Talking telephone numbers

On the way out she told me her phone number...

I met the girl at a dinner party at a friends house. We got on magically. It was like the other people at the party just blended into the background. As she left she told me her phone number. “Will you remember it?” she asked. Of course I would! It was etched in my mind!

The next morning it was forgotten.

There are things that client insist on going into their radio commercials and the phone number is top on that list. I wonder sometimes how many hours of my life I have spent in discussion with clients to try to make them understand that putting their phone number in a commercial is generally a waste of time. Putting two different phone numbers in is just plain silly. Putting three numbers in (yes, it does happen) is just beyond belief If your business does business over the phone, that is that people purchase by phone, then by all means put the phone number in. You have to repeat it, you have to make it catchy, you have to get people to sing it in the shower. But if you want people to come and buy your product, don’t waste valuable radio advertising time trying to get people to remember a phone number, motivate them to come to you and buy it. I love Dan O’Day’s example, if you were a shoe shop why would someone call you?:

You: Hi, do you sell shoes?

Them: Err Yes! We’re a shoe shop!

You: Great! Thank you.

Then there is a question I ask my clients. How many phone numbers do YOU remember from radio commercials? I’d make a bet its only ones that are sung, repeated, and are easy to remember.

In any radio commercial you should ask for one action and give a good reason to perform that action. So if you want your phone number in a commercial ask the question… “Why should the listener phone?”. If you want a phone response, do a commercial to get a phone response. Otherwise, leave the phone number out.

And web addresses? If you can’t capture a sale at your website, why would you send anyone there?

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Dear Mr. Radio Advertising Client

Every Month I ask some of the top people in Radio Advertising for their client tips. Most of them ignore me. But Emma answered!

Emma Clarke ( knows a thing or two about radio commercials. She’s voiced thousands and writes for radio and TV. She has some things to say to you, Mr. Radio Advertising Client (or Mrs, Miss or Ms.) Some of the points I will be covering later in more depth.

“I reckon it’s all about the brief-take. If that isn’t done right, the whole process falls apart. Quick thoughts:

Trust the copywriter who’s writing your ad – it’s his area of expertise, not yours

If you’ve got an idea for an ad by all means share it, but don’t be offended if the copywriter recommends you don’t use it.

Don’t turn your ad into a vanity project: don’t be tempted to name your wife, daughter, son, mother etc in the ad as ‘character names’

Don’t use rhyming couplets unless there’s a damn good marketing reason behind it…
Have realistic expectations of what your ad will achieve

Don’t contort a successful national campaign of a big brand into a watered-down version that might just fit your ad (I’m thinking here of the HUNDREDS of M & S style ads I’ve been asked to voice)

Make sure your ad really does match your brand, your company ethos and suits your product or service

Go for one call-to-action per ad.

Understand that less words in an ad mean a better quality ad; if your ad has ‘space’ in it, don’t think it means you’re getting sold short – the reverse is true

Trust the producer who’s making the ad and the voices who’ll read your script – they know what they’re doing!

When you’re critiquing your ad for the first time, please don’t be unnecessarily rude

Trust that radio advertising can take time to reap the rewards for your business – try to use social media to back up your marketing push (the only cost will be your time!)”

Thanks Emma!

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If the answer is 30 seconds, what was the question?

My job as a radio advertising copywriter, in a nutshell, is this. Write radio advertising copy that translates into audio, that sells the client’s product or service. My job is not to entertain the audience, although I always hope that some of the ads I write will entertain. I want the client to be remembered (for the right reasons) and I want the ads to motivate the listener to action. The programming staff also want me to make sure that the listener doesn’t turn off their radio, or switch stations, because my ad has irritated them
To do the job properly how long do I need?
It varies. Research such as the Ironing Board and Jigsaw studies showed that people remember longer and more creative ads better. But if you have shorter ads you can “replay” the longer ad in the mind of the listener. So sometimes I suggest a combination of 40s and 20s (once they’re written). But the truth is that a commercial needs to be as long as it needs to be to do the job.

I hate hearing a great ad ruined because it’s been edited down to the nominal 30 seconds that has been pre-sold to the client. I’ve also heard unfocused and rambling 60 second commercials (often in the US) that should have been 20 or 30 seconds long.

30 seconds is NOT a standard. It helps the station to price their inventory, but it’s NOT a guide to how long a radio commercial should be.

My former Colleagues, talented writer Rhodri Crooks and wizard with the faders and mouse Duncan Brown, then at Aire FM in Leeds (an incidentally using good old fashioned 8-track) created a wonderful 3 minute commercial for a local nightclub. It played twice a week, on a Friday night. It was requested on air, it was popular and worked for the client. And it was NOT 30 seconds long.

At the other end of the scale, talented writer Tom Woods did an amazing 10 second commercial for a car wash. It won numerous national and international awards. And it was NOT 30 seconds long.

Don’t buy 30 second spots!! Buy advertising solutions. Some of them will be 30 seconds long. Many wont. If you are presented with a schedule based on this duration be prepared to be flexible. Otherwise you may get the ad that had to be produced, rather than the one that should have been produced. Whether it is longer, or shorter than 30 seconds!

