Here are 5 of the most common rookie mistakes made by first time radio advertisers and suggestions on how to avoid making them.
1. Placing advertising on YOUR favorite radio station. Just because you like a radio station and you listen to it all the time doesn't mean your potential customers do the same. The pre-disposition to think so is what psychologists call the "Halo Effect." The Dictionary of Marketing Terms describes the "Halo Effect" as
a subjective reaction on the part of consumers noticed by researchers when attempting to evaluate each feature of a given brand independently and should have no difficulty giving a high rating to one feature while giving another a low rating. However, in practice, researchers have analyzed consumer attitudes and their relationship to the market structure, particularly in the area of advertising or brand evaluation. For example, in theory, an individual should be able noticed that respondents have a tendency to give a high rating to all the brand's features if they like the brand, and a low rating to all the features if they do not like the brand. This is known as a halo effect.
To avoid falling victim to the "Halo Effect," advertisers should clearly define who their target consumer is and then seek objective research that indicates the radio stations that the target consumers prefer. We recommend research from The Media Audit or GFK MRI. A reputable radio sales representative should be able to provide you with this information.
2. Putting A Phone Number In A Radio Commercial. This topic was discussed at length in the article "Should I Include A Phone Number In My Radio Commercial." Research published in The New York Times and The London Daily Telegraph reveal that 9-out-of-10 people forget a phone number within 5 seconds of hearing it. Since a standard 60-second radio commercial comprises 150 words we recommend that instead of investing 10-20% of the commercial repeating a phone number, the time is reallocated in a way that will emphasize the benefits of the advertised product or service.
3. Trying to buy "Prime Time" on a limited budget. There are many advantages to advertising during radio's prime time, Monday-Friday 5am-8pm and Saturday 9am-5pm. But for a business with a limited marketing budget, the costs of prime time often outweigh the benefits. Advertisers can often reach 80% of a radio station's prime time during non-prime times at about 20% of the cost. In our recent article, Five Things You Know That Ain't So, we point out that 60% of consumers listen to the radio between 8pm and midnight. Also, 25% of consumers listen between midnight and 6am. We recommend that advertisers with limited budgets invest in non-prime dayparts to achieve greater results.
4.Filling The Commercial With Cliches and Trite Expressions. "Fast and Friendly Service," "We Won't Be undersold," "Knowledgeable Sales Staff," "The Best Kept Secret". These are just a few of the advertising cliches I heard during the past 60 minutes on various Portland, Maine radio stations. Kim Cooper at the Writing Center at Harvard University warns of the perils of employing cliches: "Phrases that we hear all the time have lost their impact and vividness, and you want [listeners] to feel that they're hearing a fresh voice." Cliches can make a business sound stale and boring. This fact is articulated powerfully by George Carlin in the video below when he says "most advertising is designed to put us to sleep."
In the words of journalist William Safire, "cliches should be avoided like the plague." For more on avoiding cliches and other ways to create great radio commercials we recommend the article, Five Tips For A Great Radio Commercial.
5. Turning A Radio Commercial Into An Audio Coupon. Retail pioneer John Wanamaker (1838-1922) once said, "Half my advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don't know which half." Ever since then, rookie advertisers have been trying to answer this question by turning their radio commercials into audio coupons: "Mention this ad for 10% off your next purchase." As mentioned in point #2 above, the average radio commercial comprises 150 words. When a commercial is heard, the words are sent to short-term memory which can store about 7 items for several seconds. Our brains then determine which information is worthy of transferring to long term memory. Since our brains are very stingy about which information to store, we are most likely to remember emotionally-charged information and not information of limited value (e.g., save 10% of your next purchase). Therefore, the likelihood of listeners responding to the audio coupon is negligible. There are certainly better ways to measure the effectiveness of a radio commercial and they are discussed in the article, Three Ways To Measure Radio Advertising Effectiveness.