Radio advertising is still considered one of the most effective means of reaching large numbers of potential customers. So you may be asking yourself what's involved in radio commercial production?
Many radio commercials are produced by small independent companies which handle various types of creative audio and video services for businesses. A typical production company might provide voice-over talent and background music for radio and television shows, dialogue for language training programs, and narration for political campaign videos and business presentations.
Radio commercial production begins with good writing, in the form of a tightly scripted promotion for a product or service. A commercial writer knows to choose one concept or message about the product and focus on that concept throughout the commercial's length. Carefully chosen words evoke a response in the listener whether at home, at work, or driving. As good songs have attention-getting musical hooks, good radio commercials have verbal hooks, keeping the product or service memorable. The next time a listener needs that product or service, she's more likely to think of the company whose message she's heard on the radio -- even if she wasn't consciously listening when it was played.
The commercial writer usually prepares several scripts at a time, of varying lengths and themes. For instance, if the client is a tire company, one ad could focus on safety and reliability, another on prices and special deals. Besides an English version, studios may prepare scripts in Spanish, Mandarin and other languages, especially in cities with many radio stations broadcasting in those languages. A radio commercial can be as long as a minute or as brief as five "brought to you by" seconds.
Many radio commercials have background music, known as a sound bed. This adds to the commercial's appeal and memorability even on a subconscious level. Music may be composed by an in-house musician or obtained from another company. Some commercials still use jingles, brief catchy songs that the listener might find going through her head at odd moments. Children often repeat commercial jingles, in effect providing extra "air time" for the product.
Radio commercial production companies usually have a stable of vocal talent. The right voice actors for the commercial are chosen from a library of sample tapes. A single voice speaking directly to the listener can have a very intimate effect. Question-and-answer dialogues between two people are another familiar format, as are little comedic skits. You can still hear bits of old-style radio theater in these mini-plays. Some studios such as Dick Orkin's Radio Ranch actually still produce syndicated radio theater along with funny commercials. Voice actors usually record several scripts in one session.
It is also common to use popular radio personalities to endorse a specific product, service or message. You may have at one time or another heard your favorite radio DJ promote a business with their personal, positive experience. Radio advertising companies can use the power of celebrity endorsement to create trust and credibility among listeners.
Once the voice recording is complete, the producers get to work mixing the vocal tracks with the sound bed. Sound effects may be added to spice up the commercial and attract more attention. Since radio appeals to the mind's eye, a simple sound like that of a can of soda being opened or a baseball bat's distinctive "crack" can evoke appealing memories and sensory images.
A simpler type of radio commercial production involves a local company's founder or owner writing and recording her own message. This is still heard on local radio and even on some of the big-market stations. Many radio stations still produce these types of commercials in their own studios. Often without fancy audio effects or music, these ads appeal through personal warmth.
Ultimately, a lot goes into the radio commercial production process. As much as it is a science, it is also an art. It is highly recommended to work with a professional radio advertising agency that has the experience and proven track record for success to develop your radio commercial and insure its effectiveness.