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.


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.

{ 1 comment }

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.


radio commercial critiqueRecently I critiqued a McDonald’s radio commercial.

I prefaced the critique with, “Forget about the lousy opening line….”

One reader remarked, “I am curious. What was ‘lousy’ about the opening line?”

Here’s that opening line.

“Get ready for the new chocolate trip frappe from McCafe with a decadent blend of mocha and caramel…”

radio advertising critiqueHere’s what’s lousy about it.

1. It’s nonsensical. How is the listener supposed to “get ready” for a new frappe flavor?

2. They try to cram in so many words that the announcer has to speak too quickly for the listener to hear what she says.

(Unlike readers of the this blog, none of the radio audience stopped what they were doing and leaned it to hear those opening words.)

3. When that line is spoken, listeners have no idea where the heck they are.

If they had use some sort of sounder that identifies the advertiser, at least the audience would have understood it has something to do with McDonald’s.

That wouldn’t have made it a good commercial or a good beginning, because a successful radio spot has to have something to do with the targeted listener.

But anchoring the message to an identifiable sound (e.g., a musical signature) would have made it easier for the audience to get a sense of what this story is supposed to be about.

4. When you advertise a restaurant, you don’t advertise the food. You advertise the promised experience.

But the copy simply lists the ingredients, and the announcer delivers it as she would a laundry list.

I’m willing to wager that after she recorded that line, you could’ve asked her, “What’s in that new product they’re advertising?” and she wouldn’t have been able to answer without referring to her copy.

(Of course, I fully recognize the possibility that the VO artist gave exactly the delivery the producer wanted and might bear no responsibility at all for the lack of impact of that line.)

5. The opening line of a radio commercial is your commercial for the commercial. It’s your one chance to grab the attention of the targeted listener.

This opening line squanders that opportunity.


This radio commercial for Arizona State University isn’t worse than most bad advertisements. In this copywriting critique, I’ll point out the most glaring, common flaw.

But its Call To Action — the action they tell the targeted listener take — is just plain…um, not smart.

View this radio commercial critique on YouTube.


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