have the Expert Infrastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation.

A group of gears stacked on each other

We have the Expert Infastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation. 

 

 

influencers streaming a podcast at college radio station

Collaboration Yields Results

Senior Media Buyer, Pam Wolfgram underscores the importance of our industry relationships:  

“Our media partners are exactly that: partners. They have a vested interest in helping us help our clients; it means more business! Even if they have to take it on the chin here and there for a client’s success–and they do–they know they’ll make it up in the long game, as we will send them every schedule that makes sense down the road. They want to work hard for us and for our clients.

As an example, we recently orchestrated a massive creative change affecting over 600 stations and it had to go off without a hitch, as “hitches” are mistakes that lead not only to credits being taken, but also to skewed results that make a test difficult to read. I reached out to every rep impacted by the change to express the importance of the test and walked away feeling completely at ease knowing that they were going to get with their traffic people and watch over the test like hawks. A little extra communication goes a long way!” 

All of SMI’s media buyers, researchers, and strategists have something in common: they know firsthand the value of respectful dialogue and perseverance. 

The motto of our Media team? 

There’s always a workable solution to get meaningful return on ad spend. 

If you’re ready to invest more wisely in your audio advertising, start a conversation with us today! 

This is part one of SMI’s three-part series called Give Your Brand a Voice. Stay tuned for our next article focused on Creative! 

[/et_pb_column]

When it comes to audience targeting, nimbleness, and reach–the evidence is clear: audio advertising is a wise investment.  

That being said, marketing managers are more often forced to justify ad spend with ever increasing returns on investment. Budget and talent constraints–no matter how remarkable your product or service is–often put your brand at a disadvantage when it comes to breaking through the noise and seeing any meaningful ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) so relying on great creative alone is not enough. A multifaceted approach is paramount.

[/et_pb_column]
twitter
linkedin
In order to launch, scale, and optimize a campaign for success, strategizing where and when your ad is heard is critical.

A group of gears stacked on each other

We Have the Expert Infrastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation.

influencers streaming a podcast at college radio station

We Have the Expert Infrastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation.

A group of gears stacked on each other

We have the Expert Infastructure

In addition to SMI’s dedicated Creative and Analytics teams, our media buyers and strategists have deep industry relationships and format connections.  

Our Media team works in tandem with Client Services to understand the target demographics and geographical considerations alongside the short and long-term goals of our clients. Their combined expertise, in collaboration with our Analytics team, allows us to be vigilant in evaluating and communicating campaign performance in real time.  

Because our buyers and strategists have built and nurtured relationships with stations, agencies, and shows–we are also able to pivot precisely and aggressively if need be. Even in the days of such potent technology and automation, sometimes a format or rate adjustment simply comes down to the power of a well-handled telephone conversation. 

 

 

influencers streaming a podcast at college radio station

Collaboration Yields Results

Senior Media Buyer, Pam Wolfgram underscores the importance of our industry relationships:  

“Our media partners are exactly that: partners. They have a vested interest in helping us help our clients; it means more business! Even if they have to take it on the chin here and there for a client’s success–and they do–they know they’ll make it up in the long game, as we will send them every schedule that makes sense down the road. They want to work hard for us and for our clients.

As an example, we recently orchestrated a massive creative change affecting over 600 stations and it had to go off without a hitch, as “hitches” are mistakes that lead not only to credits being taken, but also to skewed results that make a test difficult to read. I reached out to every rep impacted by the change to express the importance of the test and walked away feeling completely at ease knowing that they were going to get with their traffic people and watch over the test like hawks. A little extra communication goes a long way!” 

All of SMI’s media buyers, researchers, and strategists have something in common: they know firsthand the value of respectful dialogue and perseverance. 

The motto of our Media team? 

There’s always a workable solution to get meaningful return on ad spend. 

If you’re ready to invest more wisely in your audio advertising, start a conversation with us today! 

This is part one of SMI’s three-part series called Give Your Brand a Voice. Stay tuned for our next article focused on Creative!