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Funny radio commercials

I’ve heard people say the goal of a radio commercial is to entertain people.

One would-be expert actually proclaimed, “A radio commercial must be entertaining, or it won’t work.”

Good grief.

Someone asked me: “So you’re against entertainment in commercials?”

Absolutely not. I’m against entertainment (and anything else) that is irrelevant to the sales process.

The model that most people follow when creating commercials — including most award-winning commercials — is: “I’ll do a little song & dance to entertain them, and then I’ll try to sell them something.”

And it used to work that way.  120 years ago, some guy would show up in a new town, set up his table, and launch into a juggling routine or a magic act.

A crowd would gather.

And then the entertainer would go to the back of his tent and the snake oil salesman would come out and deliver his finely crafted and well-rehearsed sales pitch.

They sold an awful lot of snake oil that way.

But that’s not how it works with electronic media advertising in the 21st Century.

Remember, Advertising Is Mass Salesmanship.

Question for Radio Sales Managers

Do you instruct your account executives to conduct sales calls by telling 27 jokes and then asking, “Do you want to buy some commercials?”

If you entertain in a commercial, the entertainment has to be inextricably woven around the sales message. You should not be able to remove the entertainment without removing the sales message itself.
That’s a very easy and extremely effective test to apply to your commercial: “Is it possible to remove the entertaining elements without also removing the sales message?”

All too often, the answer is yes.

I’ve lost count of the number of award-winning commercials that won those awards because of their entertainment value…even though you could have replaced the product or service that was being advertised with practically any other product or service without touching the entertainment.

The good news is you don’t need to understand how the different parts of the brain work. You don’t need to learn pseudo-scientific jargon. All you need to understand is how radio advertising works. And it works like this:

1. Identify a desire that will be fulfilled or a problem that will be solved by your client’s product or service.


Alka-Seltzer: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

(Have you ever had that problem?)


Federal Express: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

Those are common, real problems…and those two advertisers offered real solutions. Simply, clearly, and directly.

2. Show the consumer how you can fulfill his desire or solve her problem.

3. Deliver your message in a way that involves the listener.

4. Make sure your message is absolutely clear…with a single clear message.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Efrain Gonzalez October 27, 2010, 1:13 am

    I have to wholeheartedly say that Dan has said one of the biggest truths. I am a repeat offender (although I haven’t been able to keep up with all the summits for a while) and ever since I started following that simple mindset? I was making commercials that were not only entertaining but effective as well. One of my personal favorites was one I did for a carpet and tile company. Now, how exciting can making a commercial about floors be? and… in Spanish? LOL

    Now after an interview with the client (that by the way I had to do because we had some of those sales people that “take the check and run”) I was able to pinpoint that the company wanted to market more the “tile” end of the business to Hispanics because Hispanics generally dislike carpets (its a culture/cleanliness thing I guess lol)

    well. the first thing I thought about was “who really needs new floors?” conclusion: families with messy kids and poorly trained pets!

    I did a spot with some sound effects that depicted a dog taking a tinkle on the carpet and the owner chasing him out (trust me, the effects were half the fun of putting together the spot) then? 2 women (mother in law sounding) trying to guess the stain on the floor. obviously? that premise not only gets attention, but its something our target group could relate to as being their bigger problems and obviously, the client was the solution. and the message was simple “tired of bad floors? call “x” tile”. bottom line? client was happy, saw results and the sales guy got another commission for extending the contract (and he didn’t even buy me lunch for saving his a$$ and getting him the payment for his Miata) Its really cool when you have clients call you and say “I had a guy today saying he was tired of his dog peeing all over the place and wanted to redo his whole house” I thought “wouldn’t it be easier to take the dog outside?” Oh well, who am I to tell people how to take care of their pets, right? LOL As always Dan, thanks for all the wisdom!

  • Tom Bass October 27, 2010, 9:08 am

    The reason most advertisers say radio doesn’t work is because it doesn’t. The main reason it doesn’t – ineffective copy. The main two reasons for ineffective copy I encountered in my career…either a laundry list of attributes and meaningless cliches, or choosing creativity at expense of an effective sales message.

  • John Peace October 27, 2010, 9:47 am

    I’ve found that the most simple message, the ones with the fewest words, get the best results. Short, Conscise. Keeping in mind the radio audience is passively listening to the commercial. They did not seek it out to hang on every word. \Our Hondas Cost $3500 Lesss Than Their Same Size Toyotas\ will get a better reponse or result than \Save Like Never Before\. Get a valid point across and don’t be vague.

  • Jim McAleese October 28, 2010, 12:02 pm

    Efrain, nice job with the tile and carpet client. You said it all with: (paraphrasing) I had to interview the client because the sales rep is the “take the check and run” type.

    You determined the client’s problem – sell more floor tiles – and then took the time to think about what kinds of people need floor tiles – people with messy kids and pets.

    When a copywriter has to spend time digging up a marketing idea, that leads to a creative idea – he or she should earn two points of the sales rep’s commission. There I said it. Viva la revolucion!!!

  • Chris Pollard November 1, 2010, 7:55 am

    Jim – I like your idea. Maybe if copy had a bit more stake in the process than getting sales a bigger commission, there would be greater motivation to improve the craft, instead of just inserting a jumble of copy points in the ‘blander’ and pushing the ‘pulse’ button a few times.

    Yep … insert copy points, and let the blander take care of the rest.

    (Unless you’re up to using Dan’s amazing bad copy generator. Which admittedly I’ve done a couple of times as a starting point when REALLY tapped for ideas. Usually one look at what it spits out is enough to jump start the ol’ creative engine. And no, God help us all no, I have not and will not ever even consider letting one of those to go production. Although it would be funny to see if the folks voicing them would even notice their stunningly craptacular nature.)