by Dan O'Day
WE DO NOT SELL ALUMINUM SIDING!
If I were to describe an industry
that focused all of its energy on making sales - i.e., by sparing
no expense in educating its salespeople in all the latest techniques
of getting in the door, asking for the order, overcoming objections
and closing the sale - but which virtually ignored the quality
of the product being sold and which made no real effort to
insure that the product actually does what it's supposed to for
the customer...you'd probably think of a fly-by-night rip-off
business: like the stereotypical aluminum siding salesman.
The aluminum siding salesperson doesn't
care about the quality of his product because he doesn't
care about the customer and because he's not coming back for
a repeat sale.
Radio time salespeople don't sell "time;"
they sell commercials. The commercials are marketed as selling
tools for the advertiser. If the commercials don't sell for
the client, the client is not getting his money's worth and is
less likely to reorder.
RADIO NEEDS REPEAT BUSINESS: Radio
spot sales is one of the few businesses that depend upon repeat
sales but whose practitioners typically believe their job is done
when the sale is closed. In most other industries, the salesperson's
job isn't completed until the product is successfully delivered.
If your station's commercial copy is written by an overworked
salesperson who has no training in copywriting - or a similarly
undertrained Copywriter or Continuity Director - how good can
you expect your copy (i.e., your product) to be?
Writing radio commercials is neither a
science nor an art. It's a craft. The more you learn about your
craft and the more you practice it, the better you'll become.
What is a good commercial? It's not one
that entertains. It's not one that's "well-produced."
It's not one that wins awards. A good commercial is one that sells.What
is a commercial that sells? Is it one that mentions the sponsor's
name a certain number of times? That specifies a price? That lists
the benefits of the product or service? That gives the client's
phone a certain number of times?
No. A commercial that sells is a commercial
that motivates the listener to act.
SELL THE PROMISE, NOT THE PRODUCT:
I don't care if Ed's Toothpaste
has been judged the World's Greatest Toothpaste. I want to know
if it can keep my teeth cavity-free, my smile gleaming white,
and my breath fresh and inviting. I don't care if Ed's Photo Shop
has six convenient locations. I want to know if they can develop
and print my pictures in an hour and do a great job of it.
Identify a need that will be filled or
a problem that will be solved...make the listener aware of that
need or problem...and then show the listener how your product
or service will fill the need or solve the problem.
FOCUS ON THE LISTENER: Another
vital, usually overlooked rule: "Present the information
from the listener's point of view, not the advertiser's."
The listener doesn't care about the advertiser. The listener cares
only about what the advertiser can do to add to the listener's
Most radio commercials, however, simply
brag about the advertiser: "Ed's Bank has served the Midvale
area for 57 years. Ed's Bank is proud of its reputation in the
community. Ed's Bank is the largest bank in the entire state."
That kind of "Look How Great We Are"
commercial does nothing to command the interest of the listener.
And that kind of commercial both wastes the advertiser's money
and hurts the radio station.
DANGER: BAD COMMERCIAL AHEAD: A
bad radio commercial is dangerous to the radio station - much
more dangerous than a bad tv commercial is to a television station
or a bad newspaper ad is to a newspaper. If you're reading the
paper and your eyes spot a boring, poorly designed, badly executed
advertisement, what will you do? You'll turn to the next page.
If you're watching tv and a boring commercial appears, what will
you do? You'll talk to someone who's watching with you...or leaf
through a magazine...or wander into the kitchen to grab a snack.
BUT....If you're listening to the radio
and a boring or annoying commercial comes on, what will you do?
Either you'll tune out mentally...or - especially if you're listening
in your automobile - you'll tune OUT the radio station with the
lousy commercial and INTO another, competing station.
Bad newspaper ads and tv spots just fail
to sell. Bad radio spots fail to sell AND they drive listeners
RADIO: A VISUAL MEDIUM: When
it comes to delivering a sales message via commercials, radio
is a visual medium. That might sound bizarre to you...or,
at the very least, a contradiction in terms. After all, radio
obviously is an auditory medium...isn't it?
Yes, the initial connection to the audience
is made auditorily, via sound. But for the sales message to have
a conscious impact on the listener, that listener almost invariably
converts the sounds into mental pictures. It's just this dual
modality - auditory and visual - that makes good radio commercials
so powerful...or, for that matter, that makes good radio
A television commercial is limited to whatever
actual images the spot's producers can make appear on your tv
set. But the images that your mind can create are limitless in
their scope and detail.
A PLEA TO PRODUCTION DIRECTORS:
All the gadgets, bells &
whistles at your disposal should be used only in
service of the overall creative sales effort. Is there a reason
to use reverse echo on this spot? Is there a reason to
use phasing or to speed up or slow down the vocal pitch?
Flashy tricks and techniques are wonderful
when they actually add to the impact of the presentation.
Otherwise, they're simply distractions; you're just showing off
for the sake of showing off.
Imagine that you're in a Las Vegas casino.
As you approach a gambling table, a casino employee picks up a
deck of cards. He proceeds to shuffle them with a series of broad
flourishes. He dazzles you with his speed & dexterity. Then
he puts down the cards and spins the roulette wheel. That card-handling
artistry probably would be wonderful at a blackjack table; it
would enhance your blackjack-playing experience. But at a roulette
table ....Well, the guy's just showing off, wasting your time,
and distracting you from the appeal of the roulette wheel.
GOOD COMMERCIALS - THE RADIO STATION'S
SECRET WEAPON: Let's say
there are two evenly matched stations in a market, presenting
the same musical format. Music, disc jockeys, signal, promotional
budget & expertise - neither station has the advantage. Let's
further assume that Station "A" produces typical, run-of-the-mill
commercials - i.e., boring, noncreative 30 and 60-second spots.
The commercials produced by Station "B," however, are
fresh, interesting, provocative, entertaining - in short,
people actually enjoy hearing them.
When Station "A" begins a stopset,
it is likely to lose far more listeners than Station "B"
will with its stopsets. That means higher quarter-hour shares
for Station "B." Which should mean higher revenues for
Station "B." And larger commissions for Station "B"'s