Simply the Best – How to survive as a Radio Advertising Copywriter

Tina Turner has a lot to answer for. I thought the cliche “Simply the Best” would have dies a slow painful death by now. Not so. Every now and again we get a client (especially UK clients I write for) who think it would be a great idea to have this tune behind their ad. Well, like a cross border crocodile smuggler, they’d need deep pockets.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time, as copywriters we’re dealing with clients who have an idea of what a radio commercial should sound like. When we give them alternative ideas they play it safe. If they write their own it usually starts with a question. “Are YOU thinking of buying a new (insert product)?” Cliché cliché cliché.

As copywriters I don’t think we have a problem coming up with new ideas, or giving old ideas a new spin. What we sometimes have trouble with is finding the energy and spark to fight back the dross and fight for our ideas past the apathy of some sales people (just give ’em what they want!) and the play it safe attitude of some clients.

I have worked at a radio group where the sales people simply would not work well with Creative. They were led by a management who didn’t give a stuff about quality and retention of clients. The job was a constant battle to try and get good practice in place. It was a thankless and soul destroying job.

How do we survive? 8 tips in no particular order….

1. Enjoy the clients who DO go with the more creative compelling ideas. Rejoice in their trust in you.
2. Remember it’s only radio. If we have a bad day, nobody dies.
3. Rejoice in the good sales execs… the ones that give you decent lead times, that produce excellent briefs and that talk you up in front of clients and super serve them. Asked for 1 script? Give them four! (the others?…. give ’em what they want)
4. Get a hobby. Away from radio and sales. I enjoy scuba diving and teaching scuba. If I didn’t have that I would probably be a frazzled mess.
5. Laugh at your mistakes… or at least snigger under your breath.
6. If you have a sales exec who really aggravates you imagine them naked. If that doesn’t work, ask them for a naked photo. It will at least keep them out of your office for a few days.
7. That brilliant idea rejected by a client could be an award winner… produce it and play it out on air (with client permission, in the early hours) and THEN enter it for some awards.
8. Marry a wonderful person who couldn’t care less about your job.

Dan O’Day – RADIO IS A PRECISE MEDIUM

Dan O’Day is a great, reasoned, sensible thinker on radio advertising. He developed the Certified Professional Commercial Copywriter course for the RAB in the USA (I was the first person to qualify outside of Texas!!)

Here are some of his wise words… Click here.

Dan O’Day

Put me on the Breakfast Show!

Most radio stations in the world it’s the Breakfast show that is the flag ship and attracts the most listeners. This is where advertisers, naturally, want to focus their effort. Understandably. But lets break it down a little further. Here’s my typical morning:-

5.45am Wake up
6am into the kitchen turn the radio on while I prepare my breakfast.
6.30am hit the shower and get dressed for work.
7am Catch some TV news
7.45am on the motorbike to work (no radio)
8:05 at my desk with a cup of fruit tea… catching up on mails etc.

Now imagine if the peak of breakfast show listening is at 07:55 and you place your spot there, every day…. 07:55… then every day you would miss me! I will never hear your spot. The same is true of other people’s listening habits across the whole day. Although you want to hit the maximum people the maximum number of times, you don’t do that by JUST hitting the peaks!

So make sure your activity is across the day, and different times during those hours.

Ask your Sales Person for an Optimum Effective Schedule! Have a look here.

Of course I have an issue with the number of times people have to hear an ad to respond… since 3.5, or 3.25 or 4 are just made up numbers! But there is a general feel that, with a good offer, you start to get a good response when the OTH hits about 4 or 5. (Which is why it’s NOT good advertising to be on for just a week!

You HELP by making sure your spot ads tell people what you want them to do, and gives them a really good reason to do it!!

A tranny. The radio, not the boy.

If you don’t have to say it… don’t say it!

I still listen to a lot of UK radio. It’s not much different to radio here.
And something that I notice about a lot of radio ads…a LOT… say things that you don’t have to say.

Let me explain.

“Come to our open day on Friday the 31st of October 2013”

Oh, I’m so glad you said 2013. I thought it might be October NEXT year. Or perhaps I’d missed it! Come on! You can drop the 2013.

“Come to our store and buy your next pair of shoes from Simon’s Shoes… or call 0787 386 017”

I’ve already written why phone numbers are a waste of time… because no one remembers them. They’re also a waste of time if people don’t buy your product or service over the phone!

www dot? Really?

