Write Great Radio Ads: The Ultimate Guide
Today, I'm going to show you how to write radio ads. Doesn't matter if you're an absolute beginner. Together, we'll learn:
- The basics of radio ads and their characteristics.
- Ad scripting techniques.
- How radio ads are produced.
- Mistakes not to make in your radio ad.
- Tips on writing great radio advertisements.
- And more!
There is no magic spell to wish your writing troubles away. But this article comes pretty close...
Chapter 1: What are radio ads
Chapter 2: Mistakes not to make in your radio ad
Chapter 3: Tips on how to write great radio ads
What are radio ads?
A radio ad is an audio announcement promoting a product, service, brand or event
It’s also called an ad spot. Or spot in short.
Radio ads are powerful too.
And there are very different from the visual ads you see on TV or YouTube.
Characteristics of radio ads:
#1: Live or prerecorded
A live commercial is spoken by the presenter, station announcer, or newscaster.
Here the presenter reads your script. Or they can discuss your service or product during the spoken segments of their shows.
On the other hand:
Prerecorded commercials have undergone prior production including recording, editing, mixing, adding sound effects, etc.
This can be done in-house by the station’s staff or outsourced to an agency.
#2: Very short
Currently, most of the radio ads are 30 or 60 seconds long. But some radio spots are 15s, 10s or 5s long.
So how many words are in a 30-second ad? Easy, just refer to this table:
No of words
#3: Call to Action (CTA)
Typical of most ads is their call to actions. Basically, in the CTA you tell the listener what to do after hearing the ad.
“Call us now at 800-555-1212 to order yummy pizzas at 50% off.”
“Go to www.puppies.com, sign up, and receive your free subscription to Puppy Toys Magazine.”
#4: Heavily depends on your copy
Radio ads— the prerecorded ones — in particular heavily depend on how you use words.
And words are powerful beasts.
Cultivate the skill to effectively use words to rouse emotions and inspire the listener to action. To get started, here are 600+ words to infuse your copy with emotions.
#5 Contain different audio elements
Sound effects & mood music help build an atmosphere. And they also trigger memories & emotions in the listener.
For instance, if you’re hinting at the grim traffic situation in your city, sound effects to use include honking cars, shouting motorists, etc.
So what emotions surface when you hear traffic jam noises? A relentless stream of “Honks.”
Do you feel relaxed?
Radio ads are cost-effective from production to the cost of radio airtime. This makes them appealing to small businesses & professionals.
#7. Prices vary
The price of radio airtime varies depending on the time of day.
The most premium spots are usually in the morning during the AM Drive, a period from 6:30 am to 10:00 am.
Midday and afternoon drive dayparts are also considered “Prime.”
So a 30-second spot during prime times will cost more than the same spot during the evening.
How radio ads are produced
So what’s the process of creating a radio ad?
It depends on how the business wants to go about it. There are two ways really.
One, the business could seek the help of a radio advertising agency. The agency will work with the client to create & launch the advertisement.
Alternatively, the client could engage the station directly. The radio station, in this case, might have a team of in-house copywriters or have connections with freelance radio copywriters.
They will also find the talent and assign a producer to work on the ad.
Next, they will source and add all the background music, sound effects, etc.
The finished radio ad will then get slotted into the normal programming by the program director. The number of times the ad runs will be tracked, and invoices sent to the client.
Radio ad production techniques
#1: Straight announcer
The straight announcer is the single voice of the ad. They read the entire script. So here, you need a clear strong voice that engages the listeners.
#2: Two announcer/Two-actors
If one voice is not sufficient, have two voices in your radio ad.
Write your ad with two people in mind.
And there are many things two people can discuss.
They can have a conversation about your product. One presenter can ask the other if they have used your goods?
Or share a personal experience on how your service or product helped them in this or that situation.
Even banter is acceptable.
Here is an example of a radio advertisement performed by two voice actors.
#3: Slice of Life
“Slice of life” is a great sounding phrase for a very effective radio advertising technique.
