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.

Suite 101

Yesterday I was interviewed for Suite 101 by my former boss, mentor, former Head of Creative at Radio Clyde, quoter of Burns, and all round good guy Dan McCurdy.

Dan M Curdy


You can find the interview here.

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Voicing a Commercial… How Hard Can It BE!!

The client has a great voice.
It’s true. Deep, rich and resonant.
But in the studio, and faced with a $3,000 microphone he turns into a quivering wreck.
He’s discovered that being a great voice over is not just about a great voice.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing voice artists and they are worth what they get paid. (although many will complain they don’t get paid enough by local radio stations)

The fact is, it’s not easy.

They have to read a script and make it sound like it’s not read.
They have to squish 34 seconds of verbage into 29.5 seconds.
They have to do take after take for the agency “producer” who wouldn’t know a great read from a jar of strawberry jam.
They have to deliver the same read, time and time again, with small adjustments, and remember what the producer didn’t like from the last take.
One moment they’re the voice of God, the next moment a talking dolphin.
And, they have to market themselves to writers and producers who already think they have enough talent on their books.
All with a smile.

So when a friend tells you you have a great voice and should be a voice over, by all means give it a try. But just because you can play chopsticks doesn’t mean you should give up your day job and become a concert pianist.

This month I will be attending VOX 2012 in the UK. It’s a change to meet the people whose mouths I am lucky enough to put words into.

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The Top 10 Worst Infomercials

It’s good to see that bad copy writing and terrible acting is not restricted to low budget, small station produced radio commercials.

Personally I don’t know how I survived those boring hours on the toilet without a Potty Putter.

Ladies… what would a Kush mean to YOUR life!?

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The Spot Ad is Dead… Long Live the Spot Ad

Here lies the spot ad

I have heard that the spot ad is dead.
Funny that.

I also heard it 20 years ago… because someone had read a marketing book that said it. (although they
couldn’t remember the name of the book)

I heard it from an advertising agency exec, so it must be true!

Here is the truth. SOME agencies (note: not ALL agencies) just don’t know how to do good radio advertising. They look for the easiest way possible to get their clients on air. In some markets the easiest way is to hand a list of features to a radio presenter and get them to read it out on air. Or get an “activation” done with the argument that the product needs to get “closer to the people”.

There are some activations which are really excellent, and some presenters that do it really well. BUT if you just use a 1 or 2 week activation you are not using radio well. Like a tower block build with no foundations, after a while you’re just left with a pile of rubble.

Clients who use radio WELL are the ones that are on all the time (or it feels like they are) and have a foundation of regular spot ads. Spot ads that are “controlled” word of mouth. They give a clear and creative message… they don’t try to cram in features, but give a benefit to the listener. They don’t rely on whether the presenter is having a good day or not. They don’t have the potential damage of a presenter saying “Nokia” when they meant “Samsung”. They have the advantage of reaching a wider audience with a cleverly managed schedule.

I am not saying, don’t do promotions, activations and competitions with your station. I am saying you will get MUCH better results if you have put down a month or two of heavy spot advertising before you do. You will have more of a relationship, and more recognition with the listener.

The truth is, spot advertising can be hard to do well. It’s often beyond the experience of an Agency. Or they see it as below them. So they take the easy option.

But great radio spot advertising is still throwing out some great creative ads, results drivin, award winning ideas and great executions.

The Spot ad is dead? Tell that to Coca-cola, MacDonalds, Budweiser… etc. etc.

I don’t think I’m ever going to get a job with an Advertising Agency now!

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