Getting Results From Radio Ads

(Author’s Note: This was originally written and published during the dot-com boom in April 2000. While the “dot-com boom” is now history, please view the copywriting pointers in context; so many companies went under by violating basic direct-marketing principles, this article still offers relevance for writing successful Direct Response Radio ads.)

As a direct-response radio consultant, I applaud the growing number of Web advertisers who take advantage of my medium. You obviously recognize its cost-efficiency, mobility and personalization. I applaud you, that no other genre of advertiser has ever brought more credibility to the use of radio as a direct-response medium. And make no mistakes Web marketers – you ARE running DR radio campaigns.

However, as a person who has overseen several dozen DR radio efforts over the past several years, I seriously question HOW you can be getting sufficient results. Overall, Web marketers seem to violate most basic principles of DR copywriting. And I suspect that more than one Web Marketer has scratched his head recently following a recent radio effort saying, “I spent all that money for those few responses.”

I hear many “big-name” Web marketers’ radio spots here in the Los Angeles area. Without naming names, the disregard for simple results-oriented copy is almost non-stop. Take the electronics Site which only mentions its address twice during a :60 spot (and not even consecutively). This same ad paints an amusing scenario with humorous dialogue – yet does not emphasize any unique values available on its Site. On the other hand, a major job-hunting Site repeats its address quite often. Unfortunately, every time it is nearly drowned out by an annoying country music bed. Note: Jingles should be mutually exclusive with DR copy. Lastly, a major local telephone carrier offers high-speed Internet access at a competitive price. Sadly, the Web Site and complicated toll-free number are only mentioned one time each — and only :40 into a one-minute ad. And I know for sure this spot performed poorly — a friend actually mentioned the ad to me , along with his desire to purchase it, yet could not recall the company or how to contact them! Friends, don’t let this happen to you.

Understand that DR – and from a consumer’s perspective, you are in the DR business — is more science than art. I suspect that many Web marketers appear to be taking the advice of talented ad professionals who have great histories for success with BRANDING and IMAGE advertising. Unfortunately, many of these agencies have never tried to get a radio listener to dial a toll-free number (which is quite a challenge). Now that we are in the era of e-Commerce, this IS exactly what your ad gurus need to do.

Here’s a checklist I suggest to clients who try to sell their goods and services direct via radio. Ask yourself if your radio spot aces this exam.:

* KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID – The more overproduced an ad is, the lower sense of urgency is created. Unless they really create a unique selling position, avoid using dialogues, unnecessary sound effects, and even overuse of music. Stay away from “cute” storylines and amusing tales of irony. You’ve got :60 and no visuals – portray the listener’s problem, tell the Web Site’s benefit, and why yours is THE BEST Site out there. Male-read, single-person scripts still pull better than any other method.

* REPEAT THE CALL-TO-ACTION – A typical DR radio spot might read, “Have your credit card ready and call (800) 555-1111. That’s (800) 555-1111. Call in the next 30 minutes and save an additional 20%. That’s Right. You get the entire package for only $20.00. Order now. (800) 555-1111. That’s (800) 555-1111.” I rarely get this urgency, clarity, or motivation from Web ads.

First of all, mention the address three-to-four times in the closing 15 seconds of a spot (in addition to other mentions throughout the spot). Also, your copy should imply a once-in-a-lifetime uniqueness to log onto the Site. Lastly, make sure to say the address slowly or even spell it outright – the listener may not be as smart as you. The last fifteen seconds of your ad doesn’t have to sound like a Ginsu Knife ad (not that that model failed anyone), but they do need to leave the listener with the confidence of having found their “magic bullet.”

* “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE” – DR companies utilize premiums, giveaways and time-sensitive discounts a necessary part of the offer. You should do the same. Have the listener click on a “radio-only” button to redeem a coupon. Have first time users buy $20.00 in merchandise free. Include a special value product with first order. Have a simple contest for listeners of the station on which you advertise. In other words, demonstrate the value of NOT USING the next guys Site.

* RADIO LISTENERS ARE INDIVIDUALS – Every radio station is programmed to target a very specific demographic. To that effect, on-air personalities succeed by speaking to listeners with a “one-on-one” sense of intimacy. Unlike television, radio is perceived by its listeners as intended for their individual needs, not the needs of the group into which they fall. When creating copy, keep this in mind. If you chose to have the local personality do a read for you, work with the personality, or their producer, to determine how best to incorporate their “schtick” into your message.

I must applaud two examples from the past couple of years I heard who fit the above criteria. I suspect that they succeed handsomely because if it. Without revealing to much of what I think these company’s formula’s for success are, I give you:
futurestep.com – An authoritative male voice over, who repeats the address throughout the copy. No music, just a constant explanation of the Site’s benefits, including two different mentions of credible big-name endorsers. A just-the-facts-ma’am approach to results.

Priceline.com – They already had a clear offer, recognizable voice, simple copy and repetition of the address. But last year, I heard a spot advertising that I can buy gasoline at their Site. Not this division has since closed due to internal economics, but I knew that they understood radio. Why? — did I mention I was in my car at the time, and had just finished paying $1.83/gallon at a Mobil station?

Joe Rashbaum is the President of THE RADIO SOLUTION COMPANY, a full-service, radio direct-response agency. Contact Joe at (856) 797-5715 or inquire below.

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