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Authorities in Roswell, New Mexico, are using radio advertising to try to stop a serial arsonist.

Giving the offer they are making, a radio campaign just might do the job for them.

The acts of arson are a prominent topic of conversation in Roswell. As I’ve long pointed out, “Radio advertising is word-of-mouth that you control.”

Here is the commercial that currently is airing:

In case you’re unable to hear the audio, here’s the commercial copy.

ANNOUNCER: Roswell, it’s time to get an arsonist off the streets. Here’s Steve Wolf with Crime Stoppers.

STEVE: We want to catch whoever’s doing this arson. There are numerous cases so far, just a couple, two nights ago, couple of more fires, and we’d like to catch that person and we’re prepared to offer a thousand-dollar bill, anonymously, I have to underline the anonymous part of it. The tip number is 888-594-8477, and that goes to a Houston, Texas organization; no one will know who you are.

Using radio is a smart move. That spot could be more effective.

Obviously this wasn’t a carefully scripted ad.

They used “found audio” — probably it came from an interview on the radio station — which most likely they gave to a producer with the instructions, “Make a 30-second commercial out of this.”

If putting a stop to those fires really is important, it’s worth the extra time and effort to write a real spot, get that guy back into the studio, and record a more effective message.

* The real story of this commercial is: “We’ll pay $1,000 to anyone who helps us catch the arsonist by calling this phone number.” So that should be the focus of the message.

* People in Roswell, listening to a radio station in Roswell, don’t need to be told they are in Roswell. So let’s not begin the spot with, “Roswell…”

* “Steve Wolf with Crime Stoppers” is not as important as “$1,000 reward.” So let’s move Steve further down the copy.

In fact, let’s jettison Steve’s name entirely; it’s just not important to the message. (Sorry, Steve. But you still can voice the spot…)

* In an offer such as this, people care about the “what,” not the “how.” 

In this ad, the “what” is “$1,000 reward, anonymous.”

The “how” is the organization in Houston, Texas. 

During the course of an interview, that information can be valuable to help assure listeners that they can turn in the bad guy(s) without anyone knowing who blew the whistle.

But in a 30-second spot, you don’t have enough time to include it.

So, let’s write a real commercial. It can be voiced by our friend Steve, or it can be voiced by an announcer.

We will give you a thousand dollars, cash, if you help us stop the Roswell arsonist. If you have any information that might help, call this toll-free number, ANONYMOUSLY. If your tip leads to an arrest, Crime Stoppers will pay you a $1,000 reward…and your name never will be revealed. Here’s the phone number: 888-594-8477. Help us stop this criminal before someone dies in one of those fires. For the thousand-dollar reward, call 888-594-8477. We guarantee you’ll remain anonymous.

I included “Roswell” not to tell listeners where they live but rather to instantly pinpoint the topic of conversation. It’s a shorter, pithier way of saying, “…the unknown person who has been setting all those fires around here.”

You might have noticed the conspicuous lack of fine print. I suspect a little more detail should be included, defining guidelines for qualifying for the reward.

But the original radio advertisement didn’t include any fine print.

A television news report, however, implied the reward would be for information that leads to an arrest (not necessarily to a conviction). So in lieu of other information, that’s the criterion I included in the commercial copy.

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