How do you pull this off?
Show a real-life problem. Then give its solution.
Does it sound complex?
Worry not, it gets simple when we break this process into four stages.
Example 1: Advertising an Air Emergency Rescue Service.
Characters: Injured Lad, Hero, VOICE OVER
Someone is running along a tranquil forest trail. You hear soft thuds on the wet ground, chipping birds, and the unison of singing crickets & cicadas.
Our subject trips on a fallen branch and fractures his ankle. You hear his body smacking the ground. A cracking bone, perhaps followed by wailing or shouts of help.
Shortly, a fellow lad comes lopping along. He stops by the fallen chap and promises everything will be okay.
Injured Lad: But we are tens of miles from help.
Hero: I know a guy
Our Hero then dials a number.
A second later, we hear the roar of a copter’s engines as the metal bird swooshes over the dense canopy.
Hero/Injured lad (both shouting): Hurrah! Hurrah!
VOICE OVER: Through thick and thin, deserts or deep jungles, night or day. EMS, we go where you go.
Another way is to have two people having a normal conversation. It’s simple as:
Example 2: Get a Life
Jane: Get a life, Mary! You’re such a hermit.
Mary: But I ain’t got the time. I only work, eat, and sleep. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Jane: Life is for the living bestie. At least, I never eat lunch alone thanks to the Lunch Dating App.
Mary: Another dating app, gosh no!
Jane: It’s different. Well, it finds your perfect match and books the lunch date for you in mere minutes. Just the thing for busy hermits out there.
V.O: Get the Lunch Dating App from Google Play or App Store. Don’t have lunch alone.
And write your radio ad like a real conversation.
Now here is the truth about jingles.
They are as sticky as glue.
Once you hear a nice sung jingle, it becomes an incessant earworm.
It’s like having a broken radio playing the same song over and over. Only, you can’t turn it off because it is inside your head.
So as you wake up…jingle.
Brush your teeth...you’re humming the jingle.
Slump down after a long day at the job...jingle.
That’s why the jingle-announcer technique is popular. In this form, the announcer reads part of the copy. And usually at the end, the sung jingle is played.
Here is a terrific specimen that exemplifies this technique:
Corn Nuts Commercial—The Real Radio Jingle
#5. Customer interview (Person on the street)
Are you assaulted by hundreds of ads every day?
You see them everywhere: billboards, on TV, YouTube, Websites, on people’s clothing, etc.
Some people have grown immune to ads. Others don’t see them nor hear them. Inattention blindness.
So it’s really important as the radio ad writer to understand this.
How can your radio script break up the defenses built up by too much advertising?
Well, let the person on the street (someone who has engaged with the brand before) heap the praise. Let an actual person, not an actor testify about the product.
It could go pan out like this:
Radio Ad Example 3: Ramen Burger – Man on the street feature
Interviewer: Do you eat burgers?
Man: Yes, absolutely.
Interviewer: Ever tried the Ramen Burger?
Man: Yeah, many times. Best tasting burger of my life. I call it, the king of burgers.
Interviewer: Could you at will, share with our listeners where they can find this mouthful delight.
Man: Sure, just walk up to any Taco Day Food Truck. They’ll serve you up.
Interviewer: Folks. You heard it straight from the public’s mouth. Order today and get a special discount. Great tasting Ramen burgers at just $5.99. That’s 40% off! And bring a friend.
Writer’s Note: I’m unsure if a busy New Yorker can lend their precious time for the person on the street feature.
Good thing…this is just an example.
You can place a call to the customer. And inquire of them how the product has helped them for the better.
#6. Write a story
This can be a fictitious story pertaining to whatever you’re promoting. In your tale, let the product take the glory. Just remember to include these key components:
• Setting (time and place where the action is happening)
• Characters (Who is involved)
• Conflict & resolution
Someone can relay a personal experience. Here is an example:
Mistakes to avoid in your radio ad
Superheroes need villains.
For this reason…
Some mistakes can ruin your radio ads.
