≡ Menu



How Do You Write a 30-Second Radio Ad?

There is no formula for writing a 30-second radio ad. There is no one “right” way.

Here is a bare bones, 7-step structure that will enable you write a serviceable radio commercial quickly…assuming you have adequate knowledge of the product or service being advertised.

Step 1: Identify the Call to Action.

The Call to Action is the one action you want the targeted listener to take as a result of hearing your ad.

Because the Call to Action almost always belongs at the end of the spot, with this method you’re beginning by writing your ad’s ending.

In fact, when writing radio copy, I almost always begin with the Call to Action and then work backward.

Step 2: Determine Your Approach.

My favorite approach is Robert Collier’s copywriting dictum that successful advertising enters a conversation the targeted consumer already is having.

Why is it my favorite?

Because it’s easier to quickly establish rapport by going where the consumer is, rather than trying to coax the consumer to come to you.

With certain campaigns, you need to start the conversation. This most frequently occurs when introducing a new product or service…which may require you to make the listener aware of a problem they didn’t know existed.

Step 3: Establish Empathy.

Radio advertising solves problems.

Those problems are the consumers’.

Make it clear that you really do feel their pain, that you understand the problem and its ramifications.

Step 4: Amplify the Pain.

After you’ve identified the targeted listener’s pain point, don’t move on to your sales pitch. Instead, build upon that pain.

It’s not enough simply to identify the problem.

Remind the consumer how serious that problem is to them.

Step 5: Offer the Solution.

There’s no point in highlighting the problem without making it clear that you have the solution for them.

Step 6: Write an Opening Line that Reflects Your Approach.

Most copywriters begin with the first line of the commercial.

Step 7: Make Sure Your Story Flows Naturally and Easily.

Even a 30-second, single-voice radio spot that speaks directly to the consumer needs to be a story.

If you were to break up your copy into paragraphs (as you’ll see in the example below), each paragraph is the equivalent of a chapter in a book or a scene in a story.

The story isn’t stitched together. Instead, it flows easiily and naturally.

Let’s Put This All Together.

Here’s a sample commercial script that took me 10 minutes to write.

It took me twice as long just to describe the process for you.

Can you spot each of the 7 copywriting steps?

Toe Fungus (:30)

You know who thinks Toe Fungus is funny? People who’ve never had it. But you know what it’s really like: the embarrassing smell. The unbearable itching. And, of course, never knowing when another toe will fall off.

Toe Fungus No More neutralizes the smell and gets rid of the itching. And when used as directed, Toe Fungus No More helps you keep the rest of your toes.  

So if you’re ready to leave behind the pain and embarrassment of Toe Fungus forever, go to ToeFungusNoMore.com for a free month’s supply of Toe Fungus No More.


Radio Remote Broadcasts guidelinesOur theme this week appears to be “Lessons Radio Stations Can Learn from Sloppy Real Estate People.”

On Sunday I looked at a few “Open Houses” in the Los Angeles area.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, Investopedia defines “open house” as “a scheduled period of time in which a house or other dwelling is designated to be open for viewing for potential buyers.”

At one of the houses I visited, when I walked in a smartly dressed woman separated herself from the man and woman (apparently prospects) she was speaking with, introduced herself as the real estate agent, and handed me a flyer that described the property for sale.

Then she returned to her conversation with the couple.

The house wasn’t occupied. No furniture. Hardwood floors.

With nothing to absorb sound, the resulting acoustics made it so a normal speaking voice could be heard throughout the house.

The agent and the couple were talking and laughing so loudly that, with those acoustics, I literally couldn’t hear anything the person who accompanied me said to me.

We wandered around the house for a couple of minutes and then gave up; the noise was unbearable.

As we headed for the door, the trio turned to me and the man jovially said, “We accept cash, y’know!”

It was then I understood:

They weren’t a real estate agent and two prospects.

They were three real estate agents. Colleagues. Co-workers.

When I realized I was being driven away by the overbearing sounds of 3 representatives of the same agency, my astonishment quickly was followed by anger.

It was only with great restraint that I refrained from saying, “The three of you are here because you’re representing the seller of this house and instead of speaking to prospects, you’re talking only to each other? In voices so loud that potential buyers can’t hear themselves think??”

Instead, I just started at the 3 of them and left, shaking my head.

I won’t identify the real estate company. Let’s just say those 3 agents didn’t represent the pinnacle of professionalism.

What Does That Have to Do with Radio?

How many radio station remotes (aka “Outside Broadcasts”) have you seen where the station’s promotional staff (yes, some may be interns) stick together in a tight cluster — a closed circle that excludes the listeners, the fans, the P1s who cared enough to come to that live event?

Each time you’ve witnessed that, you’ve seen the results of a promotions director not doing his/her job.

If you’re in charge of promotions at your radio station (Promotions Director, Program Director, etc.), it’s your responsibility to make sure that all onsite representatives of your station understand that they are doing just that: representing your radio station.


