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In response to my critique of this Cedars-Sinai hospital radio commercial, Richard Navarro wrote:

“So Dan… forgetting that this was an actor playing a role… what would have made this spot better, a re-organization of lines in the script? Your insight please.”

Well, to start, the problem with that radio commercial wasn’t the performance.

That could’ve been a real person telling his own real story…albeit following a script that had been crafted from bits of dialogue he’d previously delivered during a recorded interview.

I do think it’s an actor, however, because although he achieves an appropriately low-affect delivery (rather than trying to dramatize events that in themselves are dramatic), he’s a little too smooth to be “a real person.”

In this case, the glaring structural error was unveiling a plot point so compelling that it eclipsed whatever message followed it.

The story should lead directly to the spot’s “sales message.” You shouldn’t be able to think of the story without also thinking of exactly what it is the sponsor wanted you to do…and, for that matter, who the sponsor is.

Even as you read these words, you might well be uncertain who the advertiser was. You know it was a hospital…but which hospital?

As for the Call to Action, they foolishly gave two: Go to our website or call us on the phone.

Radio advertising calls to actionTwo Calls to Action is one too many.


Choice Paralyzes Response.

It’s enough of a task to motivate targeted listeners to decide to do what you want them to do.

With two Calls to Action, you’re making them decide twice:

First, to take action.

Second, to choose which action to take.

With each additional choice, your overall response rate drops.

Returning to your original question: “What would have made this spot better?”

This radio advertisement would have been made better by determining ahead of time exactly what you want the targeted listeners to do, what the Call to Action will be (to enable listeners to do what you want them to do), and how they will benefit from taking that action.

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The Danger of the Wrong Story in a Radio Commercial

Radio advertising that paints picturesFirst, let’s listen to this radio commercial…without reading the comments I’ve made beneath it.

In a Radio Spot, the Pictures You Paint in the Listeners’ Minds Are the Only Things They’ll Remember.

The story begins, “I was informed I had to have my heart removed immediately. So the team at Cedars-Sinai gave me a portable heart until a human heart was available to me.”




You had to have your heart removed immediately?

And they gave you a portable heart to use for a while?

If you listened to that spot just once, you don’t remember any of the rest of that radio ad, do you?

That’s because all of the pictures came before the sales copy and the (sigh) two Calls to Action.

Radio advertising isn’t only a matter of painting pictures in the listeners’ minds. It’s a matter of painting the right pictures. Because those pictures are what listeners will remember.

Do You Believe That’s a Real Patient Telling the Story?

Raise your hand if you believe that was a real patient.

Now raise your hand if you believe that was someone pretending to be a real patient.

Just as I thought: Half the readers of this critique think the guy was “real.” The other half thinks it was someone playing a role.

If you’re in the half that think that guy’s not real, here’s why:

He didn’t have a name.

If his words had been, “My name is Bob Levitsky. I’m an accountant in Torrance, California,” we all would have believed him.

Because real people have names.



Radio news departmentA Loyal Reader Writes:

We have a “facilitator” (cost cutter) who apparently wants to centralize newscasts on our group of 8 locally focused radio stations…so, one news reader doing casts for all, and only one local reporter in each location. Potentially a loss of 8 jobs. How do you counter such a view?

Sadly, I have no effective way of countering your cost cutter’s viewpoint.

I know, you’re tempted to try to explain to the “facilitator” how reducing your news staff to a bare minimum delivers less value to the community.

You’re tempted to point out that delivering a less valued product hampers the stations’ abilities to charge premium sponsorship rates.

But you need to keep in mind 2 crucial factors:

1. The facilitator’s job is to cut costs wherever and however he can. He doesn’t care about ratings or revenue, only about cutting costs.

2. This is an inevitable result of consolidation of the marketplace. The whole point of consolidation is to gain access to “economies of scale” — for example, having one person do the news reporting for 8  stations rather 8 people for 8 stations.

It’s the McDonaldsization of Radio.

Its effect on the quality of local broadcast content is to continually drive it downward in an unending quest to keep operating costs as low as possible.

Especially for publicly held companies, the lure of immediate positive effects on the bottom line (“We spent less money last quarter”) trumps the potential for long-term gain via investments in a station’s resources and capabilities.

Result? Far too many radio stations invest too little in its product while simultaneously saying “yes” to any offer that promises quick cash: bad advertising campaigns (occasionally of dubious legality), bad sales promotions that harm the station and alienate listeners, etc.

Do I like it?


But somewhere along the way I’ve learned not to fight battles I’m almost certain to lose.

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radio voiceover email tipsIf you do any kind of email marketing — which includes a voice actor mailing to client base or a radio station mailing to its database — here are two simple yet valuable tips for you.

Unfortunately, the first one is surprisingly difficult for me to adhere to…although I try. I really do try.


WARNING! Do NOT Click Here Unless You Want to See the Voiceover Marketing Class curriculum.

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Radio Commercial CritiqueI hope the International Radio Creative & Production Summit attendee whose spot I critiqued in this video will come forward to identify himself (I do remember it was a he) and receive the public credit he deserves.

I think I know who it was, but I’d rather not rely on my memory.