This article has been updated to reflect changes in the industry. The original article was posted on October 27th, 2008.
Insights From Two Decades of Direct Response Radio Advertising
Making radio work for your company requires strategy, skillful media buying, and engaging creative. What makes a radio ad engaging?
The creative process starts with a clear understanding of your brand, your audience and the targeted goals you wish to achieve – whether measured in cost per leads, cost per orders or just a bump in web site traffic! Working with this, we begin concepting the best way to present your messaging in the most impactful way possible.
Finding the right message and the most arresting way to present it is a process of creative collaboration, ongoing testing and analysis of results. We’ve got a lot of experience in all three, and although we are continuously humbled by the process, we have learned that some things work better than others.
10. Production value and voiceover talent.
Direct Response and brand marketing are like two horses pulling a single chariot: they have to work together to drive sales! People expect more sophistication from radio ads. And better, more sophisticated production builds credibility and trust towards the brand – thus leading to greater sales! When called for, production value is often enhanced by the subtle placement of music and sound effects. Think of it like music underscoring the lyrics of a pop song. They work together to reinforce the messaging. They provide an emotional shortcut you wouldn’t otherwise have.
What makes you stand out? What makes your product or service unique? What special benefits does your product or service offer that no one else can?
It’s this distinctiveness that will attract people to you, and you alone. Similarly, your ad should also seek to differentiate itself from all other ads – so it too stands out.
8. Effective use of the interplay between emotion and logic.
There are points in the ad where emotional appeals are appropriate, and there are other points in the ad where logical appeals are potent. Few people make a purchase decision based solely on one or the other. Quite often we’re “reeled in” with emotion, and just before we buy we look for a logical reason to rationalize our emotional decision. Successful radio ads recognize this dynamic and flow accordingly.
After years of experience writing and producing radio ads, we love seeing how small changes in copy or production can have an amazingly large impact on results. We’ve seen this happen over and over. Through testing and analysis, some key insight produces a small copy change that dramatically boosts results!
Our conclusion? Articulation matters. And the more direct the better. One of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen is using general, empty statements or clichés. Use specific language! Be clear and precise whenever possible!
You have sixty seconds. The listener is busy. Packing too much into the ad overwhelms the listener. Leave the kitchen sink in the kitchen.
One good point, made well, stays with the listener.
5. Use of images to enhance the message.
We live in a visual world. Billboards, internet banners, TV ads are all visual mediums. Radio, however, is not. This can be a remarkable advantage as radio engages the listener in an entirely unique way. Only radio requires the listener to use their mind to create the visuals.
A good radio ad provokes the listener’s imagination. It asks the listener to join in the process of generating the imagery. To this end, the ad is written to create this sort of engagement; an engagement that study after study proves is longer lasting and more impactful than visual advertising that washes over our consciousness like beta waves.
4. Know your Audience
You have to know your customer to connect with your customer in a personal, authentic way. This may sound obvious, but too often clients are casting the widest net possible and are terrified to offend or exclude anyone. The result too often is an ad that grabs no one.
The best radio ads flow from an authentic connection to your customer and your product. Authenticity is influential and contagious. It makes you more credible and more human. You’re not trying to be all things to all people, rather you’re trying to connect with someone who relates to what you’re offering, whether it’s your product, your outlook or your taste in ads. It all adds up to building an authentic relationship with your listener.
3. The offer.
There must be a call to action that is relevant, compelling and simple enough to grasp quickly. Relevant means it matters to a potential customer – it reduces my risk or makes picking up the phone a no-brainer. Compelling means it has a “wow” factor. As in, “wow, they must really believe in their product to do that. And simple means it’s … not complicated. It doesn’t make me stop and think too much. It doesn’t confuse me with language that’s spun to sound like it’s a great offer but really isn’t.
And make sure if an offer is made, you can back it up.
2. The opening attention grabber.
You have one chance to grab the listener, and one chance only. In radio advertising, we call this the hook. The hook is what sells the ad. And you have to sell the ad to sell the product.
Sounds simple, right? But because we’re all bombarded relentlessly by huge number of other advertisers who are trying to do the same, it is the most difficult thing to do. This is why you must immediately provoke the listeners’ curiosity, imagination or surprise! You have five seconds, and then their minds will start to drift. Be bold!
1. Benefit orientation.
You love your product. You know every detail, every feature, every innovation that went into it. You love talking about it and you have faith that once everybody else knows all its specs and features, they will too!
Bad news. Unless you’re selling analog stereo equipment at a High Fidelity convention, they won’t. One of the biggest mistakes we see all the time is assuming people care how something works before they care about what it does for them. They don’t.
The ad must answer the question: what’s in it for me? How will it impact my life in a way that I think it will make my life better, happier, or easier? What sells is something that solves my problem quickly, safely, better and more conveniently than anything else. If you use your 60 seconds in any other way, you’re wasting time.