Radio Advertising: How to Create Effective Radio Ads
Ever since radio first struck the airwaves, radio ads have been an immensely effective way of communicating a message to a mass audience.
While there have been occasional rumors that suggest radio advertising is on the decline in today’s digitally-dominated climate, the truth is that radio has never been a more relevant aspect of the media landscape. Between the podcast boom, algorithm-based audio streaming platforms, and the emergence of smart speakers, audio consumption is at an all-time high, and broadcast radio certainly hasn’t missed out on this wave of massive growth. In fact, a 2020 Nielsen survey found that “radio remains one of the centerpieces of the media universe, reaching 92% of U.S. adult listeners each week, more than any other platform.”
For brand strategists and creative producers looking to expand their breadth and disseminate their advertising to as many ears as possible, creating effective radio ads is the way to go. This article will lead you through the steps toward creating a captivating and memorable radio ad that will resonate with your target audience, as well as explore the best tactics for ensuring that it lands on enough ears enough times to become ingrained in consumers’ minds.
Listen up and let’s get started!
Radio Campaigns Have Been Revitalized in the Streaming Era
To start, it’s well worth noting that the concept of radio advertising is always evolving. For instance, the advent of music streaming services and niche podcasts have rendered the radio spot more relevant than ever.
From an advertiser’s perspective, an average 30 or 60-second radio ad offers a golden opportunity to tell a story, impact a listener on a visceral level, reinforce a brand’s identity and value, and usher forth a call to action.
Radio Ads in Podcasts
Podcasts have become a hugely popular platform for advertising efforts—and a multi-million dollar industry unto itself. Studies have shown that ads delivered in podcasts are effective. Not only are they believed to be less intrusive, at least “two-thirds of listeners aged 18 to 49 have acted on ads they heard in a podcast.” There are many different podcast ad formats to consider, many of which mirror the format of traditional radio spots.
Advertising on Streaming Platforms
Streaming platforms are helping to take the traditional radio advertising practice of reaching a targeted audience to the next level.
For instance, Spotify is using data points collected from users—including “where they’re located, what type of device they use, and their age”—to target podcast ads. The platform is dynamically inserting relevant ads into podcasts in real-time. The technology, which is being called Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI), gives Spotify Podcast Ads “the intimacy and quality of traditional ads with the precision and transparency of modern-day digital marketing.”
Similarly, Pandora Radio developed an Insights Lab to provide advertisers with data about its listeners that enables them to serve targeted ads tailored to listeners based on proven interests and behavior.
In short, audio ads—whether disseminated through radio broadcast or podcast—represent a magic moment for advertisers. When a story is told compellingly and succinctly, advertisers can benefit from one of the most resonant marketing mediums in history: audio.
7 Tips For Creating an Effective Radio Ad
The radio ads that tend to be the most effective stand out for their effortless charm—even when a great deal of effort went into producing them.
Great commercials are typically simple, direct, and honest, and the folks who write and produce them aren’t afraid to throw a little bit of themselves into the mix to provide a human element and enhance their staying power.
One significant benefit of telling your brand story through the medium of audio is the comparatively low production cost. Video commercials require lighting, cameras, and an assortment of equipment, while all that a radio ad needs to make an impact is strong writing that generates imagery in the audience’s imagination, and a compelling voice.
Here’s a rundown of some essential guidelines you ought to draw upon as you craft your radio ad:
1. Comedic Ads Can Really Win Over Audiences
A funny voice over can go a long way, but be sure to confirm that it aligns with your chosen theme. Creating comedic ads is an art, but it’s worth pursuing for the way that it creates a memorable experience for your target audience.
Just be aware that over the course of a long campaign, you may also want to tweak your message to keep it from going stale. A joke isn’t as funny the 30th time you’ve heard it.
Here’s a great example from Marmite, a British toast spread. It’s humorous enough to be memorable, but not so over-the-top that your audiences are annoyed.
2. Use Problem/Solution Structure in Your Script
You’ve only got a few precious seconds to convince listeners why they should care about your message. Opening your radio ad by establishing a problem, before countering it with a convenient solution to said problem, is a handy way to give your ad a narrative arc in a brief window of time.
3. Your Radio Ad Script Should Deal in Specifics, Not Generalities
The more focused and detailed your message is, the more you stand out.
For instance, a message like this one: Every car has great gas mileage, but only yours can cover 800 miles on a tank, enough to get you from here to Vegas and back tells your audience that you’re an authority on the subject, and gives them context that explains why your product or offering is special.
Be sure to zero in on your offer. Whatever it is, it must relate to the product being sold. This is not a time to be vague.
4. Avoid the Antiquated ‘Next 30 Callers’ Trap
This refers to a style of hard sell that was more prevalent in the past, but no longer rings true with listeners—so it’s probably best to avoid altogether. Your listeners may be driving or preoccupied with other tasks when your radio ad hits their ears, and they’ll naturally assume that they won’t be able to act quick enough to take advantage of what you’re offering.
That being said, punch the ending. Always end your radio spot with the content that you want your audience to remember most. If you do want them to take advantage of a promotion, consider announcing an offer code that they’ll be able to input online, by phone, or in person at your business.
5. Consistency Is Key
The most enduring ads are put out by companies with a distinguished brand identity that is consistent throughout all of their marketing channels. Ideally, a listener will be able to identify your brand solely based on the music, tone of voice, or sonic logo present in your ads. In the Best Audio Brands Report, brand engagement is shown to be “far stronger when audio is treated as an equal and essential aspect of the brand.” That means the audio design of each of your radio ads should be as consistent as your visual logo.
