WINNER OF THE RADIO COPYWRITING REWRITE CHALLENGE

by Dan O'Day on August 18, 2014

how to write radio commercialRecently I issued a challenge for radio commercial copywriters to improve upon a weak line that appeared in an otherwise well-written print advertisement for Trader Joe’s.

A bunch of people submitted their copywriting rewrites (here).

The line to be rewritten was the second of these two sentences:

“Trader Joe’s Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches came to fruition after months and months of tasting and re-tasting by our panel. (Yes, it’s a messy job, but we’re pretty sure we’re up to the task.)”

Entry #4, submitted by Daniel Y, garnered the most votes from readers.

All the entries, naturally, were brilliant.

Here are the finalists, this time with my own notes.

ENTRY #1
Denny Mattern

The results were unanimous, but like any hung jury, they kept reviewing the evidence.   

Dan’s Note: The joke is funny, but it’s too subtle.

My own style of humor is deadpan and depends upon a brief pause while the other person “gets” what I’m actually saying.

But in a radio commercial, the audience can’t freeze time; the commercial continues regardless of whether it’s momentarily lost the listener’s attention.

Also, the use of “hung jury” is confusing. (I’ll pause while 5% of you guys make your own crude joke about the use of that term.)

The way it reads, the panel was “like any hung jury.”

But a hung jury is one that cannot agree on a verdict. I’m guessing, therefore, that Denny’s intent was, “But they kept reviewing the evidence despite their unanimity.”

The joke in Denny’s version is that they kept reviewing the evidence, even though there was no reason to do so (other than to keep eating the ice cream). “Hung jury” confuses and thereby weakens the joke.

ENTRY #2
Blaine Parker

The panelists tasted like crazy, enduring countless hours rolling on the floor with ice cream headaches so we could bring you the single most lucious ice cream sandwich ever.

Dan’s Note: Uncharacteristically, Blaine waffled*. On the one hand, we have “tasted like crazy” and enduring ice cream headaches. On the other hand, we end up with “most luscious ice cream sandwich ever” — an advertising claim that begs the response, “Really??”

(*No, that’s not a sly reference to “waffle cones” or to the origin of the ice cream cone.)

Several people referred in some way to the phenomenon of “ice cream headaches.” I’m not opposed to using it; it certainly does intersect common human experience, which is something I teach & preach.

But “headache” is a reaction many people (including, alas, myself) often have to ice cream. It’s a mistake to remind people of that association when trying to sell ice cream.

See Entry #5 for a better way of using this.

ENTRY #3
Dan Gaffney

Afterwards we had to buy pants with a bigger waist size…but it was sooooo worth it!

Dan’s Note: Funny, but for many people — certainly including Trader Joe’s health conscious customers — choosing to eat ice cream = choosing to ignore their desire not to get fat (or fatter).

If someone were to say, “Here, eat this ice cream. You’ll immediately gain 3 pounds, but the it tastes SO good….”

Most likely you’d say, “No, thanks.”

ENTRY #4
Daniel Y.

…months of tasting and re-tasting by our panel. Yes, we have such a panel and no, we’re not hiring.

Dan’s Note: Excellent. The wording is elegant. It takes us in an unexpected direction with a funny pay-off that doesn’t slow down the commercial.

ENTRY #5
Monica Ballard

Yes, we knew the risk of brain freeze, but dammit, people – this is SCIENCE!

Dan’s Note: I like the punch line.

The line is funny by itself. But it doesn’t move the commercial along. The story momentary stops with the punchline, as indicated by the strong (and appropriate) emphasis on “SCIENCE!”

ENTRY #6
Michael G. Stanton

Yes it’s a messy job… But we wore bibs …and (damnit) we LOVE ice cream sandwiches!

Dan’s Note: “But we wore bibs” is funny and quick.

It would’ve been stronger without the “we love ice cream sandwiches” coda, which didn’t make it any funnier and didn’t strengthen the sales message.

ENTRY #7
Patricia Napolitano

Yes, it’s a messy job but we were wearing waffle bibs.

Dan’s Note: As I recall, both of Patricia’s entries were inspired by Michael’s (which is within the rules of this competition).

I don’t know what a “waffle bib” is…or is supposed to be. Remember, when you confuse the listener, you derail the commercial.

ENTRY #8
Patricia Napolitano

Yes, it’s a messy job … that’s a job?

