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phone numbers in radio commercialsRecently I tweeted, “Putting a client’s phone # in their radio commercial if customers don’t want to call is stupid. Even if it’s a vanity # or catchy jingle.”

That generated this response from Nick Summers, Production Director of Desert Radio Group/Palm Springs, California.

Seems like I’ve been fighting the phone numbers battle forever. Below is an e-mail I recently sent to our AE’s. It seems to have made an impression, as a couple of them have shared it with clients. Spots are getting approved without phone numbers.

The Damage Done by a phone number in a 30 Second spot

When a local retail advertiser insists on including a phone number in a 30 second spot, he damages his advertising message. A phone number does not make the success of a spot more likely. In fact, it is not a harmless, innocuous addition to the copy. In nearly all cases, insistence on a phone number damages the 30.

Every second in a 30 is like oceanfront property. Every second has to be used to its fullest benefit. Including a phone number takes up at least 3 seconds. Reading it twice takes up 6 seconds.  At that point, the client has wasted 20 percent of the time available with clutter.

Few consumers will write a phone number from the radio. What’s most important in the spot is the retailer’s name, and a simple, broad, clear compelling message. Every second of the radio oceanfront property has to contribute to those two objectives. Anything else is clutter and dilutes the message. It’s that simple. When the ad message is sufficiently compelling and they remember the retailer’s name, they’ll find him!

The phone number is white noise that goes in one ear and out the other. It’s right up there with radio copy sludge like “friendly, knowledgeable staff,” “for all your (blank blank) needs” “conveniently located at,” “try us again for the first time,” “you’ve tried the rest, now try the best,” and “for your shopping convenience.” All do damage to a simple, clear ad message

I’ll concede that a mnemonic phone number like 1-800-NEW CARS may be ok. When it’s a phone-only call to action, a number is necessary.  When a dry cleaner, hardware store, or yogurt stand, however, insist on a generic number like 325-5298, it’s beyond useless. It takes up valuable time and damages the effectiveness of the commercial.

Any spec or first take I do of a commercial will not include the phone number, unless it’s appropriate as described above. I’m asking that when a client says to you “what about my phone number,” please do your client the service of explaining the benefits of not including it! 

A phone number is the worst possible use of his radio oceanfront property. It’s as useless as including the retailer’s birthday.

Of course, don’t get into an argument.  If they implacably insist, we’ll include the number. At least, though, we will have tried to deliver the best possible radio copy, undamaged by copywriting clutter.

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