RADIO ADVERTISING: Insider's Advice for Radio Copywriting

A copywriting tool from the earliest days of commercial radio.
A copywriting tool from the earliest days of commercial radio. | Source

Isn't radio copywriting like any other type of ad writing?

Answer: Only in having the same marketing goals, but not in copywriting method or style.

The advertiser's goals for all forms of advertising include: potential client/customer awareness, information and motivation. In theory, the best advertising (of any type) should include: interest-provoking awareness of the advertiser's product(s) or service(s) ... pertinent information about the advertiser's product(s) or service(s) ... and emotion-provoking motivation that encourages the potential client/customer to investigate and/or purchase the advertiser's product(s) or service(s).

Now, in reality, many advertisements fail to accomplish all three of these goals within the same advertising message. Some tiny percentage of advertisements don't include all three of these advertising goals on purpose, but in my experience, many advertisements are poorly-designed due to incompetent advertisement copy-writing (or poor advertiser communications, if you will). Sometimes, poor copy-writing and advertising content problems are caused by the advertiser's own inexperienced efforts, which may be understandable. But, the worst situation (to my mind) is when the advertiser is betrayed by a mediocre or amateur advertising copywriter or advertising sales representative. If the advertiser trusts the copywriter and/or sales representative to be knowledgeable and capable as "advertising experts", and the copywriter and/or advertising sales representative let the advertiser down, the advertiser is harmed by wasting money on useless advertising ... by delivering an unprofessional message to the public ... and ultimately, harming the advertiser's business and employees through a general weakening of the advertiser's financial health.

But if the advertiser insists on designing or writing a poor advertising message, and won't listen to the advertising copywriter's and/or sales representative's knowledgeable advice, then the advertiser has chosen his/her path. So, we will all wait to see how the advertising campaign turns out (and yes, my advertising instincts have been proven wrong on occasion, as has every experienced copywriter or salesperson).

As a radio advertising representative and part-time radio copywriter for over eleven years, I invest more time in evaluating radio, billboard, newspaper and television advertisements than most normal (non-advertising) people are likely to do. With college majors in English and psychology, many courses and seminars in advertising and business, and an entire career spent in insurance and radio broadcasting, I would like to think I have a better-than-average understanding of radio advertising, marketing and mass communications. So, although I'm not trying to write a comprehensive textbook on radio copy-writing and advertising, I do believe that I can offer a few key points of advice might help you - the businessperson or professional office manager - with your enterprise's radio advertising and copy-writing projects.

"Acme Meat Shoppe offers a wide variety of delicious animal proteins."
"Acme Meat Shoppe offers a wide variety of delicious animal proteins." | Source

A Terrible-but-True Radio Ad Example

Sometimes the best method to illustrate something is to provide a 'bad example', so I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing a real-life radio advertisement heard for years on numerous radio stations throughout southern Wisconsin. I should note that this real-life advertiser writes their own spots and insists on the southern Wisconsin radio stations using them without any alteration or improvement. This is the same simple radio advertising script, which I've altered slightly to protect the guilty:

" Here are the latest delicacies from Acme Meat Shoppes - that's right, here's our 'latest', most delectable cuts of meat ! Acme has fresh-cut beef thighs, pork legs and chicken ribs ! Our turkey ribs are delicious - try cooking them on the grill ! So visit the Acme Meat Shoppes, in five shopping centers throughout Southwest Wisconsin ! "

(The first and last sentences of their radio copy are always exactly the same, in their 15-second spots. Only the middle sentence(s) ever change, from script to script.)

There are numerous things I could critique about this barely fictional advertising script from Acme Meat Shoppes, but the weak appeals to motivate potential customers (especially in the first and last sentences) really stand out. Furthermore, the script uses about the same amount of air time to say, " ... in five shopping centers throughout Southwest Wisconsin ! ", as this copy-writer could have used to say, " ... in Darlington, Dodgeville, Fennimore, Monroe and Mount Horeb ! " The time consumed - in number of spoken syllables - is almost the same with either script's tagline (ending phrase). But, the second tagline (my suggested tagline, you might say) lists the precise five towns in which listeners can actually find an Acme Meat Shoppe.

REMEMBER: Simple carelessness in wording can lead to accidentally blunting your firm's advertising message!

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Comments 3 comments

jamiewood profile image

jamiewood 5 years ago from Brisbane Australia

Really insightful, i always say to potential advertisers, the radio ad should be 60% about your customer and 40% about you.

jeffduff profile image

jeffduff 6 years ago from Southwest Wisconsin Author


You are exactly right! "Theater of the Mind", etc.

Just as in your 'Grand Canyon filled with whipped cream' example ... another favorite of mine is 'astronaut on the Moon eating a Snickers candy bar'. Costs nothing to copywrite your Grand Canyon example or my Moon example, but imagine the cost of producing a television ad spot for either of our amazing advertising visuals! (CGI, claymation, animation - or whatever else - would be wickedly expensive.) For radio, practically nothing!

Guru-C profile image

Guru-C 6 years ago

What's wonderful about radio advertising is the opportunity to create an image in the listener's mind's eye and go beyond the constraints of visual media. The classic is "filling the Grand Canyon with whipped cream."

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