Dan’s Note: That’s kinda funny. But it doesn’t lead to the next part of the commercial, which sells the product. Instead, everything comes to a halt.

ENTRY #9
Terry Stevens

(and more than a few ice cream headaches for those who did their tasting just a bit too quickly. Looking at you, Joe.)

Dan’s Note: Same problem I mentioned earlier re: “headaches.”

“Just too quickly” takes the story off course.

“Looking at you, Joe” is funny…but eats up (no pun intended) too much time.

ENTRY #10
Adam Garey

Yes, it’s a messy job but we get paid by the scoop!

Dan’s Note: Points for originality, but it doesn’t move the story along.

ENTRY #11
Kathy Lepak

It was a messy job, and we all gained 12 pounds.

Dan’s Note: Again, it’s best to avoid saying, “Buy our product and get fatter.”

ENTRY #12
Chris Miler

It was a messy job, but our employees found it very -”full-filling.”

Dan’s Note: Kinda cute. But puns are really dangerous in radio commercials, and this one doesn’t further the sales message; it’s simply a pun.

ENTRY #13
Mike Bratton

Yes, it was a rough job, but our taste-testers wear stretch pants for a reason.

Dan’s Note: Of all the entries that worked the “gain weight” angle, this did it the most humorously.

But it still points out “fat” in relation to a product for which “fat” is an unfortunate byproduct that no one wants.

And The Radio Commercial Copywriting Rewrite Winner Is…

I agree with the popular vote winner: Entry #4 (Daniel Y).

I had planned to award the winner $5,000 in cash, but because Daniel Y didn’t further identify himself, I have no choice but to go out and enjoy a box of Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches in Daniel Y’s honor.

Congratulations, Daniel Y, and thanks to everyone for your contributions.

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REPLAY OF AUDIOBOOK Q&A w/BARBARA ROSENBLAT

by Dan O'Day on August 13, 2014

audiobook voice recording

Here’s the replay of the world’s greatest audiobook narrator, Barbara Rosenblat, answering questions about…uh, narrating audio books.

Our secret agenda for conducting the free teleseminar was to help people decide whether Barbara’s upcoming Audiobook Master Class is right for them.

Questions dealt with such topics as:

  • How narrators are selected for particular audiobooks
  • Tips for directing narrators
  • Preparing vs. actual recording time
  • Portraying multiple characters
  • Maintaining consistency of vocal tone over a large book recording project
  • Audiobook demos
  • Creating a character for a third person (or “objective” or “omniscient”) narrator
  • Controlling mouth noises
  • Optimal length of an audiobook recording session
  • Importance of allowing the book to “breathe”
  • How can you “teach” someone to narrate audiobooks?
  • Common mistakes “traditional” voice over people make when approaching the audiobook field
  • People already competing for jobs on ACX


If you have trouble viewing the above video, here’s an alternate link to view this audiobook Q&A video on Youtube.

As Barbara repeatedly reminds me (you’ll hear it), she’s limiting the 2-day workshop to just 20 people.

It’ll be an intensive, intense, exhausting, exhilarating two days.

If you’re ready to step up your audiobook game, grab one of the remaining seats here…where you’ll also find all the information about Barbara’s exclusive, one-time workshop.

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THE CUSTOM AUDIO TRAILER DON LaFONTAINE MADE FOR ME

by Dan O'Day on August 11, 2014

Don LaFontaine apologyIt was 2007.

Everyone was excited about the extra special guest speaker for my annual International Radio Creative & Production Summit:

Don LaFontaine.

Just a few days prior to the Summit, the phone rang.

It was Don, and as soon as I heard his voice I knew there was a problem.

His chagrin and regret were palpable, as he explained that he wasn’t going to be able to be at the Summit after all. It was obvious that Don felt terrible at having to bail out on such short notice.

He apologized repeatedly and profusely.

Finally I said, “Don, trust me: If I could find a way to spin this situation so that I could get mad at you, I would. But I can’t figure out any way to blame you for this, so don’t worry about it.”

Here’s Don himself, explaining to the attendees why he wouldn’t be there with him.

 

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VOTE FOR BEST RADIO COPYWRITING REWRITE

by Dan O'Day on August 8, 2014

radio copywriters rewriteA couple of days ago I challenged radio copywriters to rewrite one surprisingly weak line in an otherwise good print ad for Trader Joe’s.

