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


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

So you want to be a Voice Over?


The way I was trained to present radio commercials to clients was to voice them down the phone…. Or in a meeting face to face. I normally tell them, “Look, I’ve not a voice over artist, we will use a professional, this is just to give you an idea of how it will sound. This particular client was down the phone. It was a Tommy Vance style read. I had the particular VO (Voice Over) in mind and he would do an amazing job. After presenting the client said “I want YOU to voice my ad.” I spluttered, excused myself, told him about the voice I wanted to do the ad… but still he insisted. I still have copies of the two ads I voiced and it reminds me of the nightmare.

Many people think it’s easy. You just speak into the microphone…. Surely!?

The reason I was so reluctant…

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Westgate Mall , Nairobi – September 21st 2013

It’s been just a few days since the dreadful evens in my town of Nairobi. The operation to secure the Mall is only just coming to an end. The count of the dead is still rising.

I moved here a few years ago to work for Radio Africa Group as the Group Manager for Creative and Production. Nairobi is a city of problems. But also of glitzy Malls and nice coffee shops. Places where you can hear accents from all over the world.

On Saturday the 21st of September our world was shaken, when gunmen threw grenades and opened fire on a radio station event. Ruhila and her unborn baby were killed in the attack. Many more have died and as I write we don’t know the true numbers.

I met Ruhila a couple of years before then. I can tell you she was one of those people who radiated positive energy. She always had a laugh and a smile. I didn’t know her as well as her colleagues at East FM and Kiss TV, also part of our group, and that is my loss. I had dinner yesterday with one of her former colleagues who told me it was like losing a sister. She will be missed

Ruhila Adatia-Sood

Ruhila Adatia-Sood

Many of my colleagues have physical and mental wounds from this dreadful incident, Christian, Muslim and Hindu.

Personally I don’t know what to feel. I feel loss, I feel relief that I wan’t there for my normal Saturday morning shopping trip. I feel anger at the people who did this. Sometimes I feel it all in one go!

Radio in Kenya, our stations particularly, are dealing with the sorrow and maintaining output and professionalism.

There are many stories of bravery, but this from Kamal Kaur, one of East FMs presenters and a friend who was there on the day.

“I could only watch in horror as my son Armaan missed a bullet by an inch as my daughter Sapna pushed him and herself down. I was trying to pull down the little boy who got shot instead of my son. Both my kids were hurt but are thankfully ok. I’m sorry I’m not taking any calls. It’s traumatic repeating the story over and over again. We are thankfully safe and I’m humbled with your love and support. We had someone looking out for us today. Armaan was helping a little girl evacuate through Java’s service entrance despite being hurt on his leg. I’m so proud of my son. He’s only 8. A kind Samaritan had to carry Sapna out as her leg was bleeding heavily and there’s still a lot of shrapnel in both their legs.
I have lost a dear colleague who was pregnant. She just took Sapna’s baby cradle last week to start getting things together for the arrival of her baby. I don’t know what to do or say.
I don’t know who else we have lost today. I had no idea where my kids were but they were so sensible and kept telling everyone to pretend they were dead so they wouldn’t be shot at. I know a lot of families have been ripped apart today. I just don’t know what to do or say. I’m sorry I’m not taking calls. I just cant speak.
Thank you for everything. Thank you for calling, messaging and looking out for us. We are safe. Please pray, please donate blood at any hospital. There are little children who need you to save their lives. There’s peoples relatives there. Please help.”

The week before, at the same time, I was standing where the grenades and bullets landed. No more words.

Armaan, Kamal and Sapna

Armaan, Kamal and Sapna

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.


Client tips on getting the most from your Radio Advertising

There are a few tricks any tips to getting the most out of your radio advertising campaign:-

1. Be on in plenty of time

It’s amazing how many people talk to the radio station a day or two before their event. You should give writers and producers time to create your advertising. The less time, the less thought will go into your advertising and that’s not a good thing. Three or four days to get the copy sorted, than after approval a couple of days for production. (These days it CAN be quicker, but leave time for possible issues… like your company name pronounced wrong)

2. Be on FOR plenty of time

Radio works with reach and repetition. You need your message going to the most number of people for a good number of times. Ignore the magic number of 3.25 times a listener needs to hear your message, it may need to be more times if your offer isn’t compelling. Whatever the magic number for YOUR ad, you need to be on for a while before people will start responding.

