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BMW radio adHere’s yet another example of a worthless radio campaign that accomplishes only one thing: It completely wastes the advertiser’s money.

The spot begins, “This is a radio ad for the first-ever BMW X2.”

The Sole Job of a Radio Commercial’s Opening Line

The opening line of your radio commercial is the “commercial for the commercial.”

Its sole purpose is to motivate the target audience to listen to the spot’s next line.

Did that opening line make you want to continue to listen?

Also, of course, it begins by telling listeners that they’re now hearing a “radio ad”…

…thereby relieving the audience of the frustration of noticing that suddenly they’re no longer hearing the station’s programming but instead to some mysterious sound.

After all, there’s no other way listeners would know that was a radio commercial.

In keeping with the tradition of “radio commercials for area car dealer associations,” a generic, meaningless, guitar-laden repetitive music bed accompanies the entire spot.

If the Music Doesn’t Enhance the Emotional Impact of the Spot or Somehow Enhance the Commercial’s Sales Message, the Music Shouldn’t Be There.

Slapping a generic rock-ish music bed under the announcer’s voice doesn’t qualify as “producing a radio commercial.”

The only thing that music bed does is compete with the announcer’s voice for the listener’s attention.

“Should I try to listen to that crappy music, or should I try to listen to the announcer’s droning voice talk about something or other?”

The ad attempts to speak to “millennials.”

Why, then, did the ad agency choose music that has just as little appeal to millennials as it does to any other demographic?

Criticizing the Spot’s Word Choice Is Like Criticizing the Color Scheme of the Titanic, But…

The spot refers to the people it’s trying to attract as “unfollowers.”

In today’s social media-dominated world, what does “unfollowers” mean to you?

A) The people who influence the influencers (as the commercial declares)

B) People who chase instincts instead of trophies (as the commercial declares)

C) (Your real answer goes here.)

What they mean is “non-followers.”

They’re trying to express the concept of “someone who doesn’t follow the crowd.”

An “unfollower” is someone who had been a follower and then stopped being a follower.

“Non-followers” would be no more effective than “unfollowers,” but at least it wouldn’t be inane.

And what does it mean for someone to “chase instincts”?

Instincts don’t need to be chased.

Instincts are right there inside you.

Kind of, y’know, instinctively.

I could continue to dissect this commercial, but I’m feeling the urge to “chase nausea.”

So I’ll conclude with the biggest mistake that spot makes.

A mistake that reveals a fatal ignorance of how effective radio advertising works.

What the Listeners Pictures is What the Listener Will Remember.

The creators of that BMW radio ad rely solely on the announcer’s voice to deliver the sales message.

The spot creates, at most, just one mental image:

Some guy talking into a microphone.

Ask targeted listeners what that guy was talking about and they’ll respond, “Uh, I dunno. A car or something?”

The Advertiser Received Absolutely No Benefit from that Radio Commercial.

Terrible copywriting.

Poor production.

Utter failure to generate visual images that carry to the listener the intended sales message.

On the other hand, radio stations got paid to air the spot.

And someone, somewhere, got paid to create it.

So at least it worked out well for them.


Most radio "branding" campaigns are a waste of advertising dollars...In response to my recent critique of a Mercedes radio commercial, a Loyal Reader asked:

“Dan, why do you think major manufacturers actually sign off on stuff as bad as this?”

That kind of advertising has no accountability.

There’s no way for the company to know what effect, if any, the campaign is having on consumers.

That, of course, is how most large ad agencies want it.

“Did the client like it?” is a much easier question to answer than “Did that campaign make them money, or did it cost them money?”

How does an advertising agency avoid accountability?


By telling the client it’s a “branding” campaign.

Almost all large companies create an annual budget that allocates a specific percentage of their advertising dollars to radio.

They don’t determine that percentage based on the profitability of radio advertising in the previous year, because they don’t know whether or not it was profitable.

Often the determination of what percentage of the ad budget will be spent on radio is, “What per cent did we give radio last year?”

Radio advertising is a lot cheaper than television or online video advertising.

Advertising agencies are paid a percentage of a campaign’s production costs.

Even the most elaborate radio commercial costs infinitely less than a network TV commercial.

15% of a pittance doesn’t do much for the agency’s bottom line.

At a large, full service agency, radio copywriting isn’t a priority.

“The guy who writes the radio stuff” is at the bottom of the creative ladder.

That guy probably has no real-world education in writing radio copy.

