by Dan O'Day on October 27, 2014

US Army Reserve radio commercialThis isn’t a great radio commercial, but it does enough things right (that most other advertisers do wrong) that it’s worth complimenting them.

Here’s the radio spot:

What’s Good About This Radio Commercial

Unlike most advertisers, it doesn’t begin by talking about themselves. Rather, they talk to the target audience about the target audience.

The phrase “build your future” is most likely to resonate with young adults.

The announcer allows the words to carry the message, rather than making the mistake of accentuating the high impact words and phrases.

By the time they say “your life becomes extraordinary,” we’re wondering exactly what this advertisement is for…and then they identify the advertiser.

That’s precisely what I teach copywriters: In a typical spot, you don’t identify the advertiser until the target audience impatiently is thinking, “Where do I get this?”

They identify numerous, relevant benefits:

  • Get an edge in your everyday life
  • Hands-on training in high tech careers
  • Covering college costs
  • Assistance with student loans
  • Possible enlistment bonus of up to $20,000

Early in the commercial, they anticipate and overcome the most obvious objection — the time commitment, which they dismiss as “just one weekend a month and two weekends a year.”

What’s Not So Good About This Radio Commercial

The music helps deliver the message…for the first 10 seconds. After that, increasingly it competes with the announcer’s voice for the listener’s attention.

Although they wisely save “possible enlistment bonus of up to $20,000″ for late in the spot, adding a big benefit after the audience already is thinking it sounds like a pretty good deal, the music drowns out the voice and many listeners never will hear it.

At :16, they drop in a pickup obviously recorded by that voice over talent at a different time. They should’ve listened more closely and done a more accurate voice match.

In fact, the first time I heard this commercial I thought a second announcer had joined the spot…until I heard the voice return to the pitch I had been hearing prior to that.

The second half of the spot sounds as though either:

A) It was written by someone else


B) The copywriter originally wrote a 30-second advertisement and then had to transform it into a :60.

The second half suddenly starts to use the kinds of lame word choices we hear in so many other commercials:

  • “Flexible service options”
  • “Excellent career training”
  • “Education benefits”
  • “Flexible service options” (again)
  • “And more”

The objective of this radio spot is to drive traffic to the Army Reserve’s website. But they give the URL before they give people a reason to want to go there.

The reason they do give is weak: “To learn more about the Army Reserve.”

Listeners have no desire to learn more about the Army Reserve, but some of them would like to learn more about how they can have their college costs covered or get that $20,000 bonus.

By this time, the music has won the battle over the voice, so perhaps it doesn’t matter. But first you give the reason to go to the website, and then you give the Web address.

5-Step Copywriting System



by Dan O'Day on October 24, 2014

This week I’m sharing advice, inspiration, and “the radio vibe” from my sorely missed friend, Terry Moss.

I don’t have any photos of Terry. His sister, Mary, was kind enough to scan a few of her personal pictures and send them to me.

Terry Moss radio

I don’t know where or when this taken, but it’s a family picture.

When I spoke with Mary, still in the family’s hometown of Rochester, New York, she said, “Although we fought a bit when we were kids, once we were adults we were such good friends. I always imagined that one day we’d both retire and live near each other, keeping each other company.”

Here’s some advice from Terry to radio DJs everywhere.

Note: The “comedy sheet” he scolds is O’LINERS, which I happened to write and publish.

The L.A. Air Force Terry Moss Collection



by Dan O'Day on October 23, 2014

Terry Moss

This week I’ve been paying tribute to one of radio’s all-time greats, Terry Moss.

I remember visiting Terry at the new, eerily quiet Hollywood studios of Transtar.

It was a radical new idea: providing 24-hour live, “local-sounding” music programming to radio stations all across the U.S.

Transtar became Unistar, which ultimately was purchased by Westwood One.

Here’s Terry Moss, explaining a concept that now is familiar to everyone in radio but at the time was brand-new and unfamiliar to most of the industry.  

Although this was the genesis of a trend that many radio people now despise, notice how Terry approaches it from the standpoint of a true radio personality, concerned about how to entertain and connect with his listeners.

Tomorrow: A radio personality pop quiz…in which Terry takes a shot at the comedy service I published at the time.

