by Dan O'Day on May 6, 2015

Consumer Facing AdvertisingA loyal reader, Chuck Buell, writes:

I thought you might find this from a recent copy writer job posting of interest. Among the requirements for the job:

“…compelling consumer facing copy is required.”

What?? “Consumer facing copy?!”

Okay, is this a common term being used today of which I’m not aware? Who talks like that??

Yep, “consumer facing” has become commonly used in advertising circles.

When you strip away the psycho-jargon, essentially it means “communicating” — or, God forbid, “interfacing” — “directly with consumers.” You know, the people who actually buy stuff.

Consumer Facing Advertising Should Not Be Confused with Any of the Following.

Client Facing Advertising:
Makes clients feel good about themselves. Most often this is done either by declaring as true what the clients wish people were saying about them or by boasting about dubious accomplishments and pedigrees.

    (See this example of a hospital making a rather weak boast about its rankings among other cancer hospitals.)

Industry Facing Advertising: The primary (sometimes only) goal is to impress your peers and your competitors with the brilliance of your advertising.

Award Facing Advertising: This, of course, is how large ad agencies impress new prospects. “Well, no, we can’t tell you if our client made money or lost money with that campaign; that’s privileged information. But just look at all these awards we won for it!”

Film Facing Advertising: Flashy TV advertising directed by people who use it as a stepping stone to a hoped-for moving directing career.

Look How Creative I Am Facing Advertising: Created by the individual who secretly nurses his dreams of one day finishing his novel about an advertising guy who becomes a famous, wildly successful novelist. In the meantime, you can catch his presentations about “Creativity” at ad industry conferences.

Artistic Facing Advertising: It’s not commerce, dammit. It’s ART! You know it has succeeded when viewers/listeners/readers are unable to identify either the advertiser or whatever it is the advertiser is trying to sell.

Anywhere But Results Facing Advertising: Still occasionally (and erroneously) known as “branding.” “Well, no, there’s no way to measure the effectiveness of this campaign. That’s not how advertising works. It’s too mysterious for you to understand. Just trust us.”

Lawyer Facing Advertising: Advertising in regulated industries, making claims that are so barely supportable or offers that are so heavily restricted that the entire advertisement is one long disclaimer.

Perks Facing Advertising: Most commonly found in glossy print advertising, usually dictated by exotic locales that are on the agency’s creative director’s bucket list.

Paying The Bills Facing Advertising: Advertising created by people who are biding time until they “can find a real job.”

Recommended Ad Copywriting Resources

Conversational Dialogue in Radio Commercials

How to Write 100% Original Radio Copy


Radio copywriting shouldn't confused the listener.The opening line of a radio commercial is your one chance to command the attention of your targeted listeners.

This spot begins in a manner that will get the attention of some listeners. But once you’ve got their attention, you’ve got to keep it….


What does that radio ad’s opening line have to do with Morongo Casino?

My best guess: It’s delivered by the comedian whose name is mentioned at :18 (14 seconds after the opening line).

That’s just a guess. At :14, they might be saying the name of another performer, for whom the :18 comedian is the opening act. Maybe the line is spoken by that other performer.

Or maybe it’s not a person to whom they refer at :14. No matter how many times I listen, I can’t figure out what the female announcer is saying.

After a vigorous online forensic search to identify Morongo’s entertainment lineup at the time this commercial aired, I’ve managed to determine she was saying, “Comedian Ms. Pat performs….”

The line about being pulled over by a cop probably wasn’t spoken by “Ms. Pat.” So either it’s from the opening act, or it’s just something random thrown in by one of the people involved in creating this advertising mess.

Within an appropriate context, that line could be funny. Of course, it would help if the producer didn’t choose to bury the punch line with drums.

By the way, when you list “The Top 5 Reasons to Go to Morongo This Week,” you aren’t giving anyone any reason to go.

The Good News: None of those flaws damaged the effectiveness of this casino radio commercial.  The production (“We paid for this lame jingle, so we’re gonna use it!”) was so poor that no one tried to listen anyway.

Recommended Radio Advertising Resources

Radio Copywriting Tip From An Acting Teacher

How To Educate Your Radio Advertising Clients 

{ 1 comment }

John Pellegrini writes:

Your series of articles about when it’s legal to use copyrighted music in radio commercials got me thinking about something I had been told about music use in commercials that always bothered me.

There was a client at a previous radio group I worked for who insisted on having the Bee Gees’ “Stayin Alive” as his commercial music bed. I told the client that it could not be done because of copyright laws.

The client made the usual argument (he’s been using it for years, no other station in town objected to it, etc… ad nauseum…), so the sales rep for the client took it up with the group GM. To my surprise, the GM said to produce the spot exactly the way the client wanted it, with the song.

His reasoning was that radio stations are held harmless for anything an advertiser does in their commercial. In other words, since stations cannot be held responsible for claims made by advertisers in their commercial messages, this also includes the music the client chooses to have in their commercial.

His stated belief was even if the station produced the commercial with the music bed, it’s the client’s responsibility to deal with copyright problems, not the radio station’s. He also said that this fact was backed up by the group owner’s corporate lawyer.

How that GM managed to contact the corporate lawyer in the less than 10 minutes between when he was made aware of the situation and when he spoke to me about it was one of the great mysteries of that year, but I digress.

Mind you, if anything actually was done in terms of legal action against the station, I have no doubt that the GM would have blamed me and thrown me under the bus for it. He was that kind of special guy.

Nevertheless, this does raise a point worth discussing. Does my former GM (and the alleged corporate lawyer he allegedly talked to) have any legal standing on this concept? Or is it just one more stellar example of why I am so glad I’m no longer affiliated with that organization?

