The Brief

The most important part of the whole process of getting a radio commercial to air is the brief. It is no good writing a radio commercial with no information, or an ad ripped from the yellow pages. You need a proper brief. Briefs tend to come in all shapes and sizes. From a multi-page fact find to a few notes scribbled on the back of a cigarette packet. What I recommend is the simple What? Why? Who? The simplicity disguises the sophistication of the information required. A brief should be as the title implies… brief! In fact you should be able to condense it to a couple of simple sentences.

Let’s break it down….

    What do we want people to do?

What do we want that the listener to do when they hear the commercial? If you are a retail client they want people through the door (or to buy a particular product from you), if you are a car dealer you may want to “sell” test drives (more cars are sold when people test drive), taxi firms and pizza companies need their phone number to be remembered. Do we want them to change their soap powder or reduce the speed they drive at? Do we want them to call a freephone number. Do we want them to buy a conservatory.

Focus on one objective.. The commercial will be much more effective if you focus on one action, and make it clear what you want them to do as a result of the commercial. And if you want them to visit your premises make sure they know where you are… but give a location not an address.

    Why should they?

Why are listeners going to respond to this commercial? This is the clincher of the brief. Why should they do what we want them to do? Because our soap powder makes your clothes smell better? Because if I phone number I will get a free gift? Because our conservatories are half the price of our nearest competitor?
We are looking for a benefit, not a feature. Apply the “So What?” rule. Is what you are offering going to make our listeners drive past their competitors to the clients?

Again there are advertising clichés we hear every day. I have picked out just a few.

Some clients say people should come to them because they are “the biggest” in what way is that a benefit for our listeners? What does it mean to them. (I could buy a cake from the biggest cake maker in the world. Is it going to be tastier, cheaper, have more fruit in it?)

“We are the Best” In what way? Tell me how you are the best and what it means to the listener.

“We offer excellent customer service” How is it better than your competition?

“We’ve been established 39 years” may be important for the advertiser but it is irrelevant to the listener (or is it? Again, what does it mean to the listener).

“There’s ample free parking” This does not excite the buyer into visiting your supermarket, quite frankly I would take that as read. (Free parking may be a benefit if you are in a city centre where parking charges are high, but it still wont drive many customers into the store)

Also you need to test your offer. A station I once worked for had a Prestige Motor Dealer. His reason that people should come to him? He was giving a free key ring with every new car he sold. I do not think I would buy a £25k car from him rather than a competitor on the basis of a £2.50 key ring.

    Who are we talking to?

Different people will have different motivations to buy from you and that could mean different commercials. Recently I had a brief from a Garden Centre which wanted to reach ‘All Adults’. My friend who lives in a flat in the centre of a town has never set foot in a Garden Centre, she has no reason to. Your commercial will work best if we talk to one person. Give us a picture of the person (without using socio-economic babble). Tell me about the persons lifestyle, what are they like? What do they do? How old are they? Male or Female? How do they relate to the product or service we are advertising? It is better to focus on people who want the product than try to convince people who don’t want the product to change their minds. And who else? If there are other people we can talk to there will be more commercials and more brief sheets. Be specific – try to describe a typical customer and relate them to the product.

Finally take a look at your brief and ask is the reason (why?) A good enough reason for the person we have described (who?) to do what we want them to do? This is when your writer will start probing, testing and questioning your brief. If your brief is clear and simple you should get clear, simple, creative radio commercials that work for you!

    Any other information …

Your writer will also be looking for those gems of information that can bring the script to life. Stories from customers, unusual aspects to your business. What a gift to writers was the client who kept his pet parrot in the showroom!

What happens after the brief goes back to the radio station?

If the writer was not there to take the brief they should give you a call to check the brief. The scripts will then be written and presented to you, and then presented to the client. We have found it best that the person who writes the scripts presents them and answers any questions you have over the way they have been written. You can expect to be presented with the scripts in three different ways.

1. The writer comes with the Sales Exec to meet with you and to present the scripts.
2. The writer calls you and presents the commercials down the phone.
3. The Sales Exec arranges a meeting with you, and during the meeting you call the writer (by arrangement) and get they to present.

The writer wont just hand scripts to you and let them read the commercials. These are radio commercials and at the very least should be read out loud to you, preferably along side any music that has been chosen. This may seem unusual, but it’s the best way to understand how the scripts will sound. Sometimes a demo commercial will be made, but as this can tie up resources, takes a lot of time and costs money it will only be done in exceptional circumstances.

Once you have had the scripts presented, they will be handed over or emailed over for your approval. If you want to make changes discuss them with the writer. They may have very good reasons why the changes you are suggesting wont work, or they may be simple changes that can be easily made and the scripts re-sent.

Your writer wants you to be happy with the scripts, but they may not be aimed at you. Will they work with the target market. A night-club owner in Nottingham understood this. He did not like the music played as a background for his commercial… but it was the kind of music being played in his club and was targeted at people thirty years younger than him.

Remember to keep it simple!

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