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

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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.

Radio Advertising and Social Media

I’ve noticed an increasing trend with briefs for radio advertising and commercials getting to air. Clients are trying to get plugged in to social media and want people to “follow” or “like” them on Facebook… or to follow them on Twitter and employ various hashtags to do so.

I have no objections to this, but I do have some questions and words of caution for those advertisers.

1. What is the OBJECTIVE of your advertising? What do you want people to DO?

If the objective is to get more people to follow you on Facebook, OK, that’s fair enough. But if your objective is to get people to do business with you, to buy your product or service, why are you sending them to social media? Sending them from an advert… to another advert. Why aren’t you inviting them to your premises… or the e-commerce website where they can buy the product or service from you?

2. Why should I “like” you?

Social Media Landing Page DesignerOne of the things I’m constantly reminded of in all the Radio Advertising training I’ve done over the years is that people really don’t care about your company, even your product or service, what they care about is their need at the time, and how your product or service answers that need. Advertisers are too close to their product and believe the mission statements their company drills into their heads about the core values and the mission statements. It might give THEM a warm fuzzy feeling. But Joe Public really isn’t that bothered. Of the 500 people that may “like” your page, of the few hundred thousand that the radio station reaches… how many will buy from you? Have you given them a good reason. I wont “like” you… I’m not that emotionally invested. But I might BUY something from you.

3. Are you willing to open up the conversation?

Twitter and Facebook are double edged swords. If your business is not doing great customer service the conversation will reflect that. Travelocity is where I go before booking a holiday or visiting a restaurant, and I take note of the reviews and weigh my options. So be careful how you use social media. The boss from a scuba diving company I work for is brilliant at handling the very rare negative reviews he gets on Travelocity. He acknowledges the complaint and he describes what steps he’s taking to rectify and legitimate concerns. If you’re willing to take the good as well as the bad, to be actively engaged on social media, then great… go right ahead.

4. Are you adding value to people’s lives

I did some work for a butchery in the UK and they have a Facebook page. It’s great! Packed full of useful ideas for recipes and with their latest offers. They add value and if I was close to their outlets I would probably “follow” them. But for their radio advertising we did not mention Facebook… the objective was to bring people in to the shops because of the very good deal they were doing on a pack of meat for the BBQ. Again it came down to the desired result of their advertising. It was not to add a thousand Facebook followers… it was to move meat off the shelves.

5. How are you using Radio and Social Media together?

Does this contradict what I’ve said before? I don’t think so. If you have special offers on the radio, make sure they’re on your Facebook page as well, and the landing page of your website (I don’t want to click around to find a special offer, it should be there when I arrive… thank goodness people have generally stopped using flash landing pages!!). People will find you! You MUST make sure you’re EASY to find. People will be looking for you after you’ve advertised on the radio, but STILL your first objective is to get them to do business with you.

I listen to radio whilst using my tablet. I hear something I’m interested in I may Google it, so be prepared. Let the chatter bring in more people. But please, please, consider first what you want your radio advertising to achieve.

I Can’t Hear You

I write radio ads.
I turn up the radio when they come on.
I listen to award winning ads.
I listen to the worst ads.
I listen out for colleagues ads.

But the radio listening public don’t “listen” to radio ads.

Have you ever been to a party where there are lots of conversations going on and someone mentions your name? You pick it from dozens of conversations. The brain is amazing at picking up cues that are relevant.

Radio consumers don’t have a desire to hear radio advertising… what they do have are problems. Their gas boiler is not working, their house is cold, they need to replace their car, they have a puncture, their salary ran out four days before pay day. What they will hear and pick out on the radio is an ad that offers a solution to their problem or need. The radio advertising that doesn’t get heard is the advertising that doesn’t offer that. Quite often it’s advertising crammed with information (because that’s what the client wants in their ad). It just becomes a drone.

Advertisers have to remember it’s NOT what they want to say but what the listener needs to hear to respond.

So say something that will make them tune in and take notice.

I’m not listening

30 seconds

I should read that book by that Chinese General.
Apparently the way he avoided losing in battle was pretty much avoiding the battle.
I am worn down by the fight.

It starts like this. I’d write a great ad. Even if it was only great in my own mind. It answered the brief… and the listener (who frankly only tunes to the station to hear MY ads) would love it. The client loves it too. 40 seconds of crafted genius! But. At here’s the big butt (sic). The exec has already booked the airtime as 30 seconds.

Before the brief landed on my desk.
Before the ad was written and agreed.
Before my parents were born.
The ad was already booked as a 30 seconds.

Now what? Can’t you just get the voices to TALK faster? Eerrrr no!
Can you cut it down? Yes! But it wont be THAT potential award winning masterpiece!
It’s what the client can afford. Really? That Merc driving client I can’t talk to because he’s on holiday in Mauritius?

So I rewrite the idea.
I cut it back to 30 seconds.
It’s passable.
But it’s not what it COULD have been.
My life is a little less fulfilled.
My loyal listening fans are not as enriched by my genius (I guess).
The exec and the client are not sure (after 3 broadcasts) if the ad is working.

But I’m on to the next battle.
I’ve written a series of genius 20s! They’re funny, memorable and compelling.

Guess what.

The client has booked 30s

40secons

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.