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Are you breaking in a new radio commercial copywriter?

Or perhaps you’re trying to get your account executives to write spots that don’t sound as though they’re written by account execs?

Challenge them to a game of “Spot The Fake Yelp Reviews.”

It’s easy and fun for the entire radio station!

Each player is assigned a random sampling of Yelp reviews to peruse.

The first time a player sees a review that is filled with language and sentiments that no human would express, that player yells, “Yelp One!”

The second time a player sees a review that is filled with language and sentiments that no human would express, that player yells, “Yelp Two!”

The third time…Well, you get the idea.

Look for Clues Such as These.

Declarations that the business handles all of their _______ “needs.”

Example: I always go to Dr. Whozis for all of my dental needs!

The use of outsized superlatives that far exceed the realm of the product or service.

Example: The shoelaces at Ed’s House of Footwear Accessories are incredible!

Too Much Information: The reviewer mentions everything the business owner would put in a brochure.


I couldn’t believe how easy their free parking was. I was relieved to see that they take Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover Card, check, money order, PayPal, Bitcoin and, of course, cash. I knew I could trust Ned’s Newspaper Stand with all my newspaper and magazine needs when I found out they’ve been family owned and operated for over 17 years. They get deliveries of a wide variety of new magazines every Tuesday at 4am, which means they always have just what you’re looking for.

They also carry out of town newspapers, which is particularly great for me because I’m from out of town. I make it a point to stop by every Monday evening between 8 and 9 o’clock to take advantage of their half-price special featuring a wide variety of torn, damaged or soiled publications at huge discounts. By the way, Ned’s Newspaper Stand thoughtfully provides a wide variety of candy, chewing gum, and confectionaries right next to the cash register. That has saved me SO much time I’d otherwise have spent having to stand in line at the supermarket.

Everything Is Great: The location, service, selection, quality, prices, policies, staff, cleanliness, hours of operation…

Unlike your favorite restaurant, which has at least one dish you don’t particularly care for, everything this place sells is exceptionally good.

Here’s A Typical Fake Yelp Review.

When I asked friends and co-workers what dentist I should go to for all of my dental needs, their recommendations were unanimous. Everyone told me that they go to Dr. Whozis because he’s an “old fashioned” dentist who always puts the needs of the patients first. And he’s so conveniently located to where everybody lives.

Whenever I need to have a potential dental problem diagnosed or treated, I know I can trust Dr. Whozis. When I made an appointment with Dr. Whozis to find out what was causing my bleeding gums, I was astonished at how quickly he spotted the problem and advised me, in his expert yet reassuring manner, to stop flossing my teeth with barbed wire. I always get all of my veneers, bonding and teeth whitening from Dr. Whozis and his wonderful staff who are so friendly that I think of them as family.

Like many of Dr. Whozis’s patients, I often show my gratitude to his front office staff by bringing small gifts of candy, Amazon gift cards, and cash…especially Brenda, the office manager. She’s amazing! I don’t know how she manages to run the entire office so smoothly and always with a smile.

Who Would Post A Fake Yelp Review?

Naturally, no business owners or employees would try to fool consumers by leaving fake reviews of their own business or service.

I can only guess the plethora of obviously bogus rave reviews are the work of Internet Pranksters.

Ready To Play?

Here’s a real customer review from Yelp.

I assume it’s a legitimate review from a real customer.

Can you see anything that makes you think otherwise?

This is seriously how I feel about Kristal Graphics. I have been using them for my printing needs for years. I am a perpetual procrastinator. But when I do want stuff, I want it right away. And Kristal Graphics always delivers. They always make sure to deliver my products on time. And their prices are phenomenal. I have used them for business cards, flyers, and banners, and they all come out perfect. I can usually get a banner done within 2-3 days, and even sooner if I really need it done quickly. Their graphic designer, Marco, is a pleasure to work with. He will work with me through multiple revisions till I am happy with the product. Try Kristal Graphics out and you will not be sorry.


Excellent Client-Voice Radio Commercial

It’s not often that you hear an excellent client-voiced radio commercial.

But it’s not unusual to hear such excellent advertising created by Blaine Parker.



I’ve been a Pandora.com listener since 2007.

I have no inside knowledge of the company’s strategy.

It’s possible that commercial sponsorship (in the form of traditional radio commercials) is an insignificant element of its long-term financial success.

I suspect, however, that’s not the case. If commercial advertising weren’t important to Pandora, then the music streaming service wouldn’t be bending to the will and whims of advertisers.

Originally, Pandora had strict standards for its audio commercials. Loud announcers, fast-talking disclaimers, in-your-face advertising — you didn’t hear it on Pandora.