The L.A. Air Force Terry Moss Collection



by Dan O'Day on October 22, 2014

This week I’m sharing stories about and paying tribute to one of the all-time great radio people, the late Terry Moss.

Yesterday’s true story was pretty dramatic and little known.

Today’s true story is legendary.

Terry’s best-known contribution to radio personalities around the world continues to bring smiles to DJs and listeners alike: Cheap Radio Thrills — the best and best-selling radio production library of all time.

As any old American DJ will confirm, for many years radio stations were required to broadcast periodic tests of the Emergency Broadcast System.

Here’s what the listener would hear:

For the next 60 seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The following is only a test.

That would be followed by this test tone:

Then the announcer would return to say:

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the FCC and federal, state, and local authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency, the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by official information, news, or instructions. This station serves the [ ] area. This concludes this test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

Invariably the jock would read that copy in a monotone, there’d be silence, then the test tone, then the jock would return to read the close with the same disinterested inflection.

Terry decided to change all that — with these two cuts from Cheap Radio Thrills. Here’s the introduction:

After the intro, the test tone would be broadcast.

Then this cut would be played, complete with a donut for the announcer to read the boilerplate copy that begins, “The broadcasters of your area…”

As a listener, which test would you be more likely to pay attention to? The one delivered in the bored monotone, or the musical version?

Clearly far more people would actually listen to the musical rendition — which really upset the FCC. People actually paying attention to the E.B.S. tests??

So in its infinite wisdom, the FCC decreed that the Emergency Broadcast System test could not be sung.

Bored monotone that no one listens to = Good.

Entertaining version that many people listen to = Bad.


The L.A. Air Force Terry Moss Collection



by Dan O'Day on October 21, 2014

Yesterday Terry Moss teased “one of the greatest secrets” of show prep, revealed to him by “an old Italian morning man.”

Here, Terry reveals the secret.

I believe it was this moment that caused me to adopt a habit that people who know me instantly will recognize.

Hint: Something that’s always in my shirt pocket.


Terry Moss Black Bart AFRT (L-R) Terry Moss, Kathy Holcomb, Carl Gentry, Mike “Happy” Hoyer

During his stint with Armed Forces Radio & Television, Terry (far left) portrayed the notorious “Black Bart” on a popular Panama Canal Zone children’s show. 

Although popular with TV viewers, radio listeners, and his fellow servicemen, Terry was considerably less popular with “the brass.”

Gerald M. Fry recalls this incident — which I never heard about from Terry — from the Panama Canal Zone during the Vietnam War:

I was Terry’s commanding officer in Armed Forces Radio & Television. I should have kept the infamous anti-war morning show that Terry pre-taped in 1969. I turned on SCN Radio that morning as I always did while preparing to go to work and couldn’t believe what I was hearing — wall-to-wall anti-war songs of the day (this was the day of the big peacenik march on Washington, D.C.) with no Terry in between.

I called him to see what was going on and he confessed that he not only planned this personal anti-war statement, but knowing that he might be caught in the act, he had pre-taped the entire two-hour show.

I ordered him to dump the tape, go to a PSA, then resume a normal, live wake-up show with time hacks and community announcements and no more anti-war music. I also told him that I would try to save his rear end from a court martial should anyone above me have heard what was on the air.

Of course they were listening, and I was called on the carpet to explain how such a thing could happen. I successfully saved him from an Article 15 court martial, but I was ordered to pull him off the air permanently. My argument that we had no one presently on staff that good fell on deaf ears and I had to relegate Terry to strictly production duties where his pre-recorded stuff could be auditioned before it aired.

Naturally, everything he turned out of the production booth was highly creative, original, full of life, and mostly funny. Working with our limited production library, he found the elements he needed from our music library and turned out first-class work.

Terry was very apologetic for embarrassing me by his actions that day, but he felt strongly about the Vietnam war and had to express himself in the most creative way at his disposal. I was more upset with him for letting the cat out of the bag that we had all those songs in our library — my instructions had been to play them very selectively at times when command brass would be unlikely to hear them. 

Tomorrow: A very different, legendary encounter between Terry Moss and a branch of the U.S government.

The L.A. Air Force Terry Moss Collection


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