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COMMERCIAL BABBLE/COMMERCIAL CLICHES

by Dan O'Day

(Part Two)

Here are additional "commercial babble" contributions from generous e-mail readers....

READER RESPONSE FROM BILL SHANNON, WXTA:

Come early, stay late.

Call__________.

Everything is marked down.

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM BILL DIXON:

What a great article! Thanks for including us. Here's a few we've run into:

1. "Needs" as a noun.

Anytime the word "Needs" gets used as a noun, it's a signal to the listener that what they are listening to is a commercial, and to ignore it.

(DAN REPLIES: Ah, yes. "For all of your constipation needs. For all of your post-funeral needs. For all of your divorce needs....")

2. "Full menu."

All our restaurant clients, and we've got a bunch, want to say they have a "full menu." As opposed to a half-full menu? An empty menu?

(DAN REPLIES: I think that means their menus have very little "white space," implying that they are not wasting the paper.)

3. "Fine Dining Experience." Same as #2.

(DAN REPLIES: "Hey, kids! Let's go out and have a Fine Dining Experience!")

4. "If we don't have it, we'll order it for you."

If you don't have it, why would I even go there? The consumer wants it now, otherwise, they don't want it at all.

(DAN REPLIES: My favorite comic sponsor line is from Dick Purtan: "And remember our motto: If it's in stock, we've got it!")

5. "Complete _______ service." As opposed to inadequate service.

6. "Come see your friends _______ and ______ at...," or "Stop in and see

_________ at..."

Just get me the product.

(DAN REPLIES: Hey, they're my friends at _____? Great! I'll expect a big discount over what their regular customers pay. And a "friend" certainly can trust me to pay them when I get around to it, right?)

7. "We're building a reputation for..." or "We've a reputation for..."

If this reputation is so great, why do you need to tell me about it?

8. "You're going to love the (savings, flavors, styles, colors, textures,

etc.)"

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM TONY NOVIA, RADIO & RECORDS:

How about: "My name is Tony Novia and I live in Westwood. I love shopping at O'Day's because they have plenty of convenient free parking, great service,the best prices in town and all 36 registers are open 24 hours a day!"

(DAN REPLIES: Hey! What about my Friendly, Knowledgeable Staff???)

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM "TUNA" JON ROSE:

I actually heard an ad on the radio (for Sears, I believe) that included

this statement: "The sale you've been waiting for is back!"

Anybody wanna 'splain the time-line on this little "future tense/past tense" exercise?

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM HOWARD HOFFMAN, KABC:

Great. Every one of my great slogans WAS trashed in your little article.

Cancel my subscription immediately.

Wait. Please accept my request for a subscription.

NOW cancel it.

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM CHRIS LEONARD:

I must disagree with the guy who said don't put the phone # in the commercial, refer listeners to their yellow pages ad....That's a great idea! Send your listeners to your clients competitors.

Most clients would go nuts if you told them that you wanted to run their commercial in the same break as their competitors', however we'll tell listeners to see our clients' ad in the yellow pages...Isn't that the same thing?

I do agree that phone numbers don't belong in radio commercials unless it's an alpha-numeric # that's easy to remember like 1 800 CALL DAN.

(DAN REPLIES: I partially agree. Even with a vanity phone number, most local retail merchants are wasting their valuable commercial time giving a phone number.

If it's a toll-free number for a wide geographic area....or a telephone delivered service { e.g., Attorneys Hotline} ....or you have to call to request what is being advertised { Free Pamphlet on Overcoming Halitosis} , then of course the phone number belongs there.

But even if the local shoe store has the number MYSHOES....Who ever calls a shoe store?)

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM BILL NESBITT:

My favorite:

"Every credit application WILL be accepted"

....as if that's gonna get me APPROVED!

(DAN REPLIES: "Your credit is ALWAYS good here, subject to approval....")

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM GEORGE NICHOLAS:

"Save, save, save..."

Reminds me of "location, location, location," which also gets on my nerves.

"Much, much more..."

"And that's not all..."

"or call 555-1234. That's 555-1234...."

Like anybody's going to remember the phone number.

(DAN REPLIES: That's due to:

1. Salespeople not explaining to the local retail client that phone numbers do not sell.

2. Clients not understanding that just because it's in their newspaper ad, that doesn't necessarily mean it should be in a radio commercial.)