That has changed. Pandora now airs commercials that are just as bad as the bad ones you routinely hear on terrestrial radio.

In fact, Pandora routinely airs the same commercials that you hear elsewhere.

That can only be the result of pressure by the advertising community.

If Pandora does rely to a significant degree on such advertising, it’s faced with a choice: Reinstate more stringent quality controls or consign itself ultimately to being acquired by a larger company.

Transplanting a terrestrial radio commercial to Pandora is similar to the all-too-common practice of taking the audio track of a television spot and running it on radio stations.

The audio track of a TV spot is not the same as a radio commercial. And usually a “traditional” radio commercial is not a Pandora commercial.

A bad traditional radio commercial is even worse on Pandora.

There are two key differences between advertising on terrestrial stations and advertising on Pandora: Intrusiveness and Experience.


Radio, of course, is an intrusive advertising medium. The commercials come to you.

Unlike, for example, print advertising, you can’t skip past it. You can ignore it. You can change stations. But you can’t just turn the page and continue with the content you’re consuming.

In that respect, Pandora is intrusive, too.

But it’s intrusive in a second way. If you’re a Pandora listener, the advertising intrudes upon your carefully constructed musical environment.

When you listen to a local music station, you understand that commercials pay the freight for the entertainment. You might not like most of the commercials, but that’s the deal: You come to our radio station, you’re going to have to deal with our commercials.

Despite the rah-rah exclamations of certain industry flacks, most listeners don’t think of the local commercial music station as theirs.

Why should they? They have no control over its content.

When you listen to a radio station, you never think of it as your exclusive experience. You’re listening along with thousands of other people. You’re participating in a collective experience.

But when you listen to Pandora, you’re the only person listening to that “station.”*
    * Usually. Pandora does have a social sharing function, so you have the option of listening to other people’s favorites. But most users listen to their own “stations.”

You don’t perceive those commercials as “paying the freight” or, occasionally, bringing to your attention relevant information or opportunities. You perceive them solely as interruptions.


You’ve selected music designed to create a certain emotional experience, and a totally inappropriate commercial lands smack in the middle of that experience and destroys it.

As a Pandora listener, I’ve created a number of my own “stations”: Rock & roll; a cappella; social commentary & satire; ballads…and one named after a singer you probably haven’t heard of: Priscilla Herdman.

She has a gorgeous voice, and her repertoire has a strong folkie influence. Many of the songs she sings tell real people’s real stories.

I realized Pandora’s apocalypse might be rapidly approaching the day I heard this. The first thing you’ll hear is the ending of one of Herdman’s acoustic songs, and then…

Here’s an entire song. It was written by an Australian songwriter…in 1910. It’s a 105-year old song that makes me feel as though the writer is talking to me today.

To me, listening to this song is like reading a novel into which I’m able to immerse myself.

Listen to the beginning, and if you like it then let it play to the end and then, as soon as it’s finished, play the Pandora commercial you’ll find directly beneath the video.

If you listen to the beginning and don’t like it, stop the video, think of a beautiful song that you love, imagine that that song has just concluded, and then play the commercial.

Does that commercial sound as though it was created specifically for the Pandora listening environment? Does it enhance that very personal listening experience?

It might fit very well in your “1960s Novelty Songs” station, immediately following “Monster Mash.” But not so well with that 105-year old musical lament of lost love.

Have I Heard ANY Appropriate Commercials on Pandora Recently?

I recorded a bunch of hours of Pandora, and the best I was able to come up with is a commercial that begins by striking the right tone (if not the type of message you would expect):

Obviously that was a “terrestrial radio” commercial. For Pandora, however, they shot themselves in the foot by keeping the Enthusiastic Announcer With Disclaimer at the end.

Some Trader Joe’s ads have blended in nicely…except that they insist on keeping that inane “thanks for listening” tag from their broadcast commercials. But at least the announcer sounds human and speaks conversationally.

Here are a few rules for Pandora to begin enforcing immediately.

Don’t Let The Advertiser Tell The Listeners Who The Listeners Are.

Here you are on my blog, right?

Did I begin this article by saying, “Hey, blog readers!!”?

Well, no. That would’ve been…stupid.

People Don’t Listen to Pandora for Pandora. They Listen for the Music.

Pandora 6-20-15  Wow this Pandora thing.mp3

1. Don’t waste your time talking about Pandora.

2. Don’t waste your time mocking “this whole Pandora thing.”

All the kids are doing it? Really?

CivicScience reports that as of April 2015, Pandora’s largest demographic was 35-44, with 56% of all its users being at least 30 years old.

Make Your First Words Count.

