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Two of the key precepts I’ve taught radio copywriters around the world:

1.  The commercial never should be about the advertiser.

2.  Whenever possible, give the listener a “test drive” of the results they’ll get from the product or service being advertised.

Here’s the commercial.


Excellent beginning. In the first 4 seconds, you know what this radio spot is about: the music of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.

The advertiser was the Hollywood Bowl; they paid for the commercial.

But the advertisement didn’t talk about the Hollywood Bowl. The Hollywood Bowl was important only as the place where Angelinos could see Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga in concert.

The music itself acted as a “test drive” for the targeted listener.

Not So Good

The poor announcer is saddled with far too much copy.

Much of it was unavoidable.

They had to mention the album title to get the record company’s co-op dollars.

They had to mention Ticketmasters.

They had to mention that certain people could buy their tickets early, in a pre-sale.

But the sound is so badly mixed that the music drowns out the words. Something-Something-Card Members could get their tickets early.

Ruthless Editing Needed

Yes, they were forced to include a lot of stuff.

That’s all the more reason to ruthlessly edit the copy. Make every word justify itself.

Would the commercial message be any weaker if you left out a particular word? No? Then delete that word.


“Tony Bennett…and Lady Gaga…(MUSIC)….Don’t miss this once in a lifetime event as two icons join forces to perform their #1 album, CHEEK TO CHEEK.”

could have been edited to:

“Tony Bennett…and Lady Gaga…(MUSIC)….Performing their #1 album, CHEEK TO CHEEK.”

Would the listener have missed “as these two icons” or “once in a lifetime event”?


But that one edit would’ve been a great gift for the voice over guy.

Toward the end of the spot we hear two Calls to Action: Go to the website for tickets, or call for tickets.

Even without a time crunch, giving more than one Call to Action is foolish.

In this case, probably 95% of interested listeners would go to the venue’s website.

Even people who planned to order the tickets over the phone first would go to the website to check on prices, seat availability, etc.

People who planned to call also would go to the website to find out the phone number for the venue, because:

1.  That’s what people do.

2.  They can’t understand the hurried, garbled phone number in the radio commercial.

Bottom Line

It’s an effective commercial despite its flaws because it succeeds in communicating the two crucial elements: Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga in concert…at the Hollywood Bowl.

Armed with that information, any interested listeners will go online, enter “Hollywood Bowl” in their browser’s search bar, and locate the website within one or two clicks.

The website will display dates, prices, seat availability…and the phone number to call for tickets.

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  • Raymond Duke March 9, 2015, 8:36 am

    Thanks for this!

  • Nick Summers March 9, 2015, 10:19 pm

    A useless phrase is “online at….” or “visit our website at http://www….” When a web address is given, “online at” is self-evident. I agree, Dan, that interested listeners will enter something relevant in the search bar. So in 2015, even giving a web address is archaic. In my copy, whenever possible, I write “search (client’s name),” because that’s what real consumers do. (I always check, though, to be sure a search brings up the client at or near the top.)

    Nevertheless, “search……” is rarely sufficient for a local direct advertiser. Even though they kind of rationally understand why they shouldn’t include the phone number, subjectively they just want that phone number in there for that one potential customer who might write it down. They just can’t quite let it go. Local direct radio can’t quite let it go either. For years to come, radio will continue to say “what the hell, if the client wants it…..” even though phone numbers in radio spots should have ended in the Princess phone era.

    The lingering habit of phone numbers in spots, especially 30s, is an ongoing frustration. Even though I’ve spoken to AEs about it and e-mailed them what I believe to be a convincing treatise against using phone numbers, the phone numbers return like cockroaches. I don’t think they even try to explain to a prospect why phone numbers are useless.

    I’d wager that the Hollywood Bowl spot was the end product of work by 3 separate people who never even saw each other. The copywriter, the VO guy, and the producer who assembled the spot. There’s so much baloney in that copy, that what could have been a great spot became an unintelligible mess and barely passable as a spot that works.

  • Raymond Duke June 14, 2015, 8:36 am

    Thanks for this!