So, avoid these pitfalls:
#1. Making the ad about you (Babbling about yourself)
Does a listener care if your company makes payroll or not?
Get it from here, the populace has a myriad of problems on hand. Bulging cost of living. Inept politicians. Costly insurance premiums. Climate change. The human condition, in general.
So when afforded the opportunity to speak to people, address their realities.
Do ask: “I’m I part of the solution or is my radio advertisement indistinguishable from the typical advertisement fluff!”
I reckon businesses exist to solve problems, right?
#2. Being too technical (Too rational)
The apologetic truth about us humans is that most of the decisions we make don’t have a rational basis.
For instance, have you — when you ought to be striving towards a deadline,— done the opposite? Say, watching a TV series or movie. Lazing around. Going on a vacation.
Do you consume a lot of alkaline foods such as veggies? Or does your reptilian brain crave…
French fries cooked in beef tallow.
Cast your eye to the political arena, will you?
Do people elect candidates based on the quality of their manifesto?.
The point is:
In your radio ad, don’t lean heavily on the techspeak. Discuss fewer features and more benefits. Focus more on which problems the product solves, and how it makes the consumer feel.
I bet you’ve never seen a car advertisement, where they list:
- The engine’s specs.
- The size of the vehicle’s rims.
- The exhaust’s diameter.
It’s always grand statements like, “Our brand new model, opens the world.”
They might show you a fashion icon emerging from the car in dark gold-rim glasses.
Now I ask, is it rational to have fashion models advertising cars but not professional drivers?
Effective ads engage the irrational part of the brain. So, what is your ad speaking to? The rational mind or the reptilian brain?
#3. Not having a goal
The client might tell you:
“Champ, I want this ad to make my car washing business popular.”
Great, that’s a generic goal.
Tell them they need to be specific.
An informed client will say:
“I want to spend $500 on this ad and in return, I want to bring in $2,000 of new business.”
Now, we’re talking.
Have specific goals.
Another helpful thing you should learn is about the types of customers out there…We have:
- Potential customers
- Discount/price customers
- Loyal customers
- Impulsive customers
- Relationship buyers
- Value buyers – who want the most value
So who are you speaking to?
#4. Multiple messages
“We are a great family-owned and operated restaurant. Visit us at 340 Southside Ave for the best Chicken Parmigiana, Cheese Ravioli, Roasted Pork Lion, Veal Sicilian, Shrimp Fra Diavolo, Stuffed Mushrooms, Rice Balls. Etc. Etc.”
The lesson here, focus on one thing.
Something that the listeners are bound to remember.
With that, let’s jump to the last segment of this guide.
Tips on how to write great radio ads
Here is the part of the guide that gives you great tips.
They will make your radio ads effective.
So gear up:
#1. Write an award-winning script
You’ll need a great script. Can you write the best radio copy? Have you got it in you?
Safest way if you doubt your skills is to hire someone.
The radio ad writer should have a dash of talent, a flair with words, an imaginative mind, and a devotion to producing results.
You don’t want flowery prose. This ain’t poetry.
It’s not an imaginative piece. Read a novel later.
What you need are results.
And don’t be tight with your coffers. Spend coin on a valuable radio copywriter, it’s worth it.
“I’ll be writing the ad myself”
Well, that is the point of this whole guide.
And here are five more tips for you:
1. Study some of the greatest radio ads.
2. Write your ad incorporating the tips in this guide.
3. Rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite.
4. Be open to criticism. It’s leveled against your copy. Nothing personal.
5. Be patient. Your first words will not be gold.
#2. Keep it simple
You have 30 or 60 seconds.
So, there is no room for extraneous information.
Go in with your main message.
State the problem.
Show your solution.
And get out.
#3. Close like a champ
The last words…
Clearly, we remember them best.
Say a thousand things to me, and I’ll probably remember what you said last.
There is a lot of attention placed on the endings of TV ads especially. For instance, take this ending from AirTransat’s 30 second TV Ad, “AirTransat. Vacation is calling.”