3. Give your campaign time to work.

Stick with it. If you get no response from the first few ads, give it time. Factors that will influence this are things like buying cycles, and how good your offer is!

4. Don’t throw away your creative approach

Maintain a sound for your company. Maybe keep the same music or voice. The sound effect (sonic brand trigger) at the end. Your copywriter should be able to do variations on a theme.

5. Be consistent

You don’t have to be on the radio all the time, but you need to make it sound like you are. When you do big promotions or events with the station you already have a relationship with the listener. Some big companies dip in to radio from time to time and the listener, because they have that personal connection with the station, can be left wondering, “what are you doing here?”

6. Be compelling

If your offer, deal or promotion doesn’t excite anyone outside your company, why would it excite or motivate the listener into action. You will only get a response to your radio advertising IF you give a good enough reason to respond. “Buy our tyres because we sell them” is not a compelling message.

7 Don’t say you’re friendly… sound friendly

“We’re a friendly family company” Mmmm. Mike Bersin uses the illustration of a guy who goes into a bar, walks up to a lady and says “I’m friendly”. How long do you think she’s hang around? Don’t say you’re friendly.. make sure your ads are warm, friendly and inviting…. if that’s the image you want.

8. Reflect in your other media.

I know you probably want to “test” radio. Well test how well it works when you do the mix… and watch how well your press starts to do when you reflect the campaign on radio and TV if you can afford that.

9 Tell your staff

“I’ve come about the buy one get one free offer on tyres?!”
Blank look
“The one on Radio Rushton FM?”
Blanker look (can a look be blanker than blank?)
“Tyres? 2 for 1?”
“I’ll have to call Mike… but he’s on holiday.

Please, let your sales staff… ALL your staff know what you’re running and the deal.You’d be surprised how many don’t! And train them to upsell!!

10. Say when it worked!

Feedback to the Radio Station sales team and writers when a campaign has worked. Put it in writing. Trust me, a client who gives this kind of feedback I love working for… and go the extra mile for. Then if it doesn’t work for them in the future they have my undivided attention.

Hatred of the Hyphen

I hate the hyphen. Well, I hate it when it comes to websites in radio ads. It seems like advertisers don’t think through when they’re buying their websites how it would be communicated. Try reading out simon-rushton-radio.co.uk/contacts. And that’s a fairly simple one!

Also there’s the companies that like word number puns in their we addresses. Way2getahead.com sounds really snappy… but the listener may get confused. Way to get ahead? Way 2 get ahead? Weight to get ahead? Ok maybe the last one is a bit extreme.

If you do business through your website then there is an answer. Come up with an easy to remember, radio friendly web address for your company. You can buy a web address quite cheaply and then just forward the surfer to your website (avoiding those terrible flash animated landing pages)

Many years ago I had a client who was a pub/restaurant and their web address was something like… the-red-lion-canterbury.co.uk. Terrible! But their offer was a downloadable voucher for a buy one, get one free steak dinner. The solution? For the duration of the campaign they used the address “I want a big fat juicy steak .com” Nice, memorable and related to the offer! Simples!

A Steak Dinner

Useful Websites and Articles

Every now and again I find useful sites on radio advertising.

I will try and keep this updated.

So hear goes…

For a start buy this book. Just Get it. NOW!! don’t read this blog again until you have bought it. The Creative Led Sell by Mike Bersin.

Ralph Ruckman writes on 2 Secrets For Successful Radio Advertising

Dan O’Day always has great advice for writers, clients and sales people. Click here.

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Jimmy Saville 31 October 1926 – 29 October 2011

I was sad to hear that Sir Jimmy Saville had died. I got to work with him in the early 90s and must say I found him to be just as the obituaries are saying…. a wild eccentric. But he seemed to have time for everyone, and be able to relate to everyone in the building from the cleaners and security guards to the MD. We talked a little about this and that… and recorded a few links for his radio show on the station I was working at.

I am not sure about his personal and private life, but I did know that at that time I met someone warm friendly and giving.

He raised amazing sums for charity. But as a child I couldn’t understand why he didn’t “Fix It” for me. I remember writing the letter and being terrified about spelling mistakes that would get a blast from his bike bulb horn.

The world has lost an amazing entertainer and a true radio personality.

Read more here

Sir Jimmy

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