*************

"InvoicedoesnotreflectactualdealerpriceIncludestaxtitleand12.9percentAPRDealerretainsallrebates" - or any disclaimer preceding or following a car dealer's spot that sounds like the announcer prolapsed after reading it. I know they're required, but why can't the information be incorporated in a :60, and not "whispered?"

Finally, (soapbox mode almost off!) I was engineering a remote when the air talent, who obviously did not have a clue what to say, stuttered and stammered his way through the break, and finally, said, "...words, just can't describe all the things they have here..."

After the break, I approached the talent and said "Words BETTER describe what you're seeing here, or we aren't getting paid." He got the hint.

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM CLARK NOVAK:

My pet peeves include:

"It's a party and you're invited!"

"Your one-stop ____ shop!"

"Save like never before!"

"Hurry for best selection."

"See you there!"

My all time peeve: "You heard me right!"

Also, I HATE the word "receive."

"Hey Bob, if you buy the beer for tonight, you'll receive the pizza on me!"

Sure, people say "receive" all the time....

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM DONNA HALPER:

Hi Dan....

How about some dreadful d.j. cliches, such as:

"The time right now is..."

(as opposed to the time 5 minutes ago?)

"It's 60 degrees outside"

(yup the weather certainly is outside, and besides that, it's 30 degrees in the studio...);

"It's 15 minutes before the hour of three"

(do you know ANYBODY who talks that way?)

Or those endless AOR front-sells:

"Now here's music from Sting"

(as opposed to tennis shoes or pizza... wow, stop the presses, we play music at this station?)

(DAN REPLIES: That also is the standard classical music radio cliche.)

"I've got the Beatles coming up"

(or perhaps coming down, you just never know... but who talks

that way???)

How about those DJ end of show exit lines, like:

"Well, that's it for me"

(sounds like he/she is about to face the firing squad)

or

"I'm out of here"

(as if you hate your show and can't wait to leave...)

*************

I ALSO RECEIVED A STRONG MESSAGE OF DISAGREEMENT from someone who didn't give his name. Unfortunately, I did not save his original message. But here is my reply (which quotes from his message):

ANONYMOUS GUY SAYS:

>A radio person saying what phrases should never be in a commercial is no more useful than a radio person saying what songs should never be played on the radio again (Stairway to Heaven, Unchained Melody, etc). That's because YOU'VE heard them a million times....but the general public likes to turn on the radio and hear those songs<

(DAN REPLIES:

I don't believe the two are analogous.

The reason those { and other} commercial cliches are harmful to the sales message is that they are empty; they contain nothing of meaning or value to the target audience.

To a Classic Rock listener, Stairway to Heaven does have value & meaning....regardless of how many times a jock might have played that song.)

ANONYMOUS GUY SAYS:

>and they still respond to ads that have your (least) favorite catch phrases in them.<

(DAN REPLIES:

The single most common objection radio salespeople receive from potential advertisers is, "I tried radio, and it didn't work."

Those people are being truthful. 90% of radio advertising is wasted. And the primary cause of this waste is the fact that the people writing the commercials { disc jockeys, station copywriters, sales people, production people, agency copywriters} have not been taught:

*The ways in which radio communicates most effectively

*How to craft a commercial sales message for radio

*To focus on the listener's desires, not the advertiser's needs

*To identify and present a single core message)

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM GARY BURBANK:

Dan,

I agree with your commercial babble. Especially, "Going on now at

Sears." We tried that for a Burbank's Real BBQ spot, and people came

looking for Kenmore washers and dryers.

And "It's midsummer madness time" only works if followed by, "at the State home for the not quite all there, third bed on the right."

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM JEFF McMURRAY:

God bless you Dan O'Day!

The piece on commercial babble hit several desks around the building

this morning. We all are very good at what we do, but when we get busy

we sometimes get sloppy.

What a great reminder. Thanks!

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM MARK EDWARDS:

Thanxxxxxxxx for the article!. Hard to believe, but our sales people still write a lot of their own spots here in Chicago..... This will help them!

