The latest song by Taylor Swift just ended and your radio commercial is about to start. The good news is, 93% of the station's listeners will stay-tuned for your commercial (see: No Button Pushing: 93% of Consumers Listen To Radio Commercials). You now have one minute, which is about 160 words, to compel the listener to respond. Here are five ways you can amp-up your commercial and make every word count.
1. Hold The Phone. Every time you use your phone number in your radio commercial, you consume 7 precious words of your 160 word allowance. If you repeat it the number 3 times, then before you know it 13% of your commercial has been consumed by something that has a slim chance of being remembered. Research published in the New York Times and London Daily Telegraph reveals 9-out-of-10 people forget a phone numbers within 5 seconds of hearing it. The study goes on to reveal that 70% of people cannot remember their best friend's phone number and 50% cannot remember their parents' phone numbers. Instead of devoting a large portion of your commercial to your phone number, use a memorable web-address. Almost 1/3 of all radio users report going each week to the website of a company they heard advertised on the radio. Read more: Should I Include A Phone Number In My Radio Commercial?
2. Get the Get Out. Look up 'get' in any dictionary and you will see at least 30 definitions ranging from "to receive" (e.g., I got a letter in the mail) to "acquire a mental grasp" (e.g., I get your jokes). Based on this diversity of meaning, writer and language consultant Nick Usborne says that 'get' is a poor excuse for a word. "Get is passive, feeble, limp, flabby, and gutless. It hints at action, but communicates almost nothing. "If a word like 'get' communicates almost nothing, then you should not permit it to overtake your next radio commercial like linguistic kudzu. Instead, get-the-get-out and replace it with stronger more evocative language. Click here to learn more about getting the get out of your radio commercial.
3. Avoid Clichés Like The Plague. "Fast and Friendly Service," "We Won't Be Undersold," "Knowledgeable Sales Staff," "The Best Kept Secret". These are just a few of the advertising clichés 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 clichés: "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." clichés 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, "clichés should be avoided like the plague." For more on avoiding clichés and other ways to create great radio commercials we recommend the article, Five Tips For A Great Radio Commercial.
4. Avoid 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, advertisers have been trying to answer this question by turning their radio commercials into audio coupons: "Mention this ad for 5% off your next purchase." As noted above, the average radio commercial comprises 165 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., mention this ad to save 5% off 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.
5. Avoid Stating the Obvious. Too many commercials waste precious words on stating the obvious: "Christmas comes once a year" (Duh!); "Are gas prices bringing you down" (No, I love taking out a second mortgage when I fill-up); or "Open every evening until 8 P.M." (Really, until now I thought 8 P.M. happened every morning). A more powerful use of words is to state the unobvious to engage listeners: "The Sales Associates at Mountain Furniture don't work on a commission, they are paid on customer satisfaction."; "On average, The Doctors at Memorial Hospital graduated third from their medical school class."; or "The flowers and shrubs at Meadowbrook Nursery are grown from seed in the rocky soil of Maine in order to tough out the ravages of your garden." In each of the above cases, customers would appreciate knowing these things about a business (but they don't need to be told that Christmas comes once a year).