Make Your Radio Campaign Deliver Results

Tom Mountford - The JMS Group Ltd

Radio remains a great tool in every advertiser's belt - familiar, trusted, and locally focussed. Radio advertising has inate power, but here are several useful tips to make sure your campaign delivers results.

1. A successful commercial has focus

What can you do in ten seconds? What can you do in twenty seconds? What can you do in thirty seconds? Well, rather a lot actually, just so long as you don’t overstretch yourself!

  • Less is more.
  • Simple is always better.
  • One idea per commercial.

Want to target trade customers and domestic customers? Create two separate commercials. That way you can split the information and give a stronger emphasis than you’d be able to achieve in a single commercial.

Want to push the pensioners offer, the games room and the quiz night? Rather than cram all of these into one commercial leaving very little room for creativity, surely it is better to split them into separate commercials that are better targeted at the correct audience? Be concise, don’t waffle. Be clear, don’t confuse. Be focused, don’t try to do too much.

2. A successful commercial talks to the right audience

Knowing your target market is key to creating a successful commercial; it dictates everything from music choice to voice casting to tone, style and selection of language. Get these factors wrong and you may end up alienating the very people you wish to attract. Very few businesses can boast a broad, mass appeal. You might think you want to trade with everyone, but does everyone want to trade with you?

You’re an independent jewellery shop catering for the high end of the market; would you prefer 1000 people to visit your store, spending nothing, or 5 people to visit spending a grand each? That’s the difference between trying to target a large number of people, most of whom can’t afford your stock and so ignore your commercial entirely, and targeting those few specific customers who can afford and are very willing to spend big bucks with your business. That’s the difference between advertising being a valuable asset to your business and a costly failure. That’s knowing your target market. So, the next time you advertise, refrain from trying to appeal to anyone and everyone. Think about who your actual customer base is, and appeal to them.

3. A successful commercial chooses the correct tone of voice

The right tone of voice can invite, excite, reassure the listener; it can enhance the attractiveness of your product or service. The wrong tone of voice can turn the listener off. Literally, off the airwaves. So striking the right tone is crucial.

There are the obvious ones; bright and enthusiastic tones for products aimed at children. Serious and direct tones to convey an anti-drink driving message. Warm and inviting tones to attract listeners to the good-old country pub. And then there are those products or services that need more thought. Take the funeral home; somber, solemn tones might spring to mind. But wouldn’t someone who has just lost a loved one be better reached with a more positive, reassuring tone?

Knowing the right tone to use on the air is brought about by knowing your target audience, your product and your business – and knowing what you want to achieve from advertising. Many new radio advertisers want big, they want attention grabbing, they want… shouty!

There’s a big difference between ‘the hard sell’ and ‘the desperate shout’. The hard sell uses a strong, urgent tone with stress on the words that will make the most impact - the shout just sounds annoying. You wouldn’t shout at a customer face to face; so don’t do it on the radio!

4. A successful commercial is always underwritten

“I’m paying for a 30 second advertisement, I should make the most of my investment by including as many details as possible”, hmm we seem to encounter this view a lot, but it happens to be completely counterproductive.

If a voiceover isn’t given room to breathe and just has to gabble through the script, how on earth is the listener going to absorb it all?

Let’s be completely blunt, the listener doesn’t want to listen to a commercial, they are willing to listen to a commercial. If you’re talking to the listener in clear, concise, smoothly paced way then they will be more likely to take the message in and act upon it. Underwriting is the key to this!

5. A successful commercial only includes one response mechanism

Too often an advertiser will want to cover all their bases by putting in multiple methods of contact. The result? Confused listeners! If you want to make it clear to the listener how they should respond to the commercial, then you should just present them with one simple method of response. You want footfall? Focus on your location. You want people to find out more? Highlight your web address. You want phone enquiries? Give your phone number (landline, never mobile!)

