Wizard of Ads
The Advertiser’s Dilemma
Much has been written in recent months about our desperate need for better radio ads. I shall say only a little about this subject, for there is little left to be said.
In his “Creative Fundamentals That Get Results” of May 25, Katz Media Group’s Bob McCurdy wrote, “Meticulous planning and strategy will not overcome weak creative, and, for too long, the effort to plan and ‘place’ the radio commercial has overshadowed the effort to ‘create’ the commercial.”
I agree with Bob’s observation completely. Radio people who are drawn toward the science of advertising often leave the art behind. Our reverence for numbers and measurements and statistics has caused us to act like every customer’s decisionmaking process is the same.
Bob went on share 14 “Creative Fundamentals.” I agree completely with 12 of the 14, but agree only partially with two of them:
2. Mention the advertiser’s name throughout.
6. ”Reveal” ads, which put off mentioning the advertiser’s name until 30-40 seconds into the commercial, do not perform well.
Bob, if you will allow me to add the words “during the early months of a radio campaign” to each of those fundamentals, I can agree with those two as well.
The reader may have noticed that I said, “early months,” as though a radio campaign should continue for years. This is because I do believe that a radio campaign should continue for years. Many of the clients for whom I write ads have been with me for nearly a quarter century, and considerably more than half my clients have been with me for longer than a decade. And each client I serve is on a chosen group of radio stations 52 weeks a year.
You can see, I’m sure, why I don’t have to “mention the advertiser’s name throughout.” When a local listener hears my client’s voice — a distinctive voice heard on no other ads in the marketplace — that listener knows immediately who is speaking. We don’t have to say the name of the company; the listener is saying it in his or her mind. For my client to mention the name of the company throughout the ad would only make us sound like everyone else:
“At Roy H. Williams Marketing, we believe in the Roy H. Williams Way. This is because Roy H. Williams has been writing successful radio ads for 35 years and the clients of Roy H. Williams appreciate the success that Roy delivers daily to their doors. Would you like to pay your ad writer according to the growth he brings your company? Call Roy H. Williams Marketing today and get started on radio the Roy H. Williams Way.”
“Ad-speak” is an irritating language. I do not advise that you learn it.
Bob also mentions that “reveal’ ads, which put off mentioning the advertiser’s name until late in the commercial, don’t perform well.
Although I’ve never met Bob McCurdy, the wisdom of his other 12 “Creative Fundamentals” leads me to believe that he would agree that a “reveal” ad can be spell-binding when the listener 1) instantly recognizes the advertiser’s voice and 2) knows that this voice always shares fascinating insights and perspectives.
Bob would agree, I’m sure, because Bob McCurdy is old enough to remember Paul Harvey.
Bob McCurdy’s 14 fundamentals are absolutely correct in the short term, but as a radio campaign evolves, the rules that guide it evolve, too.
“Physicists like to think that all you have to do is say, ‘These are the conditions. Now what happens next?’”
— Richard Feynman, winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics
Like physicists, ad writers like to believe that all we have to do is ask, “What does the customer want?” and an answer will be forthcoming. But in truth, what the customer wants is in a constant state of flux.
Have you ever gone shopping, only to come home with something entirely different from what you had planned to buy? Of course you have. We all have.
Decision is a destination, a tangible place of certainty, but the multiple paths that will take us there can be faint and foggy and damp. We are confronted by choices unanticipated. We find new information, unexpected options, possibilities we did not foresee. Simply stated, our buying motives can evolve from a tiger to a mouse to a llama to a rhino to a little pink pony in the space of a single hour.
Advanced Ad Writing begins with two realizations:
1. Most radio creative is focused on short-term business goals instead of long-term business growth. This is probably due to radio salespeople’s being focused on short-term sales goals, as opposed to recruiting long-term clients.
2. The listener is a moving target, and radio’s creative must move with the listener’s changing needs and expectations if we are not to fall out of step.
If you believe change is in the air, hang on tight.
The best is yet to come.
Roy H. Williams is president of Wizard of Ads Inc. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.