Radio Advertising. It’s Good When It’s Good But Bad When It’s Bad.

Having just spent the better part of the day in a recording studio, producing a series of commercials promoting a new brand of basmati rice, I got into a conversation with a sound engineer regarding the state of radio advertising in this country.

What we agreed was that in a country like South Africa, where radio is the one of the largest advertising mediums, the standard of radio advertising is generally poor.

That’s not to say there aren’t some very good radio commercials produced here: there are. But in the main, they lack imagination, are uninspiring and generally come up short in the “believability” stakes ie they’re unbelievable, in the negative sense.

Which is a pity, as the medium lends itself to creativity and is often described as “theatre of the mind.That’s not to say that writing good radio is easy. It’s not. But there are a couple of pointers to good radio advertising to my mind.

(The following are for copywriters working in ad agencies. Also to clients who like to write their own scripts!!!).

Write a decent script. Use your imagination. And let the listener decide how good your product or service is.
In other words, stay away from words like “simply the best” because that is not only boastful – it’s arrogant, and it’s only your opinion after all.

Stay away from “hard sell” if you can.
People don’t like to be sold things. Far better to tell them what you have, and let them make the decision as to whether it’s a product or service that they want, or need.

Provide reasons to purchase
People buy benefits more than they buy products.
Explain why a certain product or service will be of benefit to them.

Use believable voices.
Some of the voice deliveries I hear in radio commercials are unbelievable in the extreme. (As in, unbelievably unbelievable). There’s no credibility at all. Write in the way people speak.

Talk to your target market in their language.

In other words, don’t talk beneath them. And don’t talk above them. Talk TO them, In language they understand. And can relate to.

Use different voices.
So many voices I hear on radio ads today are the same. As in same old, same old. There are tons of decent voice over artistes out there, but it seems that copywriters have their favourites and use them over and over again, promoting a variety of products and services. Be imaginative. Try and use different voice overs where you can. And please, stay away from the ditzy blonde or the typical Jewish “kugel” type of delivery as they are very tired. Also, please only use American accents if there is a seriously good reason to do so. (The fact that you’re in love with all things American or have just returned from “Nu Yoik” are hardly reasons).

In the radio commercials I produced yesterday (and which are on my website, I requested voices that had never been heard on radio before. With careful direction, they worked out well. The people I used had likely never been into a recording studio before, but they enjoyed it – and made some money out of it to boot. I even used my own voice, and I’m by no means a professional voice over.

Radio advertising done well can work wonders for your brand – whereas bad advertising can kill your brand, or seriously damage it.

There are many instances where bad advertising does more damage than good and my feeling has always been, if you’re going to advertise, do it professionally or not at all. There is nothing worse than putting out cringe-worthy advertising. Your brand deserves better. And so does your reception as a copywriter – or radio-writing client/marketer.

Advertising on radio is expensive (especially if you’re looking to advertise on mainstream radio stations like 702, Highveld, 5FM, Metro, SAFM and Jacaranda). Also remember that bad radio advertising costs the same as good radio advertising, so why produce – or settle for – the former?

It just doesn’t make sense to do so.

If you’re planning on producing or flighting a radio ad (and you don’t have an ad agency), either commission an experienced freelance copywriter to script and produce your radio commercial for you, and if you’re a copywriter, try to push the boundaries and explore radio as an advertising medium to the fullest. It’s a great medium and there are always ways to be more creative and more engaging with your audience.

Finally, if it’s a product that’s hard to be creative with, there’s always the tried and trusted route of live reads, where you get a radio announcer to read your script. It may cost more, but you’ll at least create the perception of the announcer endorsing your brand, even though you’ll be paying him (or her) to do so.

Posted in Advertising, Advertising on Radio, Radio Advertising and tagged , .

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