9 and a Half Habits of Highly Effective Radio Ads

1. Grab attention

Radio ads have to start off strong to get the attention of the listener. Radio is a background medium, which means most people play it while their attention is directed somewhere else: driving, working, cleaning, etc. You can use this to your advantage (read the study about the benefits of passive advertising here), but the thing is it’s easy to grab attention the wrong way. Throw in some air horns and you’re sure to break their concentration – and also annoy them, which creates a negative brand impression. Grabbing attention tactfully is difficult. Start off with a creative scene or maybe something unusual, because their fingers are only inches away from the dial.

2. Hit the target

Your radio spots should be carefully targeted to your specific audience. The creative scene in the ad should reflect the character and personality of your audience. Likewise, wording of the script should talk to your audience in a way that they would talk to each other.

3. Stay on brand

Your messaging should always match your brand. You need to have a consistent voice, tone and feel. This makes you more distinguishable and memorable among the mix of clutter and competition. One way to do this is to use the same (or similar) music and voice talent in your spots. Your brand is a living and breathing entity with a personality of its own. Is it quirky? Humorous? Built on values of trust and honesty? Let it shine through in the ads.

4. Production

You need to have skilled producers and editors that can give you high quality audio, find the best voice talent, the perfect sound effects, the right music, and make sure everything seamlessly flows together. They should work with you and incorporate your ideas as well as give you suggestions on how to make things better.

5. Creativity

We’ve all heard ads that are boring, cheesy and cliche. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Here’s a tip about being creative—anything new is just a conglomeration of the already existing things around us. Stealing a single quote is plagiarism. Stealing the ideas from several quotes and combining them all into one new phrase is not. Inspiration can be found in anything, anywhere. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just have to redesign it.

6. Writing style

As stated previously, the writing style should fit your target audience in the way that they speak. But overall, this is one of the most important tips for writing in general—write how people speak. Written language and spoken language have very different sounds and structures. You want the spot to sound natural, not scripted. Also focus on positive wording instead of negative. The language used in the spot reflects your brand, so you want to make sure it is an accurate representation of who your brand is. And don’t waste words on things you don’t need to. Radio is limited to 30 or 60 seconds, and sometimes only 15. Keep the language as tight and concise as possible to avoid wasting air time.

7. Theatre of the mind

Radio is called “theatre of the mind” because it paints a mental picture—which is arguably stronger than something that’s already been painted for you in TV or print. The sound effects, music and character voices help the consumer to envision the message you’re trying to send. This is special because radio is the only advertising medium to really achieve this. You almost always like the book better than the movie, and it’s because you envision the book and interpret it how you want.

8. Call to action

Your call to action is typically what you end the spot with. It instructs the customer on what you want them to do. It needs to be focused and simple. Only ask one thing of the consumer and give them one or two outlets to reach you, such as a phone number and/or a website URL. It’s a good idea to restate your benefits right before the call to action.

9. Memorability

A good ad is worthless if it isn’t memorable. To make it something the consumer won’t forget, try to use catchy taglines, rhyming words, repetition, humor, emotional appeals and easy to remember phone numbers and URLs. It’s good to repeat a key point and a call to action more than just once, so the listener catches everything the announcer says.

9.5 Simplicity

I know you want to list all the great specials and perks about your brand in one spot, but it’s best to stick with a single idea or promotion. One benefit, one call to action, one main point—this keeps it simple for consumers. If you mention several different promotions, they might get confused. Keeping it simple makes it memorable and easy to follow.