During my daily 20-mile run….


During my several times per week 0.9 mile stroll to the public mailbox, for months now I’ve passed the sign you see below, in front of a house.

Around here, those signs advertise either “House for Rent” or “House for Sale.”

Take a look at the sign and tell me what’s missing. (No, not the identifying info I blocked out.)

Real Estate Sign Lesson for Radio Commercials

Did you spot key piece of information that’s missing from that sign?

If not, take another look.

They’ve got that big, two-sided sign.

Alongside the sign is plastic holder which at one time, presumably, contained flyers describing the property. The plastic holder has been empty every time I’ve passed it.

So the real estate agent is going all out to attract prospects.

Here’s What’s Missing from that Real Estate Sign

What’s the offer?

Is the house for sale?

Or is it for rent/lease?

Nowhere do the signs indicate why you should call or email that agent or go to the company’s website.

The agent neglected to tell passersby whether the house is for sale or for rent.

That sign has been there for months.

And months.

I wonder why.

How many radio commercials is your station airing right now that may be entertaining, that may be “well produced,” that may be “memorable…”

…but that your audience can’t figure out what the heck the spots are offering?

The Formula for Successful Radio Commercials

1.  A strong offer

2.  Clearly delivered

3.  To the right audience

4.  Repeatedly


From MY Radio Hall of Fame: Chris Edwards

Chris-Edwards-KYA-RadioI remember only two radio disc jockeys from my childhood.

Ron Landry Before He Was Famous

One went on to become well-known throughout the industry as 1/2 of “Hudson & Landry” — Ron Landry.

To me, he was “Live and lively Ron Landry, 9 to noon on the Big D, WDRC/Hartford.”

I don’t know what it was that, for me, made him stand out more than any of his colleagues. I remember only:

1) The tag line I cited above.

2) That I liked his show.

3) That once on his program I won a contest that provided a model for me to refer to many years later, after I found myself working in radio.

The Model of a Successful On-Air Radio Contest

The contest:

– Was easy for anyone to play.

– Was easy for everyone else in the audience to “play along” with, too.

– Used sound in an interesting way.

– Was structured so that the longer you’d been listening without anyone winning, the more likely you were to keep listening and to keep trying to become a contestant.

– Incorporated a ubiquitous element of everyday life: the “pay telephone.”

Once Upon a Time, People Would Drop Coins into a Box to Make Telephone Calls.

Y’see, back when dinosaurs roamed there earth, there were these things called “telephone booths.”

They were all over the place.

You’d put in a dime or two nickels to make a local call. A non-local call would require additional coins, often adding one or more quarters to the mix.

Each denomination of coin made its own distinctive, consistent sound.

A dime produced a “ding ding.”

A nickel produced a single “ding.”

A quarter produced a single, lower pitched “gong.”

Here’s How this Radio Contest Worked.

The audience would hear the sounds of a series of coins being inserted into a pay phone.

One lucky caller would qualify as that hour’s contestant, to play the game live on-the-air.

To win, the caller had to identify exactly how much money those coins added up to.

If the caller was correct, s/he won the jackpot. If it was the first attempt in a brand new round, the amount would be small — e.g., $3.45.

If the caller was wrong, the next contestant had a chance to win that $3.45 plus whatever was the coin total of the next attempt.

It wasn’t a lot of money.

But to a kid, it was some money.

More importantly, it was fun and challenging and engaging and exciting to play.

I don’t even remember what they called that contest. Probably “The Telephone Game.”

That’s all I remember of Ron Landry in his pre-famous days.

A Radio Station Named WHEW!

The other jock, whom I remember more clearly, had more of a chance to listen to, and was influenced by more was a guy named Chris Edwards at WHEW/West Palm Beach.

Or, as he began calling himself at times, “Big Fat Chrissy Edwards.”

Why did I listen to Chris?

Well, he was on in the evenings, when I wasn’t in high school.

And I preferred WHEW to their larger competitor, WIRK.

Like most listeners, I tuned in for the music. But in the evenings, I chose WHEW because I didn’t simply hear the music I liked, with the records spun by some DJ.

I chose WHEW because while WIRK had some guy playing the records, WHEW had the tiny world that Chris Edwards had created for us…in which he played the records.

One evening I drove to the radio station on Military Trail — i.e., in the middle of nowhere.

I don’t recall why.

It wasn’t to pick up a prize, because WHEW’s management was smart enough to mail the worthless promo records that were awarded to their contest winners.

Probably after I’d won so many of WHEW’s contests that they had to change the rules to give other people a chance, too, Chris said to me, “Hey, if you ever want to come down to the radio station and see what we do here, be my guest.”

Real radio people will know what I mean when say this was a real radio station.

