Tardis writing…. writing to time

The Tardis is Doctor Who’s vehicle for getting around in time and space. From the outside it is the size of an old UK police box, inside it’s a massive maze of rooms. Even the Doctor hasn’t explored the entire Tardis. A thirty second radio ad is not a Tardis. I have once or twice asked clients to read scripts back to me over the phone (at the pace they want their amended script read) and time them. On one occassion the 30″ I had written had changed into a 70″ ad. But he assured me it was still a 30″.


You have to time your script out loud and leave time for sound effects.
A word count on the computer is useful… but it’s just a guide until you time it properly.
Read it with any music you’ve chosen. You could be 2 seconds or more over time on a slow piece of music
If you read it out loud and it comes to 39″. Congratulations you’ve written a 40.
If it’s 35 seconds… what can you cut out that’s not needed to make it a 30…. or what will make it BETTER and a 40?
If the client has revised it, is it STILL the duration you timed? Edit edit edit.
Before you ask….YES the Voice Over can go a bit quicker. But probably not THAT quick and it will sound rubbish. Make sure it’s right before you go into the studio.
BUY A STOPWATCH. They’re not expensive.


You are not selling suits in just one size.
If it needs to be longer OR shorter when the scripts have been written tell your client why it may not be a bog standard 30.
Learn about the advantages of longer commercials, more creative commercials and most importantly commercials that communicate and sell.


If you want to say more, if you want to mention something else (“… not to mention”) then, if you don’t want to damage your ad, ask for another script. The more you cram in the less effective your communication becomes.

Read it out loud. Project slightly. Time it!

Voice Overs

It’s a bit over written.
Thanks for getting me out of a hole with your skills!

Award Winning Radio Commercials

Radio commercials that win advertising awards are not always great effective radio ads. Sometimes they’re written just to win awards and may only get broadcast once, late at night, to qualify. Some radio ads have won gongs but not had any measurable result for the client… and some have.

Many year ago I wrote some ads using the voice of the late great Brian Glover…. based on an idea by the late great Mike Hurley. It was for a real client to sell a real car… and I didn’t know it was being entered into the London International Advertising Awards. I got a finalist certificate and was so pleased.┬áIt’s nice to be recognised in what can sometime feel like an industry where there is little recognition for the lowly copywriters and producers.

I have been recently asked on to the Grand Jury of the New York Festivals and I am very excited to be judging in the radio section. So what will I be looking for? I guess they will give us criteria… but personally I want a combination of these..

1. I want to be surprised where the ad takes me.

2. I want to hear people who understand and use the medium of sound.

3. I want to be held for the full duration of the ad.

4. I want to be moved emotionally or changed in my thinking.

5. I want to laugh or cry.

Long time no speak

It’s been a long time since I wrote here.

But a LOT has happened.

January last year we had a baby boy. Alex is now 1 year old.

We also relocated back to the UK. It was a big move, especially for my wife who’s now getting used to the English winter weather, short days and different foods.

Since January 2015 I am working for a company called Get Carter Productions. Get Carter are one of the top independent producers of radio commercials in the UK. I’ve already done some nice national campaigns.

Opening a new chapter is very exciting…. watch this space.

100 Year since the start of “The Great War”

It’s been 100 years since the start of WW1. And it’s been marked in various countries. Whenever I see clips of the trenches I think of this advert. Yes it’s an advert. But listen how it grabs you, and holds you emotionally, and no phone number in sight!

Click the photo to take you to the audio

Audio Here

John Evington – Commercials, Friend or Foe

Some really nice thoughts on ad breaks on radio stations from John Evington here.

I worked under John many many years ago (about 23 years ago) in Stoke on Trent UK. He knows his stuff! I’ll remind him sometime of the day he voiced an ad for me… promoting the Bolshoi Ballet…. and mentioning some of those Russian dancers by name.

The dapper John Evington

The humble comma, the magnificent full stop

I’m not great at spelling and grammar. I am in awe of the spellchecker on my computer and often frustrated that it switches to US English (whatever that is!) from time to time. But something that is central to what copywriters for radio do…is writing for the spoken word. So now when I write by blog I use those three little dots to indicate the pause in the speech, that slight rise in intonation.