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM DAVE PERKINS:

The two I hate most are "conveniently located" (which is on your list) and "and MUCH more"....you have "and what's more" which is a 1920s American English throwback that you are correct in stating nobody uses anymore, but what I am talking about is an effort to condense a store's entire inventory into a spot..."we have THIS, and THAT, and MUCH more...."

I HATE THAT.

Perhaps because I have used it so many !@#$%^&* times....

(DAN REPLIES: If you ever talk to Dave, ask him to tell you how he drove a truckload of cookies from Cleveland to Cincinnati for me....)

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM CHRIS BRANSCOMB, UK:

> "Friendly, knowledgeable staff"

Yeh, right

> "Conveniently located...."

Never ever ever...

> "Quality service"

Service, service, what does that mean?

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM DAN GARFINKEL:

The laundry list of activities, "games for the kids, adults humor, rides,

food" ending with "and more."

(And more what? Stuff too unimportant to mention?)

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM CHRIS LEONARD:

"everyday low prices"

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM STEVE HARMON:

"Call now for a free estimate! (It's one in the morning.)

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM STEVEN PARKER:

"They ARE the experts!"

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM JIM MULVEY:

One half of all local radio produced spots in Boston contain these same meaningless lines:

"We have the BEST service..."

"For all your (fill in the blank) needs..."

"A family owned business for over (fill in the blank) years."

"See my 'good friend' (name of the client)."

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM JONATHON DOLL:

I received your list of commercial cliches yesterday via E-Mail and laughed so hard I pulled a groin muscle (not my own).

Two that steam my fleckmans are: "You owe it to yourself" and the ever

popular "Do yourself a favor!"

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM BUMPER MORGAN:

How about:

"Be There"

"Dial (phone number)"

(most phones are touch-tone)

"When you're looking for furniture, think Sprintz Furniture."

"Your one-stop shopping headquarters"

"When it comes to Ford Trucks, Bell Ford delivers"

(DAN REPLIES: Great. From now on all their customers will expect those Ford Trucks to be delivered to their doors.)

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM RICK BLANSHAN:

How about:

"There's never been a better time to buy!"

"Bargains Galore"

(DAN REPLIES: You'll remember her as the love interest in the seldom seen James Bond film, "ThunderMart.")

"(spring, winter, whatever)is just around the corner"

"Up to 50% and more."

"And more."

"You heard me right!"

"Your (whatever) headquarters"

"Your one-stop shop"

(phone number once at the end of the spot)

Just a few of my personal favorites....

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM DR. DON CARPENTER:

My all-time personal "fingernails-on-the-blackboard" cliche:

"You've tried the rest, now try the BEST."

I hate that. Especially when it turns up on TWO spots that I'm running back-to-back. You'd think in DETROIT, someone could come up with something a whole lot better. Like "You've tried the rest.. now get your butt in here before I kidnap your pets!!"

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM SOMEONE WHOSE NAME I FORGOT TO SAVE (SORRY!):

"Savings of up to 50% and more!!!"

(Now THAT makes a lot of sense!)

"Hurry, hurry, hurry!!"

(We have a local car dealer that does his own ads, and he is truly a

piece of work. I, personally, think he should be taken out and maimed.

Anyway, when he says Hurry hurry hurry, it sounds like he's ready to keel over and die. It sounds like he just got a bad report card and he's practicing how to tell his parents. I wonder if he actually gets any business?)

And try opening a car dealer spot with _this_ little gem...

(must be used with ECHO per order of the salesman):

"Falvey's!!...Falvey's!!...Falvey's!!..." (Aaarrgghh!!)

Then there's the one that I'm surprised you missed...

"Come on DOWWWN!!" (It's bad enough that idiot had to use it on TV,

waving his arm frantically like he was trying to snatch flies out of the

air, but now somebody local is using it on radio; For a BEDDING store,

for Pete's sake!! Makes ME think about sleeping, I can tell you.

"Honey, let's get a new mattress from that guy that screams like a

wounded Yak in heat, he sounds so relaxing, he _must_ have great beds!")

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM CHRIS KENNEDY:

Dan,

I must tell you that your inclusion of the following phrase. . .

"So come on down!". . .

. . .in your list of phrases which should be stricken from future commercial usage concerns me.