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Two Women on a Bus

There seems to be two women who know all about advertisers products and services, experts with insider information, living in every corner of the globe. They quite often hold their enlightened conversations on a bus. Here in Kenya they spend all of their life on a matatu, a minibus public transport vehicle, discussing the various features of the client’s business. Miraculously, and without reference to a notepad, iPad or mobile phone, they can recall the client’s phone number. When I travel on a matatu I usually have my eyes closed and just think about whether my medical insurance is up to date. Hey what a great idea for a commercial!

I have no problem with the scenario. Yes it is hackneyed, clichéd, over done, badly done and people just don’t talk to each other like that… but there’s more to it. Often this idea comes from a client who has thought more about “having an idea” for his or her radio commercial, than actually thinking about the brief. From the piece of paper in front of me I have a list of features that I have to turn into benefits and then shoehorn into the scenario. I have to get my two ladies to say things that two ordinary people just would not say to each other. I end up with a bad commercial, and a commercial that sounds like the hundreds of other bad commercials done in the same way because the client had this “great idea”.

How do you avoid falling into this trap? Have a great idea that comes out of a simple brief. What does the client want listeners to DO? Why should they do it? Who are we talking to? If the brief is good and simple, it’s easy to find creative ways to communicate it.

Maybe we should champion “Realistic women talking on a bus”!

Woman 1: What did you say their number was again?
Woman 2: I didn’t … but I have it here on my Blackberry… hang on a second…. Oh sod it… the battery’s nearly dead. Look can I email it to you later?
Woman 1: Naaar, I’ll just get Mike to Google it.
Woman 2: You know they were founded in 1979?
Woman 1: That’s exactly the kind of useless information I’d expect you to come up with.

Hey Mary! Nice Sari you're wearing! Where DID you get it?

THE Bus!

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People don’t listen to radio the way you do.

On a station I worked at we did a special deal for regular advertisers. We gave them bonus spots. But these spots could go out at any time. Day or Night. One day he called me. “Simon, I heard one of my spots go out at 3 in the morning! No one listens at 3 in the morning!” “You were.” I replied. He laughed, said “Good point!” and hung up.

Just because YOU listen to radio in a certain way, does not mean the listener does.

In Nairobi the breakfast shows are jam packed with advertisers, all fighting for their unfair share of voice. But then the rest of the day quiets down, until the afternoon drive time. Why? Because most of the people who make decisions about advertising are driving too and from work at those times. Yes, it is a peak time! But there is a significant radio audience for the rest of the day, people that could use your product or service, if only you were there to give them a reason to do so. By all means run a peak time campaign, but don’t miss out on those people who are listening the rest of the day, even the night.  This is one of the great strengths of spot advertising. Your station can run these all through the day, during different times  each day, to hit people who have different listening habits. So if you run a spot on a Monday at 8.05am, don’t run it on Tuesday at 8.05am… maybe run it at 8.40am. So you hit the person with slightly different morning habits.  Run spots in the morning, through the afternoon, even during the night. I once had a client who insisted on his ads only running at weekends. That was when HE listened. He wasn’t thinking like a smart advertiser. If your message is compelling, and you can hit as many people as possible, across the day, 7 days a week, you have a formula for success.

The radio audience is not a standing army, it is a passing parade.

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Repetition Builds Reputation

I knew my mother was mad at me. Her Irish eyes flash. Then comes the phrase that I hate. “How many times have I told you….” Insert the appropriate completing phrase.

You can choose from several. Not to throw dirty socks around the room. Not to throw food at my sister. Not to eat sweets before dinner. Any parent will know, to get a response from your children you have to repeat and repeat the message.

David “Giff” Gifford, a US Radio Sales Guru tells clients, “What you say times how many times you say it is the only thing that works in advertising today! Repetition builds reputation!” It’s true! And one of the great benefits of spot advertising is that you can deliver the same message over and over again. You can run the same creative across multiple stations. You know that the same message is being heard several times by the average listener. In the USA someone came up with a figure, the average number of times the average listener would have to hear a message before they respond to it. It was 3.42 times. Of course there is no “magic” number. It then depends on your message. If there is no reason to purchase, you may hear the message 250 times before you act on it. If it’s an amazing, never to be repeated offer, you may see a huge response after just a few spots have aired. The secret it to be on the radio all the time. You could start your campaign with a heavy schedule, then after a few weeks reduce the spots to a fairly light weight campaign. When you have something new to offer, or a special event or sale, go back to the heavy weight schedule. You can also use a combination of longer creative treatments and shorter reminder commercials. Ask your radio sales person about the different options.

And a note to my mother, I would have stopped throwing my dirty socks around the bedroom years ago, if you’d given me a really good reason not to!.

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Rushton on Radio

There are a lot of things to know about using radio advertising more effectively. Tips and tricks.

I hope that in this blog I can share some of the things I have learned with you. If you’re an Advertiser I hope this will help you get more results for your radio advertising. If you are a Radio Advertising Copywriter or a sales person I hope I can help you to help your clients.

I hope this is of help to you.

Please  feel free to add comments or ask questions.