RADIO ADVERTISING CRITIQUE: Branding Commercial

by Dan O'Day on November 1, 2012

Greg Lowe of CKBW/CJHK writes:

“Our sales department really enjoyed Tuesday’s’s radio branding seminar. We actually started branding for many of our clients a couple of years ago. More and more seem to be going in that direction. Here’s one that just hit our airwaves last month….It’s one of our best. What do you think?”

It’s a lovely, genuinely moving radio advertisement.

Here are a few things that could improve it.

1.  If you’re locked into a 30-second spot, you need to edit more. “Branding” requires more than sticking your name somewhere on the commercial. This needs some sort of Call To Action — even if it’s only implied (e.g., by including the Web address, if that’s the most common first contact for prospects, or by alluding to the physical location).

If there were more time, you could tell the story and then invite the targeted listener to respond:

“Provincial Hearing Services, on Hillcrest at Dufferin.” (Thanks, Google Maps.)

But I’d hate to lose the emotional impact at the end of the commercial.

Solution?

(WOMAN) And tears started rolling down her face.

(ANNOUNCER) Provincial Hearing Services, on Hillcrest at Dufferin. Enhancing people’s lives.

(OPERA VOICE — the one note that ends the original version of the spot)

If you move the announcer tag to the end and have the opera singer’s solo note as the last sound in the commercial, that sung note punctuates both the “sales message” and the emotional thread of the story.

Also, placing the advertiser’s name at the end would tie it in to the emotional connection the story has established. Saying it 2 seconds into the advertisement, however, squanders the time because at that point there is no emotional experience to be associated with the advertiser.

2. By following the standard (and usually ineffectual) structure of having an announcer interrupt the storyteller to identify the person who’s speaking, you also interrupt the very story you’re attempting to tell.

In the original version, the placement of the announcer’s voice immediately dampens the listener’s memory of the story’s opening line.

Notice how much stronger it is if you just let her tell her story:

Here’s a quickly edited version of the story you just heard:

I removed 5 seconds from the story, thereby freeing up an additional 5 seconds for the announcer to make the connection at the end.

That’s 5 seconds of a 30-second radio commercial. Did the story sound weaker? Did you miss anything that had been in the original version?

3.  If you ignore all of the advice I’ve given so far, at least do this one thing: Replace the “Radio DJ” voice with a gentle (not faked sincere, but honestly gentle and respectful) voice.

I know the jock who voiced the part is wincing now. I’m not saying he shouldn’t be on the spot. In fact, I’m saying the opposite: Those words should be spoken by the genuine human being I’m sure that announcer really is.

 

P.S. Registration for the world’s most advanced radio copywriting course now is open.

Comments

comments

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Bryan Williams November 1, 2012 at 10:26 am

I agree with everything Dan says, and strictly from a production standpoint, there are a couple of popped “p’s” that should not have made it to the final mix.

Blaine Parker November 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Yep. Like Bryan said: everything Dan says is dead on. I’m going to give a pass on the plosives because if this MP3 has been rendered at a very low bit rate for web playback, it will emphasize mouth noise that may not happen in a broadcast quality rendering. But no, popped Os should definitely not be on the air.

And one other thing: if you’re branding your clients (which I applaud heartily), I encourage the use of a resonant tag line that appears in every commercial and reinforces the brand. It’s difficult to think about Motel 6 without thinking, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” Not only is it inextricably linked to the brand, but it’s an enormously powerful image that says a tremendous amount about the brand and makes the core customer feel something.

Blaine Parker November 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm

OK. That was supposed to say, “popped Ps.” Nobody I know is capable of popping an “O.”

scott snailham November 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm

It’s hard to get “DJ’s/Announcers” to do anything but be just that. Trying to get the on air talent of a radio station to sound like joe average can be next to impossible, so i’d say they did the next best thing. They kept the jock copy minimal and the delivery soft. While I’d probably go with a female voice actor with a strong emotional delivery, This also works given the resources.

As mentioned already, if it’s branding, it’s missing a critical tag. The build up is nice, but where’s the payoff to tell us who we are talking about? drop the company mention in the opener, and let it build and hook the listener. Putting it at the front and it gets lost in the build up. I was saying what company is this? I know why I should care, but who are they?

Neal Angell November 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Agree. By the time the spot was over, all I knew was that it was some hearing aid place; I had completely fogotten the name of the advertiser only 20+ seconds after hearing it. It’s like Dan said, you need to establish an emotional connection first. Give me a reason to care about the advertiser and then tell me who it is.

Neal Angell November 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm

@Blaine Parker: As a side note, I enjoyed the teleseminar last week. If you haven’t heard the Motel 6 spot called DVD (with Tom Bodett’s “director commentary”) I know you’ll enjoy it. I don’t want to spoil the “anticipatory surprise” as Dan would put it, but I love the “light” twist at the end.

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