How else will I be reminded of the great Bob Barker (and his harem) and his fabulous "Price is Right"!?!

God knows, I never have the time to watch the show anymore (is it still on?).

Hearing that phrase on bad local commercials (especially on bad-looking

local television spots with "I-wanna-be-an-important-celebrity" store owners with negative IQ-points) takes me back to a time, an innocent time, where life was good. Summer vacations, plenty of hang-time and a show with more sexual angst than Melrose Place.

("Come on, Bob! Hit on Valerie! Whisper in her ear! Admire her longingly as she properly gestures that phallic bottle of Mr. Clean!).

In the future, Dan, I hope you will be more sensitive to my needs.

(DAN REPLIES: Oh, I certainly AM sensitive to ALL of your radio programming/air talent/commercial copywriting/seminar/e-mail needs!

And I'm friendly & knowledgeable AND I care about YOU, the customer.

So come on down to my convenient location!)

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM KARA BAUER:

Hey Dan-

You are absolutely correct sir, but you forgot one important piece of the commercial-ese...how listeners listen. They respond to the trite phrases. Even worse, the people who pay for commercials, yes the clients, actually ask for them by name (sorry...couldn't help adding another one...).

Then there's the other broadcast copy evil--sales people on the radio side--many stations allow them to write the copy, usually with the help of the client. Not that sales folks are naturally creatively bankrupt, it's just not their strong suit. It is not ALWAYS the poor copy writer's fault--many times they don't get the chance to do their creative magic. What to do?

Thanks for the laugh--really enjoyed your list. My personal favorite phrase that pays--INDEED. actually just a word but again, you never hear a human use the word

DAN REPLIES:

>you forgot one important piece of the commercial-ese...how listeners listen. They respond to the trite phrases.<

I respectfully disagree. The problem with what I call "commercial cliches" is not that they are trite. The reason commercial cliches are harmful to the sales message is that they are empty; they contain nothing of meaning or value to the target audience.

If you were to say, "If you're not completely satisfied, just tell us and we'll give you an immediate, 100% refund," that often would have meaning to a listener...even if such a statement were commonly heard in commercials.

But "it's our people who make the difference" is completely worthless -- whether it's the first or the thousandth time a listener hears it.

>Even worse, the people who pay for commercials, yes the clients, actually ask for them<

Absolutely true. And a professional radio salesperson or copywriter does not reply with a meek, "Whatever you say, boss!" Because to do so does not give the client his or her money's worth.

The professional (and there aren't all that many) radio salesperson or copywriter's primary concern is to produce results for the client. That is not done simply by selling commercials and putting them on the air; it is done by crafting a campaign that actually succeeds in selling to the target audience.

A lot of people go to a doctor and say, "I want you to prescribe Prozac for me." An incompetent or uncaring doctor often will do just that. A competent, dedicated physician, however, will insist upon ascertaining the patient's current condition, problems and needs before agreeing to prescribe a specific treatment.

While I suppose someone might argue that writing a radio commercial is is not quite the life-or-death challenge faced by physicians,

>Then there's the other broadcast copy evil--sales people on the radio side--many stations allow them to write the copy, usually with the help of the client.<

In that little article you're responding to, I don't differentiate. I don't care about the job title of the person writing the spot. I only care about the copy itself.

>It is not ALWAYS the poor copy writer's fault--many times they don't get the chance to do their creative magic. What to do?<

Again, I wasn't assigning blame. I was only looking at the results of poor copy. The sad fact is the majority of radio stations have no respect for their own commercial product. All of their focus is on getting the sale...not on getting results for the advertiser.)

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM DAVE ROBBINS:

We use all of these radio "shticks" and more.

Our top of the hour liners are "TASTELESS, RUDE, OBNOXIOUS, TRYING TO BE

FUNNY WHEN THEY'RE REALLY NOT......THAT'S HOW THE NON-LISTENER DESCRIBES THIS SHOW...AND HERE'S ANOTHER HOUR!"

Here's one of my favorites we're running now: "ABSOLUTELY NO MUSIC....JUST ANOTHER HOUR OF SENSELESS DJ TALK .....YOU'RE NUMBER ONE!"

We make a living out of making fun of radio and radio types on the air. It

works.

Thanks again for "commercial babble". We'll use them all.

