RADIO COMMERCIAL TO CATCH AN ARSONIST

by Dan O'Day on July 25, 2014

Authorities in Roswell, New Mexico, are using radio advertising to try to stop a serial arsonist.

Giving the offer they are making, a radio campaign just might do the job for them.

The acts of arson are a prominent topic of conversation in Roswell. As I’ve long pointed out, “Radio advertising is word-of-mouth that you control.”

Here is the commercial that currently is airing:


In case you’re unable to hear the audio, here’s the commercial copy.

ANNOUNCER: Roswell, it’s time to get an arsonist off the streets. Here’s Steve Wolf with Crime Stoppers.

STEVE: We want to catch whoever’s doing this arson. There are numerous cases so far, just a couple, two nights ago, couple of more fires, and we’d like to catch that person and we’re prepared to offer a thousand-dollar bill, anonymously, I have to underline the anonymous part of it. The tip number is 888-594-8477, and that goes to a Houston, Texas organization; no one will know who you are.

Using radio is a smart move. That spot could be more effective.

Obviously this wasn’t a carefully scripted ad.

They used “found audio” — probably it came from an interview on the radio station — which most likely they gave to a producer with the instructions, “Make a 30-second commercial out of this.”

If putting a stop to those fires really is important, it’s worth the extra time and effort to write a real spot, get that guy back into the studio, and record a more effective message.

* The real story of this commercial is: “We’ll pay $1,000 to anyone who helps us catch the arsonist by calling this phone number.” So that should be the focus of the message.

* People in Roswell, listening to a radio station in Roswell, don’t need to be told they are in Roswell. So let’s not begin the spot with, “Roswell…”

* “Steve Wolf with Crime Stoppers” is not as important as “$1,000 reward.” So let’s move Steve further down the copy.

In fact, let’s jettison Steve’s name entirely; it’s just not important to the message. (Sorry, Steve. But you still can voice the spot…)

* In an offer such as this, people care about the “what,” not the “how.” 

In this ad, the “what” is “$1,000 reward, anonymous.”

The “how” is the organization in Houston, Texas. 

During the course of an interview, that information can be valuable to help assure listeners that they can turn in the bad guy(s) without anyone knowing who blew the whistle.

But in a 30-second spot, you don’t have enough time to include it.

So, let’s write a real commercial. It can be voiced by our friend Steve, or it can be voiced by an announcer.

We will give you a thousand dollars, cash, if you help us stop the Roswell arsonist. If you have any information that might help, call this toll-free number, ANONYMOUSLY. If your tip leads to an arrest, Crime Stoppers will pay you a $1,000 reward…and your name never will be revealed. Here’s the phone number: 888-594-8477. Help us stop this criminal before someone dies in one of those fires. For the thousand-dollar reward, call 888-594-8477. We guarantee you’ll remain anonymous.

I included “Roswell” not to tell listeners where they live but rather to instantly pinpoint the topic of conversation. It’s a shorter, pithier way of saying, “…the unknown person who has been setting all those fires around here.”

You might have noticed the conspicuous lack of fine print. I suspect a little more detail should be included, defining guidelines for qualifying for the reward.

But the original radio advertisement didn’t include any fine print.

A television news report, however, implied the reward would be for information that leads to an arrest (not necessarily to a conviction). So in lieu of other information, that’s the criterion I included in the commercial copy.

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{video} THE TRUTH ABOUT PANDORA vs. LOCAL RADIO

by Dan O'Day on July 23, 2014

Warning: What I’ll tell you in this video will offend some radio professionals.

Some people will be upset that I’m not reciting our industry’s “party line.”

But my job is to counsel radio pros on the realities of the business and of the world, not to play the role of Radio Flack.

There are dark clouds on Pandora’s horizon. Ironically, those clouds have appeared as the result of Pandora’s recent lowering of its advertising standards to more closely match those of “traditional” broadcast radio.

As far as the “local radio” argument goes, however, here’s the reality….

View this video about Pandora vs. Local Radio on YouTube.

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Radio Copywriting TipsIt’s really not that difficult to write an effective radio commercial.

Here are a few basic rules.

1.  Don’t talk in stupid cliches.

2.  Don’t use inappropriate adjectives.

3.  Don’t begin your spot with words guaranteed to make everyone in the audience stop listening.

Here’s an example of a retail radio ad that doesn’t follow those three simple guidelines.

View this radio commercial copywriting video on YouTube.

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K-Tel commercial parody Howard HoffmanHoward Hoffman created this parody of the classic K-TEL commercial many years ago.

He also designed the cover for this little video.

I, however, did all the hard work of pushing the sound into the pictures.

View this K-TEL commercial parody on YouTube.

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Weekend Radio Talk ShowsA Loyal Reader writes:

“I program a music radio station that does some talk programming on Saturday mornings. Most of this is product/service based rather than purely topical.

“For example, we have a real estate program where a local realtor comes in to do a call-in. I’m noticing we’re just not getting much of a response from the audience and wondered what suggestions you might have for getting more phone response from our listeners.”

Here Are the Possibilities.

* You are not adhering to your brand.

A brand is a promise. When a music station suddenly begins airing talk shows that have no relationship to the music or to the listeners’ lifestyles, the brand is likely be be weakened because the promise is broken.

* Your audience isn’t interested in real estate.

* The program hasn’t had enough time to find and grow its audience.

* The program host is boring or otherwise unpleasant to listen to.

* The program is badly structured.

* The host does not know how to stimulate listeners to call.

* The program is about “real estate” when it should be about something else: Home ownership….Investing (residential)…. Investing (commercial)….How to increase the resale value of your home, etc.

The type of program you’re referring to isn’t “Programming.” It’s “Sales.”

Your station has sold that air time to a third party because it wasn’t able to sell enough advertising to pay the rent for weekend music programming.

If it truly is a sales decision and not a programming decision, my advice to you as a PD is — I hate to say it — forget about it. It’s there to provide direct revenue, not to attract listeners.

If you choose to think of it as Programming, ask yourself: Have you taken the usual steps required to build a successful show?

Have you:

* Put an interesting personality behind the microphone?

* Discussed with the host the goals, attitude and feeling of the program?

* Created a show structure that attracts and maintains listeners?

* Given people a strong reason to listen?

* Promoted the program — on your own airwaves and elsewhere? (Airing the cookie-cutter promos that probably were sold to the client as part of the package is not the same as actively and effectively promoting the show.)

* Conducted regular aircheck critique sessions with the talent? (I hear program directors around the world laughing at that question.)

In fact, do you even listen to the program yourself?

Probably not. And I’m not criticizing you.

But you’re looking for a Radio Programming execution of a Radio Sales strategy.

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