5 Elements in Creating a Great Radio Ad

The foundation of a great radio (ad) is really no different than what makes great advertising in any other medium. It starts with a brave, original, compelling idea converted to fantastic writing, story-telling, spun from undeniable human truth that really resonates and connects with people on an emotional level told simply.

The best radio can really only work in radio. The best radio ideas were made for radio. They harness the power of audio and bring the listener in so that the listener can really apply their own imagination to the experience.

These are the words of Chief Creative Officer of Arnold Worldwide and last year’s Radio Mercury Awards chief judge, Jim Elliot when asked. “What are the things they want to hear in a radio ad?”

Elliot and voice over artist Paul Guyet also created 2 videos to demonstrate what you DON’T want to hear in a radio ad… and the list goes:

Apart from the amusing and definitely insightful tips from Elliot on what not to do in a radio ad, we also break down the top elements you need to consider when creating a great radio ad.

What’s in it for me?

People care what a product does for them before they start caring how it works. They don’t care about problems that they are not experiencing, what they care about is quick, easy and better solutions to the problems they face now. Your ad must answer the listener’s question: WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? What is important to them is the benefits more than the features. It is not the HOW, but the WHAT that sells.

The Attention Grabber

The seven second rule. You only have seven seconds to make a good impression, to grab a listener’s attention, to make or break a relationship – and this “relationship” is with your potential consumer/client. But grabbing the consumer’s attention is challenging, because every advertisers are doing the same thing. If the radio ad does not stand out, it will be blocked or buried along with all the rest of the white noise. One way to make a good first impression and provoke the desire for further exploration from your listeners is to make sure that the most impactful aspect of your ad heard early on. Don’t let the seven second mark pass before you make your point.

The Offer

Your offer should be five things:

Relevant – how does it matter to your potential customer? You should be able to give them a reason why they need to pick up the phone or go to the store without thinking about any risks.

Compelling – does it have the “wow factor”? It is simply being able to capture their attention, and make them believe you have a great product or service that they would feel strongly about it as well.

Simple – is it complicated? Well, it shouldn’t be. You are appealing to the emotions first not logic, so it should not confuse the consumers that they need to stop and think about it too much. Thinking part comes later.

Distinct is it memorable? A “run of the mill” ad is as good as wasting money. Your product or service should offer something unique that it stands out not just against your direct competitors but also amongst other radio ads. It should be distinct not just in the benefits or offer but also in the creative approach.

And most important of all – TRUTHFUL. You cannot make an offer or claims that you can’t back up or afford to make.

The Delivery

How you deliver and who delivers your ad are also important elements in creating a great radio ad.

You have thirty seconds (at the most sixty seconds) to send your message across, so you need to make the most out of that short time. This doesn’t mean though that you cram everything in that it overwhelms your listener and they eventually block your message out. Articulation is the key. Having a word or phrase that has a strong impact can change the results of your ad dramatically.

Being a radio ad, sound is important. The use of sound elements can enhance your message, but can also destroy it when not done well. The use of sound should never be considered as an add-on to your concept, rather part of the creative process. In this way it becomes more of a benefit rather than a burden. Any sound element that distracts the listener from focusing on your offer is detrimental to getting positive results.

As with the sound elements and techniques used in the production of your ad, the voice over should also not distract the listener from focusing on the believability of your offer – but rather enhance it. A professional voice over radio commercial talent should be able to not just express the meaning of the words as they are strung together, but also express the message through non-verbal way. As they say, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it – from timing and pace, tone and inflection, and even the pauses can express a lot of emotions that can either appeal or repel your consumer.

Brand Identity

Lastly, you can’t be all things, yet mean nothing to everybody. When you look too much outside your business to see what works for others, you lose your sense of identity… you lose your authenticity. Staying true to your brand identity makes you believable and credible. This is your differentiator against all your competitions.


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