Remembering Brian Glover

A bit of Friday nostalgia… remembering the lovely voice of Brian Glover, who sadly died in 1997 and some ads what I wrote for him. He had a fabulous voice and was great fun to work with.

The first one was for Renault Leicester, inspired by the late great Mike Hurley… and his Bill Bore character. He did something similar to this but I took the idea and took it a bit further. It got a Finalist Certificate in the London International Advertising Awards. Mike teased me for years about “borrowing” his idea.

The next features the voice of Rob Rackstraw. A little bit too Tetley Teabag for my liking, but that was the brief! The client was Newbolds. Brian, as usual, put so much effort into getting it just right.

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I love radio ads!

I read a lot about radio advertising. I am a radio advertising geek. I listen to radio ads, I read what people write about radio ads and I think a lot about radio ads. I hate the fact that music and presenters get in the way of the radio ads… I turn UP the ads to hear them better.

Hurry Darling! The Advertising Messages are coming on soon!

The listener doesn’t. The listener really doesn’t care about radio ads. And when they do it’s often because they are irritated or offended by them.

When we think about getting commercials to work we have to think carefully not just about the message, but HOW you engage the target market. An attention grabbing siren or voice shouting “Attention! Attention!” is exactly the right way to turn the listen off your message. Listeners are already listening… they may just be passive listeners until you relate your product or service to something that is, or could happen in their lives that the product or service could deal with.

You have to think very carefully about the listener and how they will respond to the message.
Many years ago I was freelancing at a radio station in Leicester, UK. They has a Personal Injury Company that was advertising on air with some very funny commercials. Nicely written, attention grabbing and hilarious. The only problem was, it wasn’t working for them. The thing was, if you’d been in a serious car accident you were not finding things amusing. So I wrote some empathetic, straight voice ads for the client… and used the lovely vocal talent of Nick Jackson.The client said then the first commercial ran it was like turning on a tap… with calls coming in as the adverts were aired. We didn’t have to grab the attention of the listeners, we just had to reach out to the point where they were in their lives and give a compelling reason to call the client.

Sometimes the answer is wonderful creative adverts. Sometimes it’s a wonderfully written straight announcer read.

I have to go now… I think there’s an ad break coming up!

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Buy Shoes From Us… Because We Sell Shoes

When I was a child I used to think I could move things using the power of my mind.
The only reason I couldn’t was because I hadn’t mastered the technique.
I can remember staring at a glass of water trying to make it move.
Eventually I realized that the best way to move a glass of water, it to actually use your hand.

Move! Come ON! MOVE!!!

Radio advertising, for some clients, is like staring at a glass of water. You put something on air and hope that it will increase your business. Like the advertiser this week that gave me the brief… buy shoes from us because we sell shoes. Now, given time (unlike my mind control) it may work and you get customers in because you just let people know you are there. But it’s easier to give them a good reason to visit.

Is it new stock and styles? Is it a promotion on a particular kind of footwear? Is it a sale? Is it an event of some kind (Fab Feet Friday?) People need a reason to walk or drive past the competition. Then apply the “so what?” rule. If it doesn’t make you want to act, do you think it would motivate the listener?

Advertising is about getting results…. Not about image (although it’s important to have and maintain an image) or branding (branding happens anyway, just make sure your ad is ON BRAND). It’s all about getting results. You will not get results by just staring at the customers. Use your hand to reach on and grab them and give them a good reason to come to you. (In this case the hand is a metaphor for your radio advertising). It’s not some kind of magic. Tell people what you want them to do (or react) and give them a good reason to do it.

By the way… every now and again I find a glass, fill it from the tap, and try again… just in case the skill develops with age.

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The Power of Radio

That's it lady! Just look ahead and keep walking!

When you visit a craft fair in Kenya it’s best to fix your eyes firmly ahead, avoid all eye contact and show interest in absolutely nothing at all! Anything else is considered what a sales person would call a “buying signal”. You MUST want to buy that over priced carving because you scratched your nose.

Clients of radio stations believe that saying how well their campaign worked is an automatic signal for the sales peron to increase their prices… so working at a radio station it’s rare to get positive feedback from a client. The most you get from them is “well… it’s working O.K…” Even though you know that their store was packed during the sale, or that they had twice as many customers as normal during the campaign.

Last week I had the pleasure to meet a client who was not shy in talking about how his campaign had worked. He told me that they had managed to sell more in six months than they would normally expect to do in 2 and a half YEARS. He told me how he was going to pull his press advertising and put all his money in radio. WAIT! No, please don’t do that! I love radio, and I love how effective radio can be for clients… but please don’t drop your other advertising! There ARE ways you can save money on other media, and use it to spend MORE on radio, but using different media together increases the effect of each one individually. So Radio is MORE powerful when combined with press or TV.

But it was great to hear how powerfully radio was working for this client.

If you’re advertising and it’s working for you, let the radio station and the people involved know.

If it’s NOT working for you…there will be a reason. then let me have a look at your brief and your scripts… and for a fee I can help you to rewrite, or rebrief to get powerful advertising on the radio! (Was that self promotion? Probably!)

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Writing to Time

It’s hard to get all your camping equipment in the back of a 1979 Triumph Spitfire. I know this from bitter experience. But it is possible to get enough for a week if you pack cleverly… and leave out all the things that are not really important. Leave behind the airbed. the guitar, the cooker. (I can live off tree moss for a couple of days.)

Like mine, but mine had wire wheels.

It’s amazing how many clients think they can simply add words to their crafted radio commercial. “Can we just say we’re open 7 days a week… including Sunday?” (really… Sunday is included in those 7 days?) “can we just add our phone number?” The answer is yes, you can add more words but you will have to move to a different duration… from a 30 to a 40, or a 30 to a 45 (depending on how airtime is sold where you live).

