But each approached me, money in hand, for the worst possible reason:
Because I hosted a funny radio show, they wanted me to be the guy to create funny radio commercials for them.
Yes, I’m very good at writing funny radio ads.
No, that’s not a good reason to hire me.
The only people who should want to hire me as a freelance commercial copywriter are people who want effective campaigns, not funny ones.
“We want you to write some funny spots for us,” a potential client will say.
“Oh, you want funny spots? Glad you told me that now. Otherwise I would have assumed you wanted an effective commercial campaign that would produce money-making results. But you just want ‘funny?’ Okay.”
“No, wait! Of course we want the campaign to work!”
“Oh. Hmmm. Which is more important to you: that your commercials make money for you, or that they’re funny?”
“That they make money for us.”
“Okay,” I’ll say. “That’s what I’ll focus on: creating an effective campaign that delivers a positive Return on Investment. At this stage, I have no idea if it’ll be funny. It might be deadly serious.
“The first thing I’m going to do is ask you about a billion questions, until I really understand not just what it is you sell but, more importantly, why people buy it. I need to understand how what you sell improves your customers’ lives.
“When I reach the point where I understand it well enough to start writing, the odds are that by then I’ll have a pretty good idea of the best approach to take…to produce a profitable ROI for you.
“That might turn out to be a series of comedic spots. It might be slice-of-life dialogue. It might even be a ‘straight announcer read.’ But I can’t work with you if you need me to promise to create a ‘funny’ campaign before I know what the message is going to be. Is that okay with you?”
That bank and that shopping center were lucky: I wrote funny spots that worked for them.
But they should have come to me because they believed I knew how to sell in a radio commercial, not because I knew how to be funny.
As it happens, a fair percentage of the campaigns I’ve created over the years have been humorous.
My favorite might’ve been the one in which the announcer called the advertiser a liar. (Some people have commented that sometimes my style of humor is “subversive.”)
If after you’ve done your research you decide the best approach is a spot that incorporates humor or comedy, here are my
20 Questions to Ask When Writing Funny Radio Commercials.
Download free radio copywriting seminar here.