Current Issue:

In the April 21 issue:
Cover Interview With
Cumulus Media's
Jon Pinch

Click here to subscribe to Radio Ink.

Radio Ink Writers

(COPYWRITING) Six Commercial Ruts


If your commercials sound like commercials, listeners will probably ignore them.

Here are some of the ruts we fall into, making our commercials sound like commercials:

1. We get it backwards. We start with the clients name before weve given the listener a reason to remember it. Or we initiate the call to action before theres a reason to respond.

-- Downtown Credit Union presents
-- At Crestline Jewelers, we dont just save you money
-- Save this Saturday the 25th!
-- One night only!
-- Jack Frost Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/Toyota/Isuzu/Hyundai/ Desoto/Studebaker, Pleasantvilles Number One dealer is changing all the rules
-- Stop everything and write down this number!

Remedy: Give the audience a reason to respond, and then give them a way to respond.

2. We use clichs, and speak in commercialese instead of having a one-to-one conversation with the listener.

Remedy: Scan for clichs and explain each in language people use.

Maybe your client does have a "friendly knowledgeable sales staff. Is there a more effective way to make that point? Tell a story about how a customers problem was solved, about how the specialized training theyve received will benefit the customer, or about the powerful guarantee the store offers to make sure the customer is completely satisfied.

3. We tack unrelated entertainment onto a spot, hoping to get the listeners attention. Spots that start with a joke, followed by a pitch disappoint the listener. Unrelated humor doesnt sell.

Be wary of stories where the name of another advertiser can be substituted. Attempts at humor that make fun of members of the target audience can be painful results-killing mistakes.

Remedy: Weave the entertainment and marketing together. Make the heroes of your story audience members who are empowered by the advertiser. If you poke fun, make the target someone your audience would poke fun at.

4. We announce commercials and subject the audience to bad acting.

Remedy: Direct your talent to talk with your audience, not at them. Engage their imaginations. Dont write beyond the capabilities of your available talent. Increase your talent pool.

5. We start jingles with the clients name.

Remedy: Create original music thats a song, not a slogan. At least save the client identification for later in the music.

6. We create spots that are predictable If you create a commercial that follows these patterns or myriad others, itll sound like a commercial and wont do as well as it would have if it didnt, but it will if it doesnt, so dont.

Remedy: Radio has the ability to sneak up on listeners and engage their interest.

Do the unexpected. Tell your audience something about themselves that they knew, but they didnt know that you knew, or cared about. Surprise them.

Start your stories in the middle. Throw away the first paragraph.

Use unexpected spokespersons or characters to tell your stories.
Use a variety of story forms non-commercial-like ways to tell stories to get results for your clients.

Create your commercial as if you were just recommending the
  advertiser to a friend.

Jeffrey Hedquist has had lots of practice digging himself out of ruts at Hedquist Productions, Inc. To get your very own free copy of Hedquists List of 217 Cliches, email me and Ill send them. Guaranteed to reduce commercial effectiveness.

Add a Comment


Send This Story To A Friend