by Dan O'Day on September 2, 2014

Labor Day is a national holiday in the U.S.

The holiday was created to celebrate and promote labor unions, but for a long time it’s simply been “that holiday that comes right before school starts” or “that holiday that comes at the end of summer, in early September.”

People might anticipate the end of summer or the beginning of a new school year or new sports season. But no one eagerly counts down the days to the Labor Day holiday itself.

Children don’t await its arrival with giddy excitement.

Family scrapbooks feature few if any photographs from Labor Days past.

No one excitedly or impatiently waits for Labor Day.

So what possible reason could this Lowe’s Home Improvement radio commercial have for beginning as this one does?

The rest of the advertising copy really doesn’t matter, because no one listens past that inane opening line.

But do they really expect listeners’ heads to nod in agreement upon being told, “A long weekend is the perfect time to upgrade your home”?

1.  There isn’t a person on this planet who’s been thinking, “Labor Day weekend is coming up! Thank goodness! That’ll be a perfect time to upgrade my home!”

2.  If people haven’t planned to use this long weekend to upgrade their homes, hearing this commercial during the long weekend isn’t going to do much good.

3.  The spot you just heard aired on Monday…the last day of the 3-day weekend. The people responsible for this campaign were too lazy or too dumb to change out the spot on the last day. So we hear Lowe’s urging us to take advantage of this “long weekend” when the long weekend is almost over.

I can’t find anything about this radio commercial that has any merit. Certainly not this idiotic declaration:

“The seasons are changing, so there’s no better time to give your home a fresh look.”

Why are times of seasonal change especially conducive to home improvement? And why are they implying that it’s less desirable to spruce up your home when the seasons aren’t changing?

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Dish Network Radio Commercial CritiqueThe loyal reader who sent me this radio commercial was upset because of the way the advertiser ridicules the station that broadcasts the ad.

If I’m advising the advertiser, however, I wouldn’t really care whether it hurt the station’s feelings.

I would, however, point out to the advertiser — in this case, the Dish Network — that they’re throwing their money away on a nonsensical campaign that will not produce results.

View this radio commercial critique on YouTube.



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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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!”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.



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.



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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