When the listener’s (not Pandora’s, remember; it’s the listener’s) song ends, s/he does not eagerly lean forward to catch the beginning of a mood-breaking commercial.

Huh? You might have had difficulty understanding the first two words, and you were actively listening to the ad!

Listeners weren’t expecting it, waiting for it, or ready for it. Most of them won’t even understand the first two words.

Use Fast-Talking Disclaimers…If You Want To Drive Away Your Listeners.

Remember, no one likes these anywhere. They like them even less on Pandora.

Talk to the Listener, About the Listener.

As with many stereotypically bad radio spots, it begins with the advertiser’s name.

25% of the way through the spot, we still don’t know what it’s about.

Don’t Allow Loud, Stereotypical Radio “Announcers” Near Your Listeners.

Why is she shouting at us?

You’ve Got Geo-Targeting. Use It.

There’s just no excuse for these two abominations.

Admittedly, the bitter Southern California winters occasionally bring temperatures as low as 60 degrees. The actual “dead of winter” sound effects go something like this:

    “You might want to bring a sweater.”

“Maybe it’s hot out today. Maybe it’s cold.”

Southern California in the summer? Especially this summer?

The hottest summer we’ve ever had?

Hundred degree temperatures day after day?

Hint: When you know your spot is airing in Southern California in August, telling listeners “maybe it’s cold” = telling listeners, “We don’t have a clue who you are, where you are, or what we’re talking about.”

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Writing Funny Radio CommercialsThe first two businesses to offer to pay me to create commercial campaigns were a bank and a shopping center. I’ve long forgotten which was first.

But each approached me, money in hand, for the worst possible reason:

Because I hosted a funny radio show, they wanted me to be the guy to create funny radio commercials for them.

Yes, I’m very good at writing funny radio ads.

No, that’s not a good reason to hire me.

The only people who should want to hire me as a freelance commercial copywriter are people who want effective campaigns, not funny ones.

“We want you to write some funny spots for us,” a potential client will say.

“Oh, you want funny spots? Glad you told me that now. Otherwise I would have assumed you wanted an effective commercial campaign that would produce money-making results. But you just want ‘funny?’ Okay.”

“No, wait! Of course we want the campaign to work!”

“Oh. Hmmm. Which is more important to you: that your commercials make money for you, or that they’re funny?”

“That they make money for us.”

“Okay,” I’ll say. “That’s what I’ll focus on: creating an effective campaign that delivers a positive Return on Investment. At this stage, I have no idea if it’ll be funny. It might be deadly serious.

“The first thing I’m going to do is ask you about a billion questions, until I really understand not just what it is you sell but, more importantly, why people buy it. I need to understand how what you sell improves your customers’ lives.

“When I reach the point where I understand it well enough to start writing, the odds are that by then I’ll have a pretty good idea of the best approach to take…to produce a profitable ROI for you.

“That might turn out to be a series of comedic spots. It might be slice-of-life dialogue. It might even be a ‘straight announcer read.’ But I can’t work with you if you need me to promise to create a ‘funny’ campaign before I know what the message is going to be. Is that okay with you?”

That bank and that shopping center were lucky: I wrote funny spots that worked for them.

But they should have come to me because they believed I knew how to sell in a radio commercial, not because I knew how to be funny.

As it happens, a fair percentage of the campaigns I’ve created over the years have been humorous.

My favorite might’ve been the one in which the announcer called the advertiser a liar. (Some people have commented that sometimes my style of humor is “subversive.”)

If after you’ve done your research you decide the best approach is a spot that incorporates humor or comedy, here are my

20 Questions to Ask When Writing Funny Radio Commercials.

Bonus Resource:
Download free radio copywriting seminar here.


Is This CBS Radio Commercial Legal?

A Loyal Reader sent me this radio commercial and asked:

“Is this spot legal? Does it somehow qualify as a song parody?”

Does This Qualify as a “Song Parody?”

No, it’s not a song parody.

“Song parody” doesn’t mean simply “changing some of the lyrics.”

To qualify as a parody, the new work must represent commentary on the original work and/or on the artist who created the work.

Is This Radio Spot Legal?

If someone got permission from the copyright holder to use and to rewrite the Who’s song, “Who Are You?” for this campaign, then it’s legal.

Because this is a CBS-owned radio station in Los Angeles, I’d be very surprised if their legal team didn’t make sure they followed the rules regarding the use of copyrighted music in a radio advertising campaign.

When victims of copyright infringement take legal action against infringers, they go after everyone who was involved…especially the ones with “deep pockets.”

Here’s my e-book about what’s legal (and what’s not) when using music in radio commercials.

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