(I always notice spelling mistakes on this blog AFTER I hit publish!)

Often when clients write their own scripts, or even new copywriters, they forget that they are not writing to be read, but to be read out loud. That is why, when you write a script you HAVE to READ IT OUT LOUD.

As you read it, with a stopwatch, you will notice where the voice would have to take a breath, a pause, break a sentence. Put the punctuation in. Make it clear. Help the voice over by putting a new sentence on a new line. It helps them because they can see the sentence end that they are aiming at.

Also, don’t use caps lock. Proper sentence case writing will help give meaning to the words and using uppercase words tells the voice you wanted this delivered firmly… or in certain context, shouted. (shouting in a radio commercial is not a great idea unless there’s something being dramatised). I was taught at school that the word “and” does not require a coma. But on a script, from time to time I will add one to give that increased sense of a pause,(sic) and possibly a new thought.

Make sure your producer knows what you mean when you put in CAPS or italic… or underline!
Make the font big enough to read and 1.5 line space it so the voice can put in their own notes. Some voice over artists have their own way of marking up a script so it you ask for a particular emphasis on a word they can repeat it exactly take after take. (usually if you take more than 4 takes of a script with and experienced voice over, there’s something wrong with your communication and not the voices ability.*

So read it outloud.
Put in the punctuation.
Write for the SPOKEN word, not the written word.

*I was once assisting with an agency session at a radio studio with a voice over friend. I walked into the studio to hear the voice pleading with the agency “producer” to give him some direction on how he wanted it differently. They had just completed Take 30 something. The agency bod turned off the talk back and said to the sound engineer… “I think we have it anyway… let’s use take 2”.

I’m glad the voice over didn’t hear it!!

read out loud

In Praise of The Radio Station Copywriter

Recently I had a mail from a former colleague from way back in the day. He is high up in sales for a radio group. I asked him who did his creative and he told me they use external production houses…. “It’s MUCH cheaper” he told me.

Mmmm. Lets look at that. A few years ago I was working as a freelancer at a radio station and we went out to see a client. We took a brief. Nothing different to what you may have to do with an external production house. The sales person kind of expected that the client would buy one ad to run on her station for a month. But we took more briefs, wrote around a dozen ads, and presented them to the client. We developed the relationship with that client, honed and worked on the creative and then they dropped the bombshell. They loved them so much wanted to run all the ads, in all the areas where they were launching their product. Suddenly an order that was maybe ten thousand pounds because hundreds of thousands. Creative and Sales working together can get clients to spend that would not have done so, it increases spend… it MORE than justifies having a Creative on the team…. if IF you do it right. IF you don’t see a writer as just a factory to make ads. In 2 visits I justified the salary of a Creative for the next 20 years. One Creative Consultant I know went into a radio station and worked out that every year the Creative Team added around a million pounds to the station that they would not have written without the onsite writers. I’m not sure HOW he worked it out, but I can believe it.

The UKRD Group has caught on to this and have employed Mike Bersin, putting site writers into their radio stations. Writers who can write multiple ad campaigns, who can present creative with confidence, and who have a wealth or radio experience. There are some big names and people who I hugely respect working at some UKRD stations now. I wish them well with it. They deserve to do big things.

As for production houses, there’s still a need for them. Healthy competition is a good thing. Agencies have choice, clients have choice and smaller stations that cant afford a production facility have an option. But if you want to see growth in sales, get a writer!

How many writers? Good question. Wouldn’t it be interesting if every sales person had a dedicated creative? I can only dream.

For more on Mike Bersin and his methods for increased Radio Station revenues, read these books!

The Creative Led Sell: The Definitive Guide to the Easiest and Most Effective Way to Sell Radio Advertising
Taking the Brief: A Simple Guide to Getting Great Briefs for Ads That Will Make the Client Money
Make More Money: A Business Users Guide to Creating Radio Ads That Increase Sales, Turnover and Profit.

L to R Simon Rushton, Emily Morris, Mike Bersin and Graham Elliott.

L to R Simon Rushton, Emily Morris, Mike Bersin and Graham Elliott.