It’s almost too easy…picking on radio commercials, that is.
Commercials are the life-blood of radio. Without them, radio goes out of business, because they provide the bulk of the operating dollars for radio. If radio stations pay close attention to the quality of the commercials on their airwaves, they end up with listeners who listen longer because bad commercials aren’t forcing them to change stations. Good radio programmers and consultants have known this for a long time, and great consultants encourage their clients to pay attention to the quality of the ads on their air. One radio guru, Dan O’Day, is a leading advocate in recognizing bad commercials and replacing them with better ones.
If you do an internet search on dan o’day bad radio commercial generator, you’ll find a toy that Dan created to demonstrate how easy it is to fall into the cliches that haunt bad radio commercials. You should go and play with it if you have a little time to kill and a desire to laugh. Though if your company uses radio and you don’t have a great copywriter, the Bad Radio Commercial generator might make you cry. Often, the results sound suspiciously like the stuff that’s on the radio everywhere.
Commercials are a reality on broadcast radio and television, as that’s how broadcasters make all of the money that they use to run the station, pay the staff, and keep the lights on. But since many of the commercials that air are local buys, sold directly by a station salesperson, the station has the final say in what the local spots sounds like.
Why they would intentionally pollute their airwaves with pitiful excuses for writing and production is not hard to figure out. It’s really easy to write a really bad radio commercial, but it’s not too tough to write a good one. Radio managers just need to work a little harder on their local ads to reap big benefits in listenership.
A great example of a bad local commercial is often the local big volume car dealer. Somehow, at some point in history, all of the car dealers must have gotten together and agreed to yell at their target audience.
Do you like to be yelled at? Most of us don’t. Wonder why car dealers think they have to yell to get our attention? And I wonder why they think we’ll respond positively to all that yelling?
Delving deeper into that bad car commercial, you’ll probably hear a line like, “We’re Mr. Big Volume, and we’re going to be number one soon!” Why do we care? I don’t care if he’s #1 or #10…he hasn’t told me what he’s going to do for me.
Even deeper, you might hear something like, “We’ll do whatever it takes to get your business.” Again, why do we care? And the sly part of me might be thinking…”whatever it takes? What can I do to call that bluff?” Because we know that “whatever it takes” is not true, so now Mr. Big Volume has yelled at me, lied to me and told me what I can do for him.
Still no reason for me to go see him, is there? And look at all the money he’s spent to make me totally disinterested in buying a car from him.
When you think about the time and effort the station expended to produce a poor-quality product for their client, you quickly realize that no one got their money’s worth there, including the station. Sure, they got the client’s money for the schedule buy, but bad spots run off listeners, and if the client doesn’t get a good pay-off for their ad buy, they don’t come back either. Lose-lose-lose. Not smart.
With just a little bit of thought, the commercial could be very different. Drop the old-school car spot style and embrace a new paradigm. Reach out to your customer with a compelling, common-sense message about why that customer should consider trading with you. Make the focus the benefit for the customer, not for the dealership. Make the message clear, and for goodness sake, make it one message, not four or five. If the commercial is to be a 60 second spot, only write 45 to 50 seconds of copy, so the voice talent can have a chance to really create a bond with your customer.
There are a lot more ways to make a good spot great, but for now, maybe radio creative departments might just want to focus on how to make their bad spots good.
That should keep them busy for a while!