After all, it’s so easy, isn’t it?

That guy probably has no track record in creating profitable, results-producing radio spots.

That person was hired based upon his/her ability to write “clever” copy, not copy that sells.

Most large, full service advertising agencies have little interest in and give little thought to their radio campaigns.

Often the advertiser’s “radio campaign” is nothing more than the audio track to their new TV commercial.

At the last minute, someone says, “What about radio?”

The answer used to be for the agency to FedEx the audio track to radio stations across the country, arriving on the Friday before the Monday when the spot was scheduled to begin airing.

The Internet, of course, has made it much easier for an ad agency to distribute audio files to radio stations around the world…

…on the Friday before the Monday when the spot is scheduled to begin airing.

Years ago, in my Radio Advertising Letter, I talked about the practice of “sending them the audio track from the TV spot at the last minute.”

One subscriber, who worked at an ad agency, lambasted me for my ignorance.

“That’s ridiculous,” he said in an email to me.

“If you’re so ignorant that you believe that ever happens, take me off your damn list.”

It’s possible that at least one radio production director who is reading this can verify that, indeed, sometimes that’s exactly what happens.

In many markets, a company’s automobile dealers band together to run their own advertising.

They kick in some money and the auto manufacturer contributes, too.

The Local (Manufacturer) Dealers association turns to the advertising agency they’ve used for years.

Their only criterion: The commercials should be entertaining to the ears of the local car dealers, who of course are experts at recognizing what their customers will find to be entertaining on the radio.

The client knows nothing about radio advertising, so they rely on the agency’s presumed expertise.

“After all, that’s what we’re paying them for.”

Download free radio copywriting seminar here.

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This really should not be a difficult concept to grasp:

radio copywriting tipsIn a radio commercial, what the listener pictures is what the listener remembers.

This Mercedes spot goes out of its way to paint pictures that do nothing to deliver or support the sales message while spouting that message in a manner that guarantees few will hear it and none will remember.

Here’s the Mercedes radio commercial.

Notice how the spot grabbed your attention from the beginning?

“You grew up together. Went to college together,” delivered conversationally.

“Ah,” you thought. “This is going to tell some sort of human story. Let’s see where it goes.”

You pictured the best friend standing up at the wedding reception and raising his glass to make a toast.

The only additional mental image you experienced might’ve been of someone in the wedding party inexplicably whistling in the background.

If you heard that commercial on the radio, 5 minutes later I could’ve asked you, “You know that commercial you just heard, where the guy makes a speech at his best friend’s wedding? What were they advertising? What action did the advertiser want you to take?”

“Uh,” you’d reply, “something about…um…some car or something??”

Radio Storytelling Tips

Just for a moment, let’s pretend that story does lead to a strong sales message.

1. Don’t have the announcer also play the part of the best friend.

We already see him as that guy who’s talking to us through that electronic device.

But suddenly he’s “you” — the best friend making the toast?

The listener doesn’t see the best friend.

The listener sees the announcer playing the role of the best friend.

Abruptly it becomes clear this isn’t some human story. It’s …some sort of dumb commercial.

2. If you were reading a novel and came across a sentence that said, “She was crying. Tears were streaming down her face,” you might well think, “Well, yeah. That’s kinda what happens what a person cries. Once you said she was crying, I assumed tears were involved.”

That would be bad writing.

In a radio story (in a commercial or as entertainment), if a character clears his throat and begins to speak, prefacing those actions with the announcer’s declaring, “He clears his throat and says” is bad storytelling.

Helpful Suggestion for Mercedes

Fire the ad agency that you paid to create that drivel.

Create your own drivel. There must be an intern around with a few minutes to spare.

Take the money you otherwise would’ve paid the agency and donate to a worthy charity.

Download free radio copywriting seminar here.


radio account executivesRecently a member of David Tyler’s Radio Imaging & Production group on Facebbook posted this question.

I’m reprinting it here with permission of the person who posted it as well as with David’s permission.

Scenario: A regular client at the station wants to use the announcer that voices their spots, to also voice their “on hold message and telephone navigation system”. They also want you to produce it. The sales rep has promised all this to them at no cost and no compensation to the producer or the announcer (but still collecting his commission of course)… Do you risk your job fighting it?

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Danny Dark demo: "A Very Good Pronouncer"This is a voice over demo that Chuck Blore produced for Danny Dark in 1966 [click to continue…]