I am often asked by Maine small business owners, "How long should my radio commercial be?" This query always conjures up the ghost of Abraham Lincoln who, when asked how long should a man's legs be, responded, "long enough to reach the ground." I am sure Mr. Lincoln would say the same thing about radio commercials: they should be long enough to get the job done.
Most Maine radio stations give advertisers the choice of how long commercials can be: 60-seconds; 30-seconds; 15-seconds; or 10-seconds. According to the Small Business Guide To Effective Radio Advertising, the length of commercial should "afford the advertiser enough time to advance her marketing objective." According to the guide, all marketing objectives can be reduced to two types:
Branding objectives are used when you want your target consumer to believe something about your product or service. An example of a branding objective could be: Get working mothers to believe that my daycare service is the safest place in town to entrust their children.
Promotional objectives are used when you want your target consumer to take specific action. An example of a promotion objective could be: Get people who maintain their own cars to buy 3 quarts of motor oil at my store this weekend.
Branding Messages Need To Be More Than A Slogan
Generally speaking, branding requires the frequent repetition and emphasis of a product or service's features and benefits. This task can easily consume all 160 words contained in a typical 60-second commercial. Remember, branding is not just a slogan. My favorite definition of branding comes from marketing expert Seth Godin who says, "A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose on product or service over another." An advertiser will need every word they can muster in a radio ad to fulfill a branding objective.
Promotional objectives, on the other hand, require reaching lots of people over a short period of time. Think about it like having a party where you might need to send out 200 invitations in hopes of having 120 people attend. Because shorter length commercials are generally less expensive, the advertiser can afford to broadcast more commercials and reach more prospective customers who will find value in the promotion. Also, promotional commercials generally only need to communicate a very specific call to action. For example, "Come to Earl's House of Lube this weekend and get a free quart of motor oil with every three you buy."
Words Of Wisdom From The Wizard
Roy Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, has also weighed-in on the question of commercial length. He offers these rules of thumbs:
60-seconds ads should be used with these conditions
- For complex messages to avoid leaving doubts and questions
- To include specific details to help persuade - more believable than generalities
- For a business category that's new and not easily understood - to create realization of need before selling your solution
- For highly entertaining ads to inspire consumers to "like you better" -effective for generic businesses and commodities
30-seconds ads should be used with these conditions
- To make an easy to understand offer for a product or service that is clearly understood
- To make a single point in an ad
15-seconds ads should be used with these conditions
- To convey an incredibly powerful, simple message
- To reinforce simple name recognition to make customers think of your name when you are the sole advertiser in your business category
10-seconds ads should be used with these conditions
- To generate top-of-mind awareness when selling a commodity in a crowded market arena
- To add additional frequency to a schedule that is delivering barely sufficient frequency of your 60 or 30-second message
You never want to bore your customer with your radio ad, so here's a temptation to resist. Often times, the cost of a 30-second ad and a 60-second ad are the same. Don't automatically go for the longer length just because you get more time for you money. Always, choose the length that is appropriate to get the job done. Think of it this way, the cost of buying a size 7 shoe is the same as buying a size 9 shoe. But if you are size 7, you wouldn't buy the 9 just because you get more shoe for your money. You would buy the shoe that is the best fit. The same goes for radio advertising. So if the shoe fits, wear it!