Radio Advertising: Must Radio Commercials Be Entertaining?
by Dan O'Day
I've heard people say the goal of a radio commercial is to entertain people.
One would-be expert actually proclaimed, "A radio commercial must be entertaining, or it won't work."
Someone asked me: "So you're against entertainment in commercials?"
Absolutely not. I'm against entertainment (and anything else) that is irrelevant to the sales process.
The model that most people follow when radio advertising -- including most award-winning commercials -- is: "I'll do a little song & dance to entertain them, and then I'll try to sell them something."
And it used to work that way. 120 years ago, some guy would show up in a new town, set up his table, and launch into a juggling routine or a magic act.
A crowd would gather.
And then the entertainer would go to the back of his tent and the snake oil salesman would come out and deliver his finely crafted and well-rehearsed sales pitch.
They sold an awful lot of snake oil that way.
But that's not how it works with electronic media advertising in the 21st Century.
Remember, Advertising Is Mass Salesmanship.
Question for Radio Sales Managers:
Do you instruct your account executives to conduct sales calls by telling 27 jokes and then asking, "Do you want to buy some commercials?"
If you entertain in a commercial, the entertainment has to be inextricably woven around the sales message. You should not be able to remove the entertainment without removing the sales message itself.
That's a very easy and extremely effective test to apply to your commercial: "Is it possible to remove the entertaining elements without also removing the sales message?"
All too often, the answer is yes.
I've lost count of the number of award-winning commercials that won those awards because of their entertainment value…even though you could have replaced the product or service that was being advertised with practically any other product or service without touching the entertainment.
The good news is you don't need to understand how the different parts of the brain work. You don't need to learn pseudo-scientific jargon. All you need to understand is how radio advertising works. And it works like this:
1. Identify a desire that will be fulfilled or a problem that will be solved by your client's product or service.
Alka-Seltzer: "I can't believe I ate the whole thing."
(Have you ever had that problem?)
Federal Express: "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."
Those are common, real problems…and those two advertisers offered real solutions. Simply, clearly, and directly.
2. Show the consumer how you can fulfill his desire or solve her problem.
3. Deliver your message in a way that involves the listener.
4. Make sure your message is absolutely clear…with a single clear message.