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(WIZARD) Shine Your Spotlight Of Words?


A radio commercial begins, Im Ronald Watersdown, and Im here to tell you about a very important opportunity that Im sure you wont want to miss. Its an incredible chance for you to....

What did those 29 words make you see in your mind?

Not much, right? But what about these?

Owl was neither wise nor old. She was a teenage assassin whose large, dark eyes said she was sleepy or depressed or bored. I was never really sure which.

Twenty-nine words. You saw 1) a momentary owl that became 2) a young female assassin with half-shut eyes, then 3) you considered the emotions she might feel, and 4) you wondered about the relationship between her and the narrator. All in just 29 words.

Perhaps youre thinking, Well, radio ads cant be as interesting as the opening lines of novels.

But why is that, do you suppose? Why couldnt a radio ad begin with 29 words about a teenage assassin?

Owl was neither wise nor old. She was a teenage assassin whose large, dark eyes said she was sleepy or depressed or bored. I was never really sure which. But her sister Procrastination was even harder to read. Procrastination ... the passive assassin of Opportunity. Silently killing, one day at a time ... Dont let Procrastination take what you love. Give yourself a new [name of product] today and feel on top of the world. Feel like you can fly. Feel like liquid springtime. Dont put it off. Procrastination will say wait. But what do you say?

The absence of a real product in this ad disallowed the inclusion of specifics, so we cant be sure it would bring in customers. But it would definitely hold the attention of listeners with a much tighter grip than the limp, wet hand of Ronald Watersdown.

A great big bright red...

English is a language built backwards. We speakers of English string together a list of modifiers before naming the thing we modify. In so doing, we expect our listeners to commit to memory that string of modifiers so they can later be applied to the thing we finally name. Im told the Romance languages have solved this problem with a much more friendly sentence structure: A rose, bright red and big.

A good ad is a series of vivid mental images projected onto the movie screen of imagination. Here are a few tips for writing opening lines that will flash and crackle in the mind with the smell of burnt electricity:

1. Name something easily seen.

2. Modify it only after you have named it.

3. Choose verbs that carry context. I said flash ... crackle ... burnt electricity, and you saw lightning even though I never used the word. You were engaged by the language, a willing participant in our co-creation of a vivid mental image.

4. Clarity first, creativity last. A few paragraphs ago I wrote, English is a language built backwards. We speakers of English.... My original line was, We speakers of this inverted tongue.... but I decided that was a little too clever. Inverted tongue is visual, yes, but its also potentially confusing.

Creativity that blurs clarity is pretentious.

Creativity that sharpens clarity is genius.

Words carry energy. What will you light with them?

Isaac Newton discovered that impact is mass times acceleration. How big is the idea in your mind? How quickly can you transfer it?

5. Shorter hits harder. Always hit hard.

Now that you know how to write an opening line that captures the listeners attention, theres one other thing you always need to do:

Convince the advertiser to give you a message worth delivering.

Bill Bernbach said it best: Advertising doesnt create a product advantage. It can only convey it. David Ogilvy learned this lesson the hard way: Can advertising foist an inferior product on the consumer? Bitter experience has taught me that it cannot. On those rare occasions when I have advertised products which consumer tests have found inferior to other products in the same field, the results have been disastrous.

An unsuccessful ad campaign is usually the result of an unsuccessful offer. Change the offer and youll change the result. Ive proven this more times than I can count.

Now go.

Find a message worth delivering.

Seduce the attention of your listeners.

Show them what youre offering.

Be sure they see it clearly.

Accept with grace the praise from your client for a job well done.

Roy H. Williams is president of Wizard of Ads Inc. E-mail:

(9/5/2013 4:38:30 PM)
E5BhLf Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic blog post.Thanks Again. Cool.

- NY
(7/19/2013 9:31:30 AM)
Right you are, Chris - again!

And yet, here is Roy - spilling the beans and giving away portions of the farm... for free.
The responses: "Well, I guess we could do a little of that if only we had a creative department that wasn't already busy typing the expected hype."

- Ronald T. Robinson
(7/19/2013 9:21:17 AM)
Ronald - you forgot that a mention of their Facebook page is NON-NEGOTIABLE! This is the most recent one that's been thrown my way, by the client. Worst part is, the Facebook page doesn't even name the client ... or the community! Irks me to no end, all the business sheeple who had some $300 one day seminar 'shepherd' lead them down the path that Facebook is the be all and end all of their existence.

- Chris Pollard
(7/19/2013 3:58:02 AM)
"But, Roy", the advertiser said facetiously. "Where are the three products and the demands to 'get on down here and make your best deal'. And the location. Damn, we can't leave out the location! And the phone number!?"

Indeed, the same thing is being said by the stations' GSM's, reps and probably the GM's.

No arguments, though, from the Creative Department. You know, the girl weeping uncontrollably and cowering in the back corner. Yes, the one with the skin disorder, sallow eyes and nervous twitches.

- Ronald T. Robinson

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