Subsection of: Copywriting Basics
Adapted from content excerpted from the American Express® OPEN Small Business Network

When you place a radio ad, you’re speaking to a captive audience – the listener has to take an action (actively change the station) to pass by your ad. Because listeners are often sitting alone (frequently in their cars), speak to them like your having a one-on-one conversation. Address them directly, and your message will get across.

Use these tips to learn more about what it takes to use radio successfully.

A good radio ad doesn’t differ greatly in structure from any other type of ad. Begin with a headline – in this case, a strong opening line that tells the listener what you’re going to tell them. Then tell them. Then finish by telling them what you’ve already told them. End your ad with a call to action – buy our product, read our magazine, call now, etc.

On radio, you need to keep your message simple and focused. Choose one theme and stick to it. Remember that it takes longer to say something out loud than it does read it. The average 30-second radio spot contains only about 70 words. Mention your company name at least three times in those 30 seconds.

Different radio stations require different types of ads. In his book “Guerrilla Advertising,” Jay Levinson identifies two basic types of stations. “Background” stations are on in the background and are typically music stations that are listened to passively. “Foreground” stations require active listening. They would include talk radio, all-news radio, call-in shows, and the like. Make your ad sensitive to the format to keep the listener’s attention – don’t use a “voice-only” ad on a music station; don’t put a country and western jingle on a classical music station; and don’t use a music-driven ad on talk radio.

You have two basic choices when it comes to creating a radio ad. You can provide a script and have it read by the announcer. Or you can provide a tape. If you choose the latter, have a professional announcer read the copy; and consider using background music or sound effects as a way of making the ad stand out.

If you’re using a script, consider placing your ads on the show of a well-known radio personality. By having the personality read your ad, it will sound like a testimonial. And make sure the personality is familiar with your product or service – send them a sample, if appropriate.

Repetition is very important in radio, because it takes several airings for the listener to become familiar with your name and product or service. Frequency helps you break through the clutter. Consider running your spots at the same time every day for a week. Take a week off and then run it for another week.

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