Improve Your Copywriting And Production

Most‚ if not all‚ small to medium market radio stations don’t have the luxury of having a copywriter on staff. That means it is often the sales staff that must write commercial copy. Due to small budgets, that’s understandable.

But‚ is the copy that’s being written actually beneficial to the client? Are your salespeople coming back with notes from the client on what they want in their copy and then just plugging in those points into a cookie cutter commercial? Are your salespeople digging through their files and just pulling out an old piece of copy from ten years ago and making minor adjustments? Or, are they taking the time to write a quality commercial that will be a benefit to the client?

We all need to stand up for better radio‚ and that includes your salespeople. While the programming staff makes sure the music‚ DJs‚ liners and jingles sound good on the air‚ is anyone concerned about what is going on in your commercial breaks?

I have found that salespeople often accept poor radio copy just to make their clients happy. This‚ though‚ can actually hurt a client. Better copy and a quality commercial will be better for the client in the long run‚ because it will bring business into the store. It’s a proven fact that radio commercials are seen as a negative by most listeners‚ so why bombard them with poorly written and poorly produced commercials? You’re just asking for listener tune out. People will not hear that commercial and then your client will wonder why his/her advertising is not working.

Here are eight easy tips on how to improve the commercial copy on your radio station.

1. Try to avoid having clients record their own commercials. Sure, it’s an ego stroke for the client. They get to hear their voice on the air, and people tell them that they heard the commercial. Is it effective advertising, though? Sometimes it is. It helps if there is something unique or different about the client. Maybe the client has a unique accent that helps get the message across or has a different way of turning a phrase that can be humorous. Here's a horror story about client’s voicing their own commercials. At one station I worked at, this salesperson took a small, non-broadcast quality cassette recorder to his client so that the client could record his own commercial in his office on his own time. The finished product sounded awful. You could hear the rustling of the microphone as he read the copy. The client, with no direction, was reading-the-copy-just-like-a-school-kid-learning-to-read. There were no inflections and no energy. There are times where a client should and can record his/her own commercial, but if it’s only so that his/her ego gets stroked, that’s the wrong reason. People will say they heard the commercial, but chances are, they didn’t hear the message.

2. Avoid writing creative mutli-voiced conversational commercials if you don’t have the voice talent to get them produced correctly and effectively. These type of commercials have to be believable. Don’t just do them for the sake of doing them. How often do you hear a commercial with a married couple in it and the people recording it are the 40 year old receptionist and 17 year old night guy? Is it really believable? Often it is whoever is available that ends up recording the commercial. Production people often don’t take into account what the commercial should really sound like. Most radio people are not actors and shouldn’t attempt to portray them on the radio. When copy is written, consideration should made as to the talent available to record it.

3. When writing and producing creative multi-voiced conversational commercials, as a general rule, do not have the characters read the pertinent copy information like hours, location, etc. How many times have you had a conversation with a friend and said, “I bought my car at Joe’s Automotive at 313 North State Street where they're open everyday from 8 to 5.” If it is a conversational commercial, make sure your characters sound like they’re having a real world conversation. Have an announcer give the pertinent information in a tag at the end.

4. Never have one of your announcers or staff read a commercial in first person. The exception is if they are a paid spokesperson for the client. Your announcers have familiar voices and to record a commercial in first person makes it sound like they work for the client. If your star personality is endorsing a product or is a paid spokesperson, then he/she needs to identify that. For example, "This Sherry D for ABC Furniture..."

5. Avoid using the word “come,” like “come see their showroom today,” or “come in today.” That also gives the impression that the announcer is there (at the client’s). A suggestion is to use “visit,” like “visit their showroom today,” or “visit them today.”

6. Have your announcers pre read the copy. Write out pronunciations, even if it’s obvious. If it needs an explanation, then give one. Don’t assume they will know what you mean. If you want something read a certain way, make a notation or see the announcer and explain it personally. Some announcers just read what is placed in front of them and they don’t really think about what they are talking about (or selling). At one station on two different occasions with two different announcers who didn’t know each other (they didn’t work there at the same time), a simple word was mispronounced when just looking at the word in context would have corrected the problem. The commercial was for a phone book cover, and the copy read, “ you can protect your phone book with a bright new vinyl phone book cover that will keep it free of tears, stains and dirt.” The word “tears” was pronounced like the word that means the stuff that comes from your eyes when you cry and not like the word that means “rip.”

7. What about those dreaded phone numbers? Are they popping up in all your radio commercials? How many times have you heard the phone number rattled off just to fill up time. Most people don’t have a pad and pencil with them at all times to write the number down. Management and Sales Consultant BIG Mike McDaniel wrote a great article on this subject. Read the article, Just Because the Buyer Wants It. Doesn't Make It Right, below.

8. Are you falling into the habit of using a lot of commercial clichés in your copy? Let’s be creative and find a new way to say something that’s been said a thousand times. The one that really irritates me is, “...for all your (insert service or product here) needs...” Enjoy a good laugh and check out an article written by Dan O' Day about those awful clichés. Read the article at

Just remember that the client is not always right. We are the radio professionals and we know our business better than anyone else. We need to stand up for better radio and take the time and make the effort to get the job done right. Make the client’s advertising effective with a well written, quality produced radio commercial.

All the elements that make up a radio station need to sound good and that includes the commercials.



Just Because the Buyer Wants It. Doesn't Make It Right

Does your copy require listeners to carry pad and pencil?

Have we fallen into a trap of assuming people listen to the radio sitting at a desk with pen and pencil to write down telephone numbers and website addresses that are a part of a commercial? Listen to 15 commercials at random that were produced for a mom and pop business at any radio station. 50% or more will refer to a telephone number.

Ways of doing business die hard in advertising. Most retailers cut their teeth in advertising with print. Putting a telephone number in a print ad is a great idea. Print ads do not ask the reader to hunt up a pencil and paper, let alone have one at the ready.

So why do phone numbers end up in copy? Because the print-for-brains merchant tells the salesperson to put it there. That does not make it right, and calls for the salesperson to speak up. It takes guts to say, “I’ll be happy to put your telephone number in there, but there are few people I know who walk around with a pad and pencil. I can put your business name in there three more times in what it will take to say that phone number so anyone can understand it!”

The gutsy salesperson puts together a better commercial, with more name mentions and displays to the retailer a tiny bit of advertising savy. Something most “gotchur ad ready yet?” people don’t have.

The next time a customer tells you to put the phone number in, stand up for better radio. Suggest an alternative, or change the copy to say “Get a pencil ready because I am going to give you an important telephone number before this message is over.” Of course, if the listeners do what you say, they miss half of the ad looking for the dad-blamed pencil.
© 2000 Mike McDaniel (reprinted with permission)