The Dreaded Phone Number

Throughout the 40 years I’ve produced Radio advertising, one question stands above all others: should we put our phone number in the commercial?

Anyone with reasonable marketing experience knows the answer to this. It’s an unequivocal NO. But why? Are there exceptions? What are the alternatives? How do you explain this to your client?

For the answers to these burning questions, watch the video.

After this post, Tune Your Radio will take a short break to write & produce more episodes. Do you have questions or suggestions? Click here to e-mail them to me.

-Brent Walker

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Dialogue Writing—Where to Start

So now that we know how to write believable dialogue, it helps to talk about how to actually begin the dialogue.

Contained within the first couple of lines, the listener needs to know who is talking, where they are and why they’re having this conversation. No small task…but there are tricks!

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Dialogue Writing—Chaos is Good!

Bob: Hey Jim, what’s that you’ve got there in your hand?
Jim: Why it’s the new TechDork 2500 Smart Tablet with 64 gigs of memory.
Bob: Where’d you get it?
Jim: At Greg’s Gadget Garage. It was only $495.
Bob: Greg’s Gadget Garage…don’t they have 6 convenient locations in the metro area?
Jim: Yes.
ARRRRGH! There are few things more painful to listen to than bad dialogue. How do you write good dialogue? Fire up the video and we’ll at least get started.

Here’s the link to Soundscapes Museware.

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Your Brain on Radio

There are two sides to everything…including our brains. (And you thought it was just a lump of gray matter.) Science tells us that our brain’s two hemispheres process information quite differently. Knowing that, we can shape our writing to appeal to either the left or right brain.

When writing for radio, which side should we appeal to? The answer is 3 minutes away.

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Creative Script Approval

You’ve finished the script. It’s great. It’s funny. It’s the kind of writing that gets attention and wins awards. Now, we’ll send it to the client.

Think it’ll come back unscathed? If you’ve been in this business for any time at all, you know the answer.

Why do clients always carve big holes in the most creative scripts? Why do they insist on adding so many copy points? Will they ever approve a great script without changes? It’s way more likely if you follow this tip…

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The Five Rules—Rule Five

You and two friends have spent the last three hours climbing up the edge of a giant pizza crust. Finally reaching the top, you look out over the vast plain of pepperoni and green peppers. The aroma causes you to lose your balance and tumble down into a pool of warm, tangy tomato sauce. Etcetera.

Radio’s greatest asset is its ability to stimulate people’s imaginations. Taken quite literally, it causes images to form in a listener’s mind.

The reason that’s such a strength is this: the images formed in a listener’s mind come from that listener’s life experience. If you use the imaginative power of radio, you’ve welded your brand into thousands of minds in a very personal way. You’ve combined your brand with their life experience. And those imaginative pictures stay with people

Rule five—leave the listener with an image.

Here are a couple of spots that ride the imagination train:

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The Five Rules—Rule 4 (b)

How many times have you heard (or said) this: “No…let’s use another piece of music. We used that piece last time.” Or how about: “We need a new announcer…we’ve used that guy on the last four spots we produced.”

If you’re aiming for a brand sound, you’ll never hit your mark if you constantly change elements. Consistency is key to maintaining a brand sound.

When you aim for consistency, you give your brand an easily recognizable sound which makes a brand impression even if the radio is playing in the background. That’s what makes consistency a bonus for your brand.

Rule four (b) is this: Be consistent. Once you attain a brand sound, stick with it. Not for weeks or months, but for years.

Here’s a great campaign that follows the rule of consistency:

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The Five Rules—Rule Four (a)

You’re driving. Through Iowa. Endless fields of corn. Row after row of stalks the same size, the same height, the same color.

Then it appears—a majestic live oak. Towering over all the corn around it, this tree commands your attention. Not because it’s an oak…they’re everywhere. It grabs your attention because it’s different. A standout. An outlier. The elusive purple cow.

This is actually a drive through radio advertising. Sameness everywhere. Spots with the same structure, the same voices, seemingly the same music. Being the standout among all this sameness is a key to success. But you’re writing a radio spot. How do you sound different?

Easy. Don’t write a radio spot.

Rule four—Sound Different.

Here’s a different-sounding spot that uses woven announcer structure to collapse time:

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The Five Rules-Rule Three

We humans are hard-wired for stories. When we hear a story—something with conflict and resolution, a beginning, middle and end—we lean forward and listen. Stories are what our language is built around. Stories are how we learn to speak. We can use storytelling to make our radio advertising much more engaging.

Luke Sullivan (world’s greatest copywriter) says “Our job is to discover the stories behind our brands and tell them in a way that will get people’s attention.” He’s right. When we discover the truth about the brands we represent—the way the consumer interacts with the brand—the stories begin to tell themselves. And our listeners will more easily remember what we have to tell them, because it takes shape in a familiar form.

If you want to do effective radio that people remember, follow rule three: Tell a Good Story.

Here’s a good story that utterly defies standard hospital marketing:

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The Five Rules-Rule Two

Quick! I want you to recite the first five billboards you saw on your drive to work this morning. What? You don’t remember? OK then, let’s try this. Tell me the first three headlines you saw on your favorite news source. No? Nothing?

OK. One last chance. Tell me one commercial you saw on TV last night. Just one.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

Our capacity to remember is a primary consideration when writing radio copy. Too often, clients demand that we cram multiple copy points into a spot. It’s our job to restrict them to ONE big idea. Just one. If the seven copy points they want in that :30 are really that important, then they each deserve their own spot. But nobody—NOBODY is going to remember seven items from one spot. (Or even three.)

If you want your radio spot to work, then follow rule two: Focus on One Big Idea.

Here’s a spot that focuses on One Big Idea—only one.

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The Five Rules-Rule One

You’re at a party. There’s a really great group of friends chatting over by the drink table, but you’ve been cornered by a guy who’s droning on and on about his business. Are you engaged in what he’s saying? Nope. You really want to be with that entertaining group having all the laughs over by the drinks.

Your radio listener is going through the same thing. They turned on the radio to be entertained. Are you doing that for them? Or are you droning on with facts about your business?

Listeners choose whether to engage with what’s on the air. When you choose to entertain, they choose to engage. Now you have their permission to say a few things about your business. Go ahead.

The first rule of great radio? Entertain first, sell second.

Here’s a spot that draws the listener in with entertainment before trying to make a sale.

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What This is All About

With the marketing world still dazzled by social media, it seems odd to cast a spotlight on something as old and dusty as radio. What’s really odd though, is that marketing professionals would choose to largely ignore it. With 93% of U.S. adults listening every week and 71% listening every day, radio offers marketers a direct, emotional route into the consciousness of millions of people.

So why is radio treated like the redheaded stepchild of advertising & marketing? Because very few people really understand radio, and those who don’t continue to write and produce it.

As an advertising medium, radio baffles creative directors, puzzles account people and frustrates copywriters. The blank slate of radio tempts clients to forcefeed listeners with every fact about their business they can cram into 30 or 60 seconds. And copywriters end up having to go along because there seem to be no rules. The occasional great radio spot is a jewel in a field of thorns. Put simply, radio advertising is marketing’s most misunderstood, misused medium.

So, how do we change this? How do we delight the millions of people who are consuming radio every minute of every day? We need some new rules. Some guidelines to help us use radio more effectively.

Over the next few weeks, Brent Walker will share with you what he’s learned in forty years of producing radio advertising. Walker has defined successful radio advertising into five key rules. Use these rules when creating radio advertising and you’ll engage your audience in ways (and numbers) that social media can’t begin to touch. There’s unbelievable potential here…let’s get started.

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