As always, I’m not qualified to give legal advice.

But after having conducted exhaustive research into the topic, my legal opinion is:

Your former GM is an idiot.

I’ve never before heard the “our station can’t be held responsible for anything an advertiser says or does in a commercial” claim.

Writing about broadcasters’ responsibilities vis-a-vis political advertising, the telecommunications law firm of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C. says:

“That’s so even if the content could, in a non-political context, result in liability for the broadcaster – for example, if the ad contains defamatory statements or obvious untruths, or if it infringes on somebody’s intellectual property interests…”

My layman’s interpretation of the above sentence:

Your former GM is an idiot.

As we’ve explained, copyright infringement adheres to what is known as “strict liability.”

Translation: Your former GM’s assertion that “it’s the client’s responsibility to deal with copyright problems, not the radio station’s” is incorrect.

I, too, am impressed by his ability to get a formal opinion from the group owner’s corporate attorney in just 10 minutes.

Reminds me of the radio creative director whose program director insisted it was okay to use a hit song in a commercial: “I checked with the FCC.”

He checked with the FCC about intellectual property laws? Probably he should’ve played it safe by getting a second opinion from the FDA.

Or maybe from AAA.


Our discussion of radio commercials that infringe upon copyrighted songs prompted emails from two Loyal Readers.

Tim Burt writes:

“True story… a local jeweler is using a copyrighted song in their commercials.

“It is a very obscure song by a relatively unknown artist. Once I determine this would be subject to copyright infringement, I asked for — AND RECEIVED — a copy of the agreement for the licensing.

“Needless to say, I was stunned. So while it is very rare, this paperwork can be obtained.”

The second Loyal Reader sent me this spot that apparently is airing in a small market in Michigan.

While Tim’s example of a local jeweler’s ad involved a song by “a relatively unknown artist,” this radio advertisement uses a very well-known song by a very well-known artist:

I’m amazed that a local burger joint was able to afford a license to use Meghan Trainor’s song.

I’m also surprised Meghan licensed it to them. Perhaps she’s old friends with the owners…

Or maybe she’s just crazy about burgers, pizza and fish fries. (I have no idea what fish fries are, and I’m not sure I want to find out.)

But somehow they must’ve obtained a license. I’m told this commercial is airing on several radio stations in the area, and of course those stations wouldn’t have agreed to broadcast a commercial that otherwise would appear to be a clear copyright violation.



by Dan O'Day on April 14, 2015

My recent list of a bunch of things that are not allowed in a radio commercial without first obtaining permission of the copyright holder seems to have generated a lot of attention.

Some people asked me to clarify this Q&A:

Q:  Is it legal to air a commercial for a musical performer’s local concert, using recorded examples of his/her music {without obtaining a license to do so}?

Answer: I know you won’t like this answer, but…No.

Jay Murphy wrote, referring to the “using music to advertise a concert”:

“I must confess I was somewhat troubled after reading your letter. No one likes to hear they’re breaking the law. I’ve been in this business long enough to know where the lines are… or at least I thought I did.  All of your examples were obvious to me EXCEPT this one.

“Here’s the situation. After a conversation with my production director on this very topic, I produced an ad for an upcoming concert event.  The ad is being underwritten by the major sponsor and has the full knowledge and blessing of the promoter who’s booking the acts. I do not doubt what you say is true but I need to know then…When exactly, is a concert ad ever legal?”

As it relates to copyright law, a concert ad is legal when the copyright holder(s) give permission to use the specific pieces of music in the commercial.

A license doesn’t have to be purchased; it just needs to be granted.

In the example Jay gives, “The sponsor has the full knowledge and blessing of the promoter who’s booking the acts.

If the promoter has been given authority (by the copyright holders) to authorize such usage, there should be no problem.

Steve Macaulay wrote:

“Many times in our market, a local musician or their promoter will buy airtime to promote their music and/or performance. They supply original recordings of the artist’s original song. I think that constitutes granting permission by the owner of the music.”

If a musician buys airtime to promote his music, which he provides to the radio station for use in the commercial, clearly he is granting the station permission to air his copyrighted material.

But if the musician owns the copyright to the performance but not to the composition, it’s a mistake to assume that therefore it’s okay to use, in a commercial, whatever recording he gives you.

Let’s say Paul Simon is giving a concert in your market. Paul says to your radio station, “I want the commercials to include The Sounds of Silence and also Graceland.”

Sure, Paul, no problem.

On the other hand, one of the many Paul Simon impersonators is performing in your market, doing a Paul Simon tribute show.

“Paal Sighmon” says to your radio station, “I want the commercials to include my impeccable renditions of The Sounds of Silence and also Graceland.”

Most likely he owns his own performance rights, so he can grant you a license to use them.

But if neither Paul Simon nor his representatives have granted a license to use those songs in a commercial? Uh-uh.

If Paal uses your radio station to advertise his appearance using his renditions of those two songs, without having been granted permission to do so, both Paal and your radio station might well have some legal ’splainin’ to do.

Terry Stevens wrote:

“This one concerns me:

“Air a commercial for a musical performer’s local concert, using recorded examples of his/her music? Answer: I know you won’t like this answer, but…No.”

“If the promoter or venue putting on the show is paying for the spot and their job is to promote the artist in question, wouldn’t permission from the artist/rights holder to use his/her music in the spot for the show be contained in the contract signed with the promoter?”

Yes, I think that would be quite likely. Especially if it’s a well-established promoter.

Next: I’ll share with you a current example of a radio spot that may or may not constitute copyright infringement. You can be the judge….