At night, it was inhabited only by the young evening jock, made pudgy from the combination of his remaining baby fat and his catch-as-catch-can junk food diet, and the callers on the request line…which never stopped blinking.

It was as though those pulsating request line lights were powering the entire radio station.

They were supplying the station and the DJ with the essential ingredient:

Listeners. Mostly teenagers for whom WHEW wasn’t the most important thing in life.

Not the most important, but vital nonetheless.

That warm, exciting mini-world offered safe refuge from so many agonizing days of grappling with the self-doubt that afflicts us all but which hits teenagers the hardest…because they haven’t yet realized it’s not only they who feel so terribly, so constantly insecure and inadequate.

My First Visit to a Radio Station Was Not Magical.

That was my first visit to a radio station, and it didn’t feel magical.

I wasn’t dazzled by the tape decks and turntables and tick-tick-tick of the clock above the console, which never seemed to win the battle of wits with Chris as he effortlessly back-timed into the news or ad-libbed over the song intro until his last syllable brushed right up against the first wisp of the vocal.

I didn’t think, “This looks so confusing. How do you ever learn to do all those things simultaneously?”

What I thought was, “This is cool. He actually gets paid to play the music that fills my life…and to talk to and entertain thousands of strangers each night.”

His collection of strangers, to whom he spoke on-the-air and on the phone.

Remember, those long ago times when pay phones proliferated coincided with the days when disc jockeys didn’t consider themselves too important to pick up a ringing phone and field a request, a dedication, a complaint…and occasionally even a compliment.

The Night Chris Vowed He’d Never Play that Song Again

Other than referring to himself as Big Fat Chrissy Edwards, my only specific memory of his show is from the night he announced he no longer would play a particular song, because it offended him.

The song was Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law,” which by then was an oldie from several years earlier.

One evening Chris played that song and at the end he said, “Y’know, that’s the last time I’ll ever play that song, because my mother-in-law is a wonderful person, and she doesn’t deserve to be insulted like that.”

Why did that make such a strong impression on me?

Not because Chris apparently was taking a bold, ethical stand.

Not because of his gallantry or his touching fondness for his mother-in-law.

I was impressed because that declaration came from him…and only from him.

I knew there wasn’t another DJ anywhere saying, “That song is wrong and unfair, so I won’t play it any more.”

Of course, once I became “a radio guy” I became aware of an alternate explanation for Chris’s bold announcement:

Maybe WHEW’s music director had decided to remove that song from the station’s on-air oldies selections.

If I knew that were the case, I’d have been even more impressed. That’s what real radio DJs do: They make the most of whatever meager tools they’re given (or can find or “borrow”).

Chris moved on to WFUN/Fort Lauderdale-Miami and then — with several of his ’FUN compadres — to KYA/San Francisco.

When some years later I landed in San Francisco as a jock, I called Chris at KYA.

By then, he’d crossed over to The Dark Side — Sales.

It began as one of those typical “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but…” calls.

Upon hearing my name, Chris said, “Oh, yeah. You were the kid who won all the contests, right?”

It was during this conversation that I learned I’d been listening to him at his first professional on-air job.

That was the last contact we ever had with each other.

Everyone I’ve met who worked with Chris says the same thing: “A real nice guy.”

I Belatedly Learned that Chris Passed Away January 31 of this Year.

We may never see “Chris Edwards” in the Radio Hall of Fame.

But he’s in mine.

Here’s to you, Chris….



99 Cents Only Stores radio advertising“Hey, my nephew is a musician. Let’s have him write
a jingle for our radio commercials!”

Perhaps how this embarrassingly bad spot came to be.

I don’t know if the music for that radio ad was written by a relative, a major advertising agency, or some guy they found on CraigsList.

But it was created with no discernible strategy.

The music doesn’t reflect the types of products 99¢ Only Stores sell; 77% of their net sales comes from food/grocery, household/ housewares and health & beauty care products.

Nor is there reason to believe the music emotionally resonates with the advertiser’s targeted consumer audience.

So why is it there? Good question.

Why is that guy yelling at the listener? To be heard over the music.

Because you’ve already forgotten, I’ll remind you that this particular spot touted Maybelline and L’Oreal mascara, Cover Girl pressed powder, and Revlon beauty products.

Radio Advertising Guideline:

Music Should Be Used in a Radio Commercial Only if it Enhances the Emotional Impact of the Sales Message.

Footnote #1: Years ago, a “99 Cent” store in Los Angeles held a “going out of business” sale.

A huge sign above the store proclaimed, “10% off every item in the store!”

I couldn’t help thinking, “If people aren’t buying your stuff for 99 cents, I’m not sure how many will stand in line to buy your stuff for 89.1 cents.”

Footnote #2 — from our “People Who Just Don’t Understand the Concept” Department.

While enjoying a New England breakfast at a small diner in Hartford, Connecticut, I notice the sign above a retail outlet across the street:$1-and-Up retail advertising sign