By keeping the response mechanism to a minimum you’ll get the maximum response. It’s also important to choose the right contact detail. What is it you are trying to achieve with the campaign? If you’re a clothes shop, it’s no good trying to monitor the success of a campaign by the number of phone calls the commercial generates. After all, why would a clothes shop receive any calls in the first place? So choose the correct contact!

6. A successful commercial is transparent

You wouldn’t lie to your customers face to face, so why mislead in a commercial? As well as the creative side to radio production there is of course the legal side too. You don’t want something to be interpreted in the wrong way. Depending on context, use of the words ‘biggest’, ‘exclusive’, ‘best’ will most likely require substantiation to ensure they are true. You want to attract the listener to your business, but you don’t want them to feel let down once they get there. So make a conscious effort to represent yourself accurately in your commercial.

7. A successful commercial uses music wisely

Music influences mood. It can motivate, sadden, inspire; listening to a favorite track is even known to release ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain. With such a strong ability to enhance and manipulate our feelings, its no wonder music is integral to advertising.

Advertisers have long used music to help set the tone of their commercials, and evoke the desired response from listeners. Advertising a sale? Then use music with a sense of urgency to excite and motivate your target audience. Advertising a spa? Include a slow, ambient backing track to create a sense of escapism and relaxation. Music can be used to enhance your message, but it can do much more than this. It can convey the things you don’t have time to say.

Words such as ‘friendly’, ‘reliable’ and ‘welcoming’ are so common place in advertising that they have lost much of their impact; clichés don’t hold much weight with the average listener. So instead of wasting precious seconds on a defunct buzzword, simply convey this information through your choice of music.

But don’t forget who your target audience is. Put personal preferences aside and consider the right sound for your market. For instance, a hair salon advertising with a pulsing, R&B track will convey to listeners that they offer cutting edge fashion cuts for a young market. Conversely, a calmer, more stylish theme will attract an older generation of listeners, and all without you having to clarify it in the copy.

8. A successful commercial uses sound effects wisely

If you have something interesting to say then people will listen to it. Using a siren / klaxon / car horn / explosion etc in a not-so subtle attempt to make the listeners pay attention isn't necessary, plus it’s not allowed.

A well-chosen sound effect used in the right way can add a layer of atmosphere, it can generate humour, underline a point or place characters in a scene (saving you precious time having to use the voices to establish the location or situation).

But you have to ensure the sound effect that gets used is clear enough! There’s a reason why radio stations run competitions called “what’s that sound?” It’s because a simple, ordinary, everyday sound can be unrecognisable when you have no visual clues to go by. Good sound effects properly integrated into the script can really enhance a commercial.

9. A successful commercial makes the best use of scheduling

The key advantage of broadcast media is the ability to schedule a commercial at a specific time of day to ensure it is heard by the most suitable audience: 

A Kitchen Company? Schedule the commercial during breakfast time when people are in the kitchen. A Car Dealer? Schedule the commercial during drive-time when people are in their car. A Family Attraction? Schedule it during the school run when all the family can take notice. A Restaurant? Schedule it during the day when people are making plans!

By working out when your target audience is most likely to be listening to the radio, you can get the maximum response to the campaign.

10. A successful commercial is part of a well structured campaign

Too often a radio campaign is a hurried affair, a last-minute dash to cram some selling points into a single radio commercial and hope for the best. Successful campaigns think long term. If you are going to be a regular advertiser then you need to give yourself an on air identity. Build a brand. For continuity you could use the same announcer voice or music on each commercial. Create a strapline? Use characters? Incorporate a jingle or sonic ident? There are many ways of turning a single commercial into a continuous campaign.

If you’re doing a launch, a teaser campaign building up to the event would work well. If you’re holding a sale, then a series of time sensitive commercials that run before, during and towards the end of the sale would all help to keep the event in the spotlight.

Lastly - If these suggestions should require additional investment, be assured that radio is a medium in which it’s almost guaranteed that the more you put in – the more you get out.

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