Another Coca Cola Commercial ended, “Coca Cola. Drink up!”
A Nike ad closed with the words, “It is up to you.”
See, the end matters. So pour your heart into it.
“CloudRadio. Web radio matters.”
#4. Choose vivid image building words
How can you achieve this?
1) Use words with a sensory appeal. For instance, describe taste using words like creamy, delicious, flavorful, bitter, etc. For sight, use words like bright, dull, dim, colorful, etc.
2) Use figurative language – Figures of speech such as similes, metaphors, idioms, personifications, oxymoron, paradox, irony, etc.
3) Comparisons – you can compare two things to paint a clear image. For instance: “The apple is bigger than the strawberry but slightly smaller than a juicy mango.”
4) Concrete nouns – These are nouns that can be physically experienced through the five senses. You can see, touch, smell, taste, and hear them. The opposite is abstract nouns that can’t be perceived by the senses.
#5. Build rapport
Use the words “YOUR” and “YOU” as much as possible.
You might be coming from a formal writing background. Many people have been cautioned against using personal pronouns or “you” to refer to the reader.
But this is selling.
There is a human connection that needs to be established. So be relatable. Talk directly to your listeners.
Tell me, which sounds better & warm?
“You’ll save money on this deal.”
“Save money on this deal.”
#6. Motivate action
So how do you inspire listeners to do your bidding?
There are several ways to tackle this:
Appeal to emotions by creating an emotional response
Give someone a reason for doing what you’re asking
Get people to do what you want by appealing to their values. (morals, ethics, and so on)
Want to inspire change? Be the change first. For instance, does your brand donate a part of the profits it makes on each purchase towards a good cause? Read Toms Shoes inspiring approach to business.
Don’t ask for the moon. People will shy away from resource-intensive deeds. So, make it nearly effortless.
For instance, changing the world is a big undertaking. Just ask the listener to turn off the lights earlier than they do in the morning. That’s painless.
#7. Problem – Solution – Incentive – CTA
Here is a simple straightforward formula you can use.
State the problem:
“Are you struggling to find a nice apartment to buy in the city? Tired of dealing with unreliable agents, and paying through the nose for guided tours.”
Solution: “RentGuides allows you to access buildings for self-guided tours without appointments.”
CTA: “To begin your next search, register now at rentguides.com”
Incentive: “And did we mention it's free?”
#8. Introduction + say what you can do for me
“Hey, we are CloudRadio, and here is what our platform can do for you:
- Ensure that your radio stream is very reliable
- Simplify online radio management
- Cut down what you pay for your radio hosting
So go to CloudRadio.com.”
#9. It doesn’t hurt to make your listener, laugh
Have you shared a laugh with someone of late? How did it make you feel?
Connected, understood, warm?
Some ads are hits because they make the listener laugh.
Funny videos and clips also catch and sustain attention with ease.
And we like sharing laughter. If your ad makes someone laugh, they will want to spread the joy.
It'll brighten up someone’s day while still passing your message across.
Though there is a caution when it comes to humor. You can be drawn to just writing a funny ad instead of focusing on the core message.
#10. Name, problem, solution
Who are you?
“Hi, I’m Jerry McQueen, attorney at law.”
State the problem
“Have you been wrongfully discharged by your employer?”
“But Jerry, you might say, I didn’t read the 50-page contract agreement. How should I know if they wronged me?”
How you can help? What you’re selling?
“Do yourself a huge favor and let us discuss that in person.”
“It’s Jerry McQueen attorney at law, a strong shoulder you can stand on!”
How to write radio ads: Send off!
It was a great article to write.
Exhausting, but worth it.
Hopefully, you’ll take away some great tips and apply them to your radio ad copy.
Some of the tips to always remember; focus on the problem, offer the solution, and be relatable.
Be compassionate to your listeners. They should not be victims of bad advertising!
Internet radio at CloudRadio
Choose between two excellent options!