(DAN REPLIES: My personal favorite comes from researcher Rob Balon: "Less talk...and more of it!")

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM JEFF FALEWICZ:

Cliches? Good Lord, Boston radio commercials are full of them:

"...that's right!"

(taking for granted the fact the listener questioned that swell bargain)

"you heard right!"

"you've tried the rest, now try..... (you finish the line - strictly local copy!)"

On my shift this weekend I'll keep my ears open for more. They appear more when the sponsors do their own copy, it seems.

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM PAUL BOTTOMS:

Loved your bit on commercial cliches.

Two more..."right on the corner, right on the price...."

(DAN REPLIES: Actually, I've never heard that one.)

"We're not number one, you are."

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM ROBB WESTABY:

"Prices have never been so low."

(Really? They were HIGHER in 1971?)

(DAN REPLIES: How about if you have the announcer end the spot with, "And remember, my voice has never been so low.")

"Prices were never better."

Same vein.

(DAN REPLIES: "..although the quality and service certainly have been.")

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM RICH HARRIS:

O.K., Dan....here's one more for you !

"Your ______ headquarters."

Where ever did we get THAT one? Sounds like a police station doesn't it!

Enjoyed your seminars (I've been to two) on programming.

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM ANONYMOUS:

Dan-

You forgot my personal favorite (and most oft used of all) phrase:

"It's that time of year again!"

(Have you ever noticed, no matter WHAT time of year it is,

it's THAT time of year again?)

*************

READER RESPONSE FROM JOHN NIXON:

Dan....

Yes, I do have some that I'd care to add to your list....

Word Association...."warm weather means summer...summer means

barbecues...barbecues mean charcoal and charcoal means the big summer sale at..."

Interrogation..."thinking about buying a new car?...have you thought about

how much to spend?...did you know Joe's Ford is having a sale?...and that the prices are the lowest they've ever been?...then what are you waiting for?"

(DAN REPLIES: "Thinking about buying a new car? Did you know Joe's Ford is having a sale? Are you worried about constantly hearing voices inside your head? Ever wonder who the heck I am and why I keep hounding you with my incessant questions? Thought about getting back at those noisy neighbors by setting their house on fire? Well, what are you waiting for....?")

What Better...seems like everyone's using this dumb lead-in these

days...worse than "when it comes to"..."what better way to save money" would sound more realistic if you said "it's a great way to save money"...what better way to write a spot?...don't use it!

Quality Perishables...heard this one on a national grocery store spot..."on

my way home I'd better head to Safeway for some quality perishables...and

I'll pick up a few dry goods while I'm there...I can choose from their wide

array...oh, and I understand they have ample free parking"!

(DAN REPLIES: You really heard a spot touting "quality perishables" and "dry goods"? The end of the world is closer than I thought.)

It Happens Only Once A Year...oh yeah?...then how come it's gonna happen again next month?

Experience..."experience the magic"

Nestled..."nestled in a rustic and serene country setting..."

How Many Times...will I have to produce spots that go something like

this...(clock ticking/dog barking/distant train whistle)..."how many times

has this happened to you?" Where do these come from? There must be a secret school where salespeople go to learn this technique.

(DAN REPLIES: Stevens & Grdnic { radio comedy team} wrote a fake spot that began with: "How many times has this happened to you? You're driving down the street, listening to the radio, and the announcer on the radio says, 'How many times has this happened to you?'")

Clearing Spots With The Client...salespeople will leave the store brimming

with confidence about the gross rating points, reach and frequency, cost per point, etc. that have just been purchased. Later, when they call the guy back to play the spot, they very sheepishly ask "do you like it...are you sure"?

There should be as much pride in the people at the station who produce as there is in the statistics that the station produces. Perhaps the best way is to clear the spot yourself and show the pride you have in your work.

(DAN REPLIES: A salesperson NEVER should ask, "Do you like it?"

Instead, before the spot is created, the salesperson should gain agreement from the client regarding what absolutely has to be included in the commercial, as well as what the single core message of the commercial should be.

Then the salesperson can play the finished spot for the client - after first handing the client the agreed-upon list of goals and saying, "Please check this list as you listen to make sure we covered everything we agreed should be covered.")

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