My job as a radio advertising copywriter, in a nutshell, is this. Write radio advertising copy that translates into audio, that sells the client’s product or service. My job is not to entertain the audience, although I always hope that some of the ads I write will entertain. I want the client to be remembered (for the right reasons) and I want the ads to motivate the listener to action. The programming staff also want me to make sure that the listener doesn’t turn off their radio, or switch stations, because my ad has irritated them
To do the job properly how long do I need?
It varies. Research such as the Ironing Board and Jigsaw studies showed that people remember longer and more creative ads better. But if you have shorter ads you can “replay” the longer ad in the mind of the listener. So sometimes I suggest a combination of 40s and 20s (once they’re written). But the truth is that a commercial needs to be as long as it needs to be to do the job.
I hate hearing a great ad ruined because it’s been edited down to the nominal 30 seconds that has been pre-sold to the client. I’ve also heard unfocused and rambling 60 second commercials (often in the US) that should have been 20 or 30 seconds long.
30 seconds is NOT a standard. It helps the station to price their inventory, but it’s NOT a guide to how long a radio commercial should be.
My former Colleagues, talented writer Rhodri Crooks and wizard with the faders and mouse Duncan Brown, then at Aire FM in Leeds (an incidentally using good old fashioned 8-track) created a wonderful 3 minute commercial for a local nightclub. It played twice a week, on a Friday night. It was requested on air, it was popular and worked for the client. And it was NOT 30 seconds long.
At the other end of the scale, talented writer Tom Woods did an amazing 10 second commercial for a car wash. It won numerous national and international awards. And it was NOT 30 seconds long.
Don’t buy 30 second spots!! Buy advertising solutions. Some of them will be 30 seconds long. Many wont. If you are presented with a schedule based on this duration be prepared to be flexible. Otherwise you may get the ad that had to be produced, rather than the one that should have been produced. Whether it is longer, or shorter than 30 seconds!