It happened to me again today. The client gave us an ad (written by an advertising agency) that they said was a 30 second ad. I timed it at 50 seconds. They cut it back… I timed it again… 40 seconds. They insist that it was do-able in 30 seconds because they had “done a word count” and it came to 100 words… which in their opinion was OK for 30 seconds.
A few problems… they had not allowed time for the sound effects, they had not realized that the client’s name looked like one word but was in fact three words, and that a phone number (yes, a completely pointless phone number) was actually ten words. My word count… 125 words!

Even then, 3 words per second is quick… so 90 words for a 30 second spot is a little optimistic.

There is only one way to get an accurate time on your radio commercial. Read it out loud, with a stopwatch, and put in the sound effects while you’re reading it through. Project your voice a bit and read it clearly, don’t mumble a hurried script.

My belief is that a commercial SHOULD be as long as it needs to be to do the job. But if I’ve written it to a certain duration, and you want to add words, we need more time. It’s not like press where you could maybe reduce the font size.
No, I can’t make the voice go faster! It will ruin your ad!

No, I can’t speed it up, scrunch it with clever electronics and cut all the breaths out! It will sound false (or like Mickey Mouse on speed… not that Mickey would take speed… he’s been clean for years!).
So, buy a stopwatch… and read it out loud!

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It’s not what you want to say… it’s what the listener needs to hear

Nice Award!

He was very proud of his award. You have to admit it was big and shiney. It had pride of place in his company’s reception. And he wanted it to have pride of place in his radio commercials too. Now it was our job to talk him out of it. Why? Because that award means absolutely nothing to his customers.

You might have a nice bit of engraved glass that says, “The UK’s Most Innovative Small Business, Teapots and Jugs Sector, 2011”, but what does that mean to someone buying clothes pegs from you? Now tell me that you’ve developed a little stainless steel jug that doesn’t spill when you pour milk into your coffee and I’d be interested! But an award? So what!!

Many clients want to boast about their business, they may have awards and done things as a company that they are very proud of. But you have to step outside for a moment and think about what it actually means for the customer. Why should they care?

What the customer needs to hear is how the product or service will change their life or experience for the better. If you’re a restaurant owner who is constantly cleaning table linen because customers spill milk on them… would you be interested in that little milk jug?

How does a good car sales person sell you a vehicle? First they think about the customer, they take a brief! They find out about their life, their needs… and then they show them the vehicle that will fulfill their wants. It’s no good trying to sell a two seat sports car to a guy with a family of 6 and a caravan! It’s not about what the sales person’s needs… (hitting his target, getting rid of that two seater that’s been in the showroom for 2 years) it’s about the customer and selling what answers his or her problems. Can you get all your family in your current car? How well does it tow your caravan? Well this is the car that will do what you need it to do! Do they care that the sales person was Sales Person of the Month 6 months in a row? Not likely!

Think about the customer. And apply the Alvin Eicoff formula: Set Forth the Problem, explain the solution, demonstrate how your product and service best provides the solution. Not what you WANT to say! What the listener needs to hear.

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Being “Creative”, AND selling.

You walk up to a comedian and you say to him… “make me laugh!”. You almost make him crash his shopping cart. All he is doing is getting milk and food for the weekend. He’s thinking about the bill that he’s struggling to pay and the argument he’s just had with a friend. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t bop you on the nose.

As a “Creative” I get asked to write ads for clients. They quite often say… “I want something different” or “I want something that stands out”, or “I want something Creative”. The problem is that there is often nothing different, outstanding or creative about their business or the brief that they have given me. Actually what they should be asking for is something that WORKS. But that is at the briefing part of the process. I have always believed that great creative has to come out of a simple and compelling brief. I have heard many award winning radio commercials that are brilliantly produced, amazingly written, funny pieces or radio, that would have done nothing for the client.
It’s made me think again about being “creative”. Is writing radio advertising “art”? Then I saw this piece in the Radio Advertising for Business Group on Linkedin.

Brent Walker of Soundscapes

I have also been watching some videos by Brent Walker, and at first I reacted. In the first of his “Five Tennets of Great Radio”. He says “Entertain First…Sell Second”. The reason I reacted was because I didn’t read or listen properly. For years I have been fighting the crusade to make commercials that sell. My biggest issue being that so called great “creative” ads completely fail to sell to the listener. They’re often funny, entertaining, and so creative… that people forget what was being advertised and it wastes the clients money. I don’t disagree that commercials should be entertaining… of course they should. But that’s not my first line of thinking.

Having watched the videos, and I highly recommend you do, I just think that Brent is coming from the other side of the argument, to the same spot. Like I said, I have been exposed to lots of entertaining ads that fail to sell, he seems to have come across lots of “selly” ads that fail to entertain. In my humble opinion… Entertain THEN sell? Maybe, but don’t FORGET to sell because you become so wrapped up in the entertaining and showing what a clever writer you are!

I really think, as guardians of the advertiser’s dollar and their investment, we HAVE to think about return on investment. My usual arguments with sales people are over their clients doing crazy things to their commercials that make them less effective.

Look, I believe radio commercials CAN be funny, can be award winning, SHOULD be entertaining… and should always come from the position of being made as effective as possible.

I believe ALL commercials should be “direct response”. That is they should get customers for the client, get phone calls to a recruitment line, reduce road accidents or what ever the client’s aim is. The CREATIVITY is in communicating that in the best way. Tell me what you want me to do… give me a really good reason to do it… and engage me while you are telling me. You can BE artistic, you can be clever or funny, but make the commercial do the job it is supposed to do.

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