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radio copywriting commercials

Radio Advertising Solves Problems.

But most radio stations devote far more time to landing a client’s business than to solving the client’s problem.

If you’ve ever worked for a commercial radio station, then you’ve witnessed occasions on which someone “banged out” an advertisement in five minutes.

That’s 300 seconds — including all the “research” (none) and rewriting (none).

Which leads to the other weakness of relying on salespeople to write commercial copy:


I respect account executives.

Being a radio salesperson is a full-time job. Personally, I think it’s the toughest job in the station.

Even the minority who take their profession seriously enough to have learned how to write effective commercial copy rarely have enough time to do it as well as they would like.

They write “in between” copy — between calls, in odd moments snatched here and there. Hurriedly, always an eye on the clock.

Meanwhile, In The Big Leagues

There are famous radio stations, owned by huge companies, in America’s two largest markets. Heritage call letters, solid ratings.

At the particular stations I’m thinking of, in Los Angeles and in New York, all of the advertising copy is written by salespeople. These stations employ no copywriters.

Over the past year, some of the account executives at those stations have contacted me, asking for help.

They’ve been given no training or education in advertising.

Their managers (according to these A.E.’s) don’t know anything about advertising either. It’s all a numbers game: Make as many calls, contacts and presentations as possible.

Just sell the damn spots. Get the business on the books.

The actual commercials? Get what you need from the client’s newspaper ad. Or website. Or, in some cases, business card.

That’s a disgrace.

Small market station, low spot rate, untrained staff? I don’t condone the lack of a professional advertising copywriter there, but I understand it.

But a big station in a major market? It embarrasses our profession.

“But it’s a big station, you say? So whatever they’re doing must be working.”

No, their programming might be working.

But stations like that have a huge turnover in advertisers. The A.E.’s constantly to have find new clients to replace the ones that continually drop out.

And, of course, those disappointed clients spend the rest of their business careers declaring, “I tried radio, and it didn’t work.”

Some Bright Spots

There are some radio groups (large and small) that put their money with their mouth is when it comes to investing in commercial copywriting and production.

I don’t mean just by hiring me or buying my radio advertising products.

I’m talking about major market stations that employ 6-to-8-person Creative Departments.

And small market stations with a full time Production Director (not someone who doubles as a DJ), full time Creative Director, and full time Copywriter.

I’ve had huge, major market station groups inquire about my seminars only to tell me later, “We just can’t afford you.”

And I’ve had small market stations fly me across the continent to work with their staffs and clients.

To be fair, it should be mentioned that those small market stations can afford to bring me in…or to employ several full time employees for the sole purpose of creating commercials.

They can afford to because they make more money than similar sized competitors who don’t care as much.

On the other hand, a while ago I did meet one very unhappy, disillusioned, bitter full time copywriter.

He works for a radio group in a Top 50 market. Seven stations.

Fifty-six salespeople.

No copy deadlines.

And he writes all the commercial copy.

I really couldn’t help him.

He has to support 56 salespeople with no infrastructure, no system, no rules to give him at least a fighting chance of turning out decent (i.e., money-making) copy?

All I could suggest were Excedrin, Maalox, and relaxation therapy.

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  • donhenryb February 13, 2014, 12:10 pm

    When Sales throw their weight around, none of what Creative values matters. We just exist to provide support for their objectives.