What makes a good radio ad? The eternal question with infinite answers.
Is it an ad with a catchy jingle? One with a VO that commands your attention? Or just an ad that makes the phones ring and the website hits go up?
The real answer, of course, is completely subjective. But, there are some key common factors that need to be considered when making a radio ad.
Unlike radio’s cousin, television, we generally consume radio passively rather than actively. It’s on in the kitchen while making breakfast, in the car while driving to work or in your favourite lunch hangout. So, apart from where we schedule them, how can we ensure our client’s radio ads not only get heard, but influence a listener’s decision making?
The opening of a radio ad must have a hook that engages the listener and provokes a desire to know more. Whether it’s a sound effect, a piece of music, an offer, a statement or an engaging question – if the listener isn’t drawn in immediately then the remaining 25 seconds or so of the ad are largely redundant.
Example: Appliances Delivered ‘Check’
What’s in it for me?
The vast majority of radio ads are direct response, so, once the listener is hooked, they need to be compelled to take action. This is where simple, clear language is essential and the economy of words comes in to play. 30 seconds is, on average, just 90 words long, afterall!
The offer must be instantly understandable, the benefit must be obvious and the call to action must not be complicated.
Example: Workforce App
Using the medium
Ever watch a horror movie on mute? Do you ever surprise yourself when can remember the exact moment you first heard a particular song?
Sounds can trigger all sorts of emotions, memories and moods and can be a powerful tool when used correctly. Think of the McDonald’s audio logo (bah, bah, bah, bah, bah!), the music from the Guinness Christmas ad or even the simple sound of a match lighting up in the infamous Hamlet Cigar ads of the 80s.
As the cliché goes…‘radio is the theatre of the mind’.
A 2011 study, composed in the wine section of Centra, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, showed some startling results when 3 pieces of music (each belonging to a different country) were played on different days to see if consumer behaviour changed. Incredibly, when South American music was played, sales of Chilean wine were higher than those of Australia and France. When French music was played, French wine sales increased and the other 2 countries fell. And, you guessed it, when Australian music was played on the third day, Australian wine outsold the others also.
Example: ‘I am your Radio’
The lasting impression
None of the above amounts to much unless the listener believes what they are being told and trusts the brand. This is typically achieved through non-verbal means.
Does the VO sound professional and have they been cast correctly? Is the music cheap and nasty? Is the sound quality good? Is the ad irritating? Does the overall production and style of the ad reflect the personality of the brand in the best possible way?
All too often these considerations aren’t given enough thought and the negative impact can be hard to reverse. Get it right, however, and the results can seem effortless.
Example: Guinness Party Popper
So, does all of this really ad up to a good radio ad? With the right people, the answer is, of course, yes.
A good concept and script not only relies on a good copywriter, but on a clear and detailed brief from the client. A skilled director with knowledge and experience of the hundreds of VOs on offer. And, an audio producer/sound engineer who can bring the whole thing to life.