10 Reasons Radio Ads Turn Out Bad!

Turn on any commercial radio station from small local to big national and you won’t have to wait long before you hear a radio commercial that is, at best, dull and uninteresting and, at worst, downright bad…

Nobody wants to have a bad ad but they happen all too often, and here are ten reasons why:

  1. Radio ads are an unusual skill

    Rather like ice sculpture, radio commercial production at its best is a skill that few possess, and nobody expects the average business person who is buying a radio campaign to have that skill. But if you’re not an expert it can lead you to make decisions about radio ad copy which could have a damaging impact on how it sounds. For instance, you may decide that you want a conversation between two people because that’s how you imagine radio ads typically sound, and then want to pack it with as much information as possible because, frankly, radio airtime is expensive and you want to get your money’s worth – the result is often clichéd and overloaded!

  2. Anyone can make a radio commercial

    Back in the analogue Dark Ages you needed expensive studio kit and a skilled audio engineer to record an ad. Today, with ubiquitous cheap and even free recording and editing software, anybody with a laptop has the technology required to produce a commercial.  But that doesn’t mean they should. It’s rather like trusting anyone with a pair of scissors and a pudding basin to cut your hair!

  3. There’s more than one kind of ‘Radio Expert’

    Just like any other industry, radio is full of people with a vested interest: many are tied to a certain commercial production provider and just want the ad made a.s.a.p., regardless of quality, so that they can collect the commission on the airtime revenue. This can lead to biased advice.  Just as there are financial advisors who are tied to a particular financial institution only representing specific products, there also truly independent financial advisors who can recommend whatever they feel is the most appropriate – when it comes to making a radio ad, make sure you know what you’re dealing with.

  4. Looking not listening

    Properly written radio ads are composed to be heard and not read off the page.  Clients are often given a radio script to approve in written form only, without having it read out loud. This makes it all too easy to strike out the ‘creative’ bit because, on the page, it doesn’t make sense to the untutored eye. Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” is one of the most admired paintings in the world – how would you rate it if you just read the description ‘a yellow and white vase on a table with 15 flowers in it that are wilting a bit?!’

  5. Poor casting and direction

    Even the best script can be rendered awful if the execution isn’t right.  Hiring the right voice actors is crucial, as is directing them in the right way. Imagine leaving Jeremy Clarkson to recite a soliloquy from Hamlet sitting on the bonnet of an Aston Martin DBS.  With no direction.  The results would be “interesting” for sure, but would it convey the message in the right way..?

  6. Recognising your audience

    The audience that listens to Classic FM is very different, in just about every way, to the audience that listens to Kiss FM, but often exactly the same commercial copy ends up airing on both. What you might find funny, charming, captivating and appropriate may not be the same as your target audience. Remember not everyone likes Flugel Horns and Smoked Cheese!

  7. Allowing enough time

    Radio is often sold as an immediate medium, which it is.  Programming can be interrupted at any moment for breaking news. But if you want your radio ad to be the best it can be, you need to take the time to: get the brief right; write and refine the copy; obtain all the required clearances, cast the right voices; chose the right sound effects and music; direct the production in the right studio; mix, edit and produce the final ad; and finally deliver for broadcast. Skip or rush any of these crucial steps and, rather like not giving dough enough time to rise, the result will be flat and indigestible.

  8. Overthinking

    For most people, making a radio commercial is not something they do very often, so there is a tendency, particularly if you’re the analytical sort, to examine every last detail of a radio script. While it’s always a good idea to check and double check for factual error, you don’t want to overdo it and end up ironing out the creativity too. Don’t be fearful.  Be brave and bold!

  9. Cheap production deals

    Sometimes you’ll be offered a cheap production deal. While this sounds like a good idea, be aware that if you’re not paying for it the chances are you’re not going to get the best possible production service. Also, if you’re not paying for something, there is a natural tendency to value it less and spend less time getting it absolutely right. All ads are not created equal.

  10. Even bad ads work

    If you bought 30 seconds of airtime on the top rated Breakfast Show in your area and just said your business’s name over and over again 5 days a week for a month, chances are at the end of that month the awareness for your business would have increased. Just getting your name out there works – but a good ad extolling the virtues of what you do in a memorable way for your target audience is likely to work much better and stick in your customers’ minds much longer. In short, good radio ads supercharge your airtime and give you much more bang for your buck!

For more details on how to produce effective radio commercials, contact Second Sense on 0333 577 2202
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