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Three Tips for a Radio Campaign Blockbuster

Find out what an unforgettable radio ad sounds like and use these three tips to make some noise of your own.

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Radio campaigns are standard fare for many entrepreneursnationwide. But do you know what turns a ho-hum radio concept intoa terrific ad and what makes for the most effective on-air copy andexecution? It takes more than amusing your audience-though thathelps.

"People don't mind being sold to, if you're goingto entertain them along the way," says copywriterextraordinaire Adam Chasnow of Goodby Silverstein & Partners inSan Francisco, whose work for Hollywood Video and Saturn, amongothers, has earned four coveted Radio-Mercury awards, including the$100,000 grand prize. Chasnow believes there's "a wall ofterrible radio advertising out there that's annoying tolisteners," and entrepreneurs often end up spending thousandsof dollars on ineffective campaigns. So to get the best resultsfrom your radio efforts, follow these three guidelines forcommercials that make listeners sit up and take notice:

1.Grab attention. Right from the start, a great spotshould grab and hold the listener's attention. Comedy is acommon technique. Says Chasnow, "It's easy to get peopleto stay tuned if you're going to make them laugh." Thoughnot all subject matter can be treated with knee-slapping comedy,your spot can include some degree of humor, be uplifting or atleast include a positive spin on your subject. With clever writing,the product itself can be the antidote to a comedic situation, forexample.

Many successful spots use sounds such as an unusual voice orcompelling music to get people's attention. But don't usemusic that blends in too thoroughly with the station'sprogramming. You want your spots to stand out, though not in ajarring way. The key is to understand your target audience and fityour musical choices to their preferences.

2.Keep them listening. The best radio spots make you wantto listen all the way through. For that, an audience must be ableto relate to the story. In other words, it has to ring true."There has to be a truth that relates the listener to theproduct or brand," says Chasnow.

If you really want listeners to hang in there with your radiocommercial, focus on a single message, and resist the temptation toinclude a laundry list of features. Listeners will also pay moreattention to your spot if it's part of a campaign. They'llassociate each new ad with the previous ones and listen for thelatest twist, helping to extend your brand message moresuccessfully than if you were to run unrelated spots.

The quality of your on-air talent is critical, too, although youdon't have to use a large cast. In fact, the 2003 Radio-Mercurygrand-prize-winning commercial, created by New York Cityadvertising agency DeVito/Verdi for the National ThoroughbredRacing Association, used just one voice for the body of the spot.It's entitled "Dinner Date," and the adept actorportrays a racetrack announcer who "calls" the low pointsof a bad date-from no reservations to a peck on the cheek-as if itwere a horse race. (Hear the spot at

3.Reward the audience. Radio isn't a direct-responsemedium, although some advertisers mistakenly use it that way. Whilemost listeners probably won't recall a telephone number at theend of a spot or a complicated call to action, what they willremember is how what's being advertised is going to make theirlives better. Just as the punch line at the end of a joke rewardsthe listener, your spot should close with a solid payoff-theresolution of a humorous situation or some final bit of informationthat helps listeners take advantage of what you offer.

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