The line to be rewritten is the second of these two sentences:

“Trader Joe’s Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches came to fruition after months and months of tasting and re-tasting by our panel. (Yes, it’s a messy job, but we’re pretty sure we’re up to the task.)”

Here’s the original explanation of the copywriting contest.

Here are the finalists.

If yours isn’t among them, it’s only because of an outrageous oversight by the judging committee.

Or, possibly, because as good as yours was, it didn’t quite follow the required format.

ENTRY #1:
Denny Mattern
The results were unanimous, but like any hung jury, they kept reviewing the evidence.

ENTRY #2:
Blaine Parker
The panelists tasted like crazy, enduring countless hours rolling on the floor with ice cream headaches so we could bring you the single most lucious ice cream sandwich ever.

ENTRY #3:
Dan Gaffney
Afterwards we had to buy pants with a bigger waist size…but it was sooooo worth it!

ENTRY #4:
Daniel Y.
…months of tasting and re-tasting by our panel. Yes, we have such a panel and no, we’re not hiring.

ENTRY #5
Monica Ballard
Yes, we knew the risk of brain freeze, but dammit, people – this is SCIENCE!

ENTRY #6:
Michael G. Stanton
Yes it’s a messy job… But we wore bibs …and (damnit) we LOVE ice cream sandwiches!

ENTRY #7
Patricia Napolitano
Yes, it’s a messy job but we were wearing waffle bibs.

ENTRY #8
Patricia Napolitano
Yes, it’s a messy job … that’s a job?

ENTRY #9
Terry Stevens
(and more than a few ice cream headaches for those who did their tasting just a bit too quickly. Looking at you, Joe.)

ENTRY #10
Adam Garey
Yes, it’s a messy job but we get paid by the scoop!

ENTRY #11
Kathy Lepak
It was a messy job, and we all gained 12 pounds.

ENTRY #12
Chris Miler
It was a messy job, but our employees found it very -”full-filling.”

ENTRY #13
Mike Bratton
Yes, it was a rough job, but our taste-testers wear stretch pants for a reason.

Instructions: Circle Your Favorite.

No, Wait. Enter the Entry Number of Your Favorite in the “Comments” Field Below.

After going through the motions of pretending to consider the feedback of others, our panel will render a final judgment.

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RADIO COPYWRITING REWRITE CHALLENGE

by Dan O'Day on August 6, 2014

write radio commercialsHere’s a quick and easy way to improve your radio commercial copywriting.

1. Write a draft of your spot.

2. Look for a line that listeners will react to by thinking, “Oh, I know what they’re going to say next.” Often, the line of copy in question will be a cliché.

3. Replace the cliché with something new and fresh.

Voila!

You surprise your audience.

You please your audience…by surprising them, which they enjoy.

You now have their attention more keenly for whatever you’re going to say next.

Here’s an Example from a Supermarket Print Ad.

I have written before in praise of the copywriting for Trader Joe’s print advertising.

I’ve also written a bit more critically of at least one of Trader Joe’s radio ads.

Their flyers usually are a pleasure to read. They combine the brand’s personality with strong sales pitches for the individual products they feature…without sound “sales-y.”

Recently they fell a little short in their otherwise excellent pitch for their “Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches.”

“Trader Joe’s Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches came to fruition after months and months of tasting and re-tasting by our panel. (Yes, it’s a messy job, but we’re pretty sure we’re up to the task.)”

They completed the first part of the technique I’m recommending to you: They avoided the painfully obvious, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.”

By not delivering the cliché listeners were expecting, they surprised the audience.

On the other hand, “it’s a messy job, but we’re pretty sure we’re up to the task” just isn’t good enough.

It doesn’t even make sense. Because the months of tasting and retesting are in the past, whether or not they’re “up to” the “messy job” can’t be an issue. (Even if we knew what the heck that means….)

I’ll guess the writer was way past deadline and had to finish the darn thing. “Nobody will notice,” s/he probably thought.

Obviously, s/he doesn’t know me very well. Of course I noticed.

So Here’s My Copywriting Challenge to You.

1. Come up with your own, better replacement for the cliché they diligently did avoid.

2. Assume this will be presented as a radio commercial. So write something that can be delivered orally.

3. Submit your rewrite in the “Comments” field below.

The winning submission will be determined by a completely arbitrary, inexplicable process.

The winner will win bragging rights. (Of course, if you do win you’ll need to come down to the station to pick up your prize.)

So, whatcha got?

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