“Simon’s Rib Restaurant… open every day from 12 ’til 3 and evenings 7 ’til 11.”
Cool, so you’ve told me your open when people want to eat. Don’t waste your time, tell me why my lunch break should be spent at Simon’s Rib Restaurant! Tell me, for example, I can download a free desert voucher… and put the opening hours on THAT if you must!

If you can reasonably expect the listener to fill in these details, then spend the time you’ve saved to entice the listener into doing BUSINESS with the advertiser.

When to Talk, and When to Walk Away.

The client is INSISTING on two phone numbers in their 20 second ad.
Because they are putting 2 phone number in, the ad will not work for them and they will never use our stations again.
The Sales exec is terrified of losing the sale.
Other Radio Stations apparently will take the money.

Those stations will get one sale and never see that client again. The problem is it wont be those stations that get the blame… it will be “radio”. It seems easier to say to the client… OK….. whatever you want. But sometimes we need to walk away. Especially from the client who will blackmail the sales person over money, threaten to use other stations, generally throw their toys out of the pram.

If I went to a doctor and asked him to give me different drugs to the one he prescribed, I am pretty sure he wouldn’t do it. Even if I told him that I would go elsewhere where they WOULD give me the drugs and that he’d lose me as a patient.

In radio sales there is a duty to take care of the client’s money because it is an investment. We’re like investment bankers! (OK that’s a pretty poor choice of comparison) The point is we have to show clients the right way to spend their money and when we KNOW they’re wasting it we need to walk away. I’m not saying we slam the door behind us… we want the client, we want their money… but not at ANY COST. We also want their money long term, not just for the one off sale. We want their business to grow as a result of their advertising and for them to spend MORE money with us as a station.

Sales People you need several things:-
• You need to be trusted as someone who gives good advice
• You need training, to read books and do courses in Radio Sales.
• You need to understand the clients business, and show them you understand yours.
• You need to know the name of your afternoon presenter. Really, you should know the product!
• You should work closely with the client to get a good brief.
• You need great Creatives to write you effective radio advertising.
• You need courage and integrity.

Courage

I played it to my kids, and they don’t like it

It’s the client on the phone. They got me to record the ad on their answer machine. Me voicing it and doing the characters over the phone. They played it to their kids and they didn’t like it. It’s good to know that their radio advertising decisions are based on the reaction of a 6 year old kid. Does a 6 year old buy conservatories?

I’m constantly amazed how clients judge their advertising. Gut feeling is great. But the way you judge it is to go back to the brief and see if it answers it. Does it tell people what you want them to do? Does it give them a great reason to do it. I remember some ads from the 1990s by a double glazing company. They created amazing top of mind awareness, in the beginning. Then they gradually started to irritate people. We tried to talk to them about running some ads with actual reasons to buy from them…but we were ignored. After an amazing flash of “awareness” for a couple of years the company eventually went bust. EVERYONE knew them. No one wanted to buy from them.

Ads should not be some kind of ego trip for the owner of the business who wants to hear his own voice on the radio.
Ads should not be just to entertain. (although they CAN entertain)
Ads should not be a platform for the writer to show how wacky and creative he is.
Ads should not be done just to win awards (although the best ones CAN win awards).
Ads are not about awareness or image (that is something that happens anyway, be true to brand… but be more!)

Judge an ad on whether it tells people what it wants them to do in relation to the client and gives them a really good reason to do it. Ads SELL.

If there’s nothing to SELL (and telling people you DO something… like “I sell carpets” is not selling) then don’t judge the ad, judge your brief!

I'm not sure whether this idea has wings

Have you got an idea for a plumber?

The sales exec walks into the office.

“Have you got an idea for a Plumber?”

This time it’s Plumber… but equally she could have  inserted Double Glazing Company, Solicitor, Carpet Shop, Furniture Shop etc.

An idea about what?

Many sales people have a mysterious understanding of the creative process. We actually need to have an idea about what we’re supposed to have an idea about. That’s what the brief is.

I could have a plumber joke in my head. I could have an idea about dancing lemurs in a bathtub. I could have an idea of people playing music using bathroom fittings… BUT they are all irrelevant if they don’t help the client to communicate THEIR message.

Give me the brief and I will give you the ideas.

Oh and the more time you give me the more ideas I may be able to generate. More ideas = more reasons to advertise = easier sales.

Dancing Lemur (not in a bath, that would just be silly)