Six Reasons Why Radio Commercials Suck

Radio is one of the most imaginative mediums to work in. Done well, radio commercials are talked about, shared and even e-mailed, transcending the medium itself to become an endorsement of sorts.

But great radio commercials are harder to find today. Writers don’t give enough time and imagination to make them work. The result, a waste of air-time and money for clients.

Six “no-no’s” for radio script writers:

  1. The radio commercial that should have been a newspaper ad. It is simply a verbal listing of services or goods and the writer is hoping to strike a nerve with any listener. My advice, buy a newspaper ad.
  2. The radio commercial with the old style jingle package. The best branding in the world is blown when the “Pepper-Tanner” jingle kids open and close the spot with an “insert name here” music do-nut. My advice- Nix the jingle. Rewrite the spot.
  3. The  “client” voice over commercial. Of course people will tell you they heard you on the radio but no one will tell you how really bad you sounded next to the national commercial. Especially in the south. My advice – Leave the voice over to a pro.
  4. The commercial written and delivered in third person. This is the one that uses the term “They” for the client’s name. Example – “So give Joe’s Car Center a call. THEY are helpful with all types of blah blah.” My advice – If you can’t endorse it first person, it is probably not worth endorsing. Do-over.
  5. The 60 sec commercial that should have been 30 seconds. Radio stations often sell time in 60 sec. blocks so the client feels obligated to use the whole minute. I have actually heard one commercial repeat itself again using the connecting copy line “as we said” to segue the same boring announcement. I didn’t listen to it the second time. No one does. My advice – If you must use the 60 but have nothing to say, play music for 30 seconds… but not the jingle (see #2).
  6. The radio commercial featuring small children as the talent. Kids are great on TV because they are so animated and their actions help convey the words they say. On radio the joy of the visual child is not there. They are simply hard to understand. They sound like an untrained, diminutive voice that is neither cute nor convincing. My advice – Hire an adult child voice actor if you need a child voice or better yet, don’t do it.

Radio commercials are written and presented to clients in a non-competitive environment. But, when they air, they run in multi-minute commercial blocks and can be lost in the mayhem of audio clutter.

When it is initially written and presented it has to be presented in that same environment to see if it holds up and gets noticed. All said and done; write it so sells the brand, it’s memorable and It speaks to the audience it was designed for.  If it doesn’t…rewrite it.

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