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.

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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