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RADIO COMMERCIAL CRITIQUE: Subaru’s 15 Secs of..Nothing

Radio commercial 15 secondsWhen you have only 60 or 30 seconds, radio advertising requires a strong message, crafted and delivered with a strong focus.

When you have just 15 seconds, you need to say exactly one thing.

Clearly and compellingly.

Listen to this radio spot for a Los Angeles area car dealer.


Turn your head to the right.

Turn your head to the left.

Blink three times.

Okay, what’s the one big message you recall hearing in that radio commercial for Subaru of Santa Monica?

If you remember anything at all, most likely it’s “Offer ends February 28th.”

But it’s very unlikely that you know what the offer is.

In fact, I guarantee you don’t know what the offer is, because they don’t tell you.

Here’s a breakdown of the radio commercial script:

1. “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru.”

They must have a reason for declaring that love makes a Subaru.

Mustn’t they?

2.  Listen several times, and you’ll decipher this:

“Get big savings during the Subaru True Love Event at Subaru of Santa Monica.”

The announcer has to talk so fast to squeeze in all those worthless words that he garbles a few of them…and either he or the spot’s producer decides to save time by omitting the last syllable of the name of the city where the car dealer is located.

3.  The owner of the car dealership introduces himself and invites you to…Wait, let me replay it…

Oh, right. He invites you to “come in and see the difference today.”

To what “difference” is he referring? That forever will remain a mystery.

He has nothing to say but not enough time in which not to say it. So the producer remedies this by speeding up the owner’s voice.

And the reason the owner of the dealership suddenly appears on this commercial is…Uh….

4.  Next comes two seconds (13% of the commercial) devoted to, “I paid someone for this jingle, dammit, so I’m going to use it!”

5.  More garbled words that include “online” and “specials.”

6.  The clear, easy to understand declaration of the expiration date for whatever the advertiser is offering.

Who among the people responsible for this car dealer radio commercial believes this spot in any way has value to the advertiser?

The automobile dealer who paid for it?

The ad agency that produced it?

The radio station that aired it?

Hey, it’s possible to produce a positive R.O.I. with a 15-second or even a 10-second radio commercial.

But not if you have nothing to say.

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  • Harley Benner February 23, 2015, 1:12 pm

    “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru.” The only part of that message I can possibly make any sense of. It probably HAD to be included for co-op dollars. Which only means the dealership saved money on a terrible commercial. A horrible mish-mash, to be sure.

  • Nick Summers February 24, 2015, 11:16 pm

    The opening line is an edit of a slogan that Subaru has been using for a few years now. “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru…a Subaru.” I can surmise exactly what happened. The production person received a production order with the instructions: “please edit this :60 to a :15.” The :15 was doubtless a freebie as part of a package.

    I’ll bet the production person did the best edit he/she could do just to follow instructions. Even if the production person had rewritten the spot to be a better :15, this act of initiative would have been rebuffed by whoever was in charge of the spot’s content. Local radio production people know that this happens all the time.


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