6. Capitalize on Trends, Changing Seasons, and Local Events When Possible
From leveraging nostalgia in your holiday ads, to back-to-school campaigns, Black Friday marketing strategies and more, seasonal events make for a great opportunity to craft unique radio ads. By tapping into a cultural moment with increased relevance to your audience, these time-sensitive ads can advertise specific seasonal products and appeal to customers at periods when they are known to be most likely to buy.
If you’re advertising on a local radio station, customize your message to best fit that specific region or community. In a Millward Brown study of voice over in advertising, it was found that “regional accents can add to enjoyment, especially when they are used in a playful manner,” but notes that this can have the opposite effect when handled insensitively: “since people tend to be proud of their accents, if the accent is over-exaggerated and clearly not genuine, it can annoy people from that region.” Learn more about when to use accents in advertising.
7. Open With a Catchy Hook and Go out With a Punchy CTA
In order for your radio ad to really capture your audience’s attention, you need to ensure you grab their attention in the first instant. Strategic Media underlines this necessity: “You have one chance to grab the listener, and one chance only. In radio advertising, we call this the hook.”
A surefire way to instantaneously captivate your audience is by kickstarting your radio ad script with a catchy hook that will cause them to become tuned in to what you’re saying. Your hook should be so irresistible that it bypasses all the other aural distractions vying for a listener’s attention in daily life.
After using a hook to reel your listener in, make sure to go out with a call to action that prompts them to follow up on the information the radio ad has imparted to them: whether that means a visit your website, visiting the physical store within a certain period to reap the benefits of a sale, etc.
Choosing the Right Voice Actor For Your Radio Ad Campaign
Have you been able to determine what kind of voice will best connect with your target audience? Seeking out the right voice actor is of great importance, since that voice will be the spokesperson for your company, and possibly the first human point of contact for many of your customers.
The attributes of your brand voice, in addition to the target demographic you’re trying to appeal to, will influence your choice of voice over actor.
Remember to put careful consideration into your desired voice age, accent, and style of delivery when selecting a voice. Write down what you know about your customers and select a voice that best reflects their demographic and meets their specific needs. Research has shown that most advertisers prefer to select a voice actor whose vocal style mirrors their target audience. Your audience may most respond to an inspirational performance, a confident tone of voice, or a more laid back delivery.
Tip: Here’s How to Cast Your Voice Over Project Like a Pro.
Here’s an example from Cadillac that features a male voice, in order to appeal to a male audience.
Interested in hearing some voice over demos and getting access to a vast selection of voice talent? Sign up for a free account on Voices.com, upload a portion of your script, and receive custom auditions from talented voice actors who can get the job done!
Measuring Your Radio Ad Reach and Frequency
Before you take your radio ad to air, you should establish targeted goals so that you can measure whether it is successful or not, as well as whether it is reaching the right ears. Are you measuring cost per lead, cost per order, or looking to boost website traffic?
One element of radio messaging that advertisers need to keep in mind is broadcast frequency. This refers to the number of times your ad is heard by the average person over the course of a week. The average person needs to hear an advertising message three times per week for it to be memorable. This is called the ‘Frequency of Three.’
For the greatest chance to have your ad hit the average listener’s ears three times in a week, you ought to schedule it for broadcast about three times a day (3 x 7 days in a week = 21 plays per week). The suggestion, then, is to adhere to a comprehensive 21/52 schedule: your radio ad broadcast 21 times per week, for each 52 weeks in a year. This equates to your ad being heard by the average listener roughly three times per week, which is the minimum requirement for the ad to have a lasting effect on your listeners.
9 Best Practices For Booking Your Radio Advertising Campaign
To get the most out of your next radio station buy, and maximize the mileage of your next radio ad campaign, keep these tips front and center:
1. On traditional radio, stick to prime time
Some radio stations may insist on spreading your commercials around the clock. They’ll dangle cheap slots in the wee hours of the night to offset the relatively higher costs of morning and afternoon-drive airings. These periods are referred to as ‘wide rotators,’ but it’s worth knowing that they aren’t always the most effective. Remember that you can ensure you will have a captive audience during certain periods, like the typical commute to and from work. If this is in fact when you know you want to reach your target audience, anything else may be a misuse of your resources.
2. Schedule your ad broadcasting with a perpetually connected audience in mind
While aiming for the prime time slots may occasionally make the most sense for your target audience, it is equally important to consider that your listeners may be tuning in to radio via smart speakers at home in the evening. If this is the case for your target audience, irregular hours that fall outside traditional commute times will work more to your advantage. Nowadays, more people are working from home than ever before, and listening to radio all throughout the day may be a habit that they have formed to help them feel connected with the world outside. A Nielsen study discovered that media consumption actually rises in times of disrupted routines, because “radio and on-air personalities present a connection to the real world that listeners gravitate toward and trust.”
3. Ask for bonus weight on your chosen radio station
Purchasing a certain number of spots over a given period of time can give advertisers leverage to ask for more. Make sure bonus spots air during times that meet your marketing requirements.
4. Consider mixing produced spots with local host endorsements
Some outlets allow local hosts to endorse advertisers’ products and services on air. This is particularly popular when it comes to podcast advertising.
The benefit of the host endorsement spot is that listeners are more likely to actually hear your brand’s spot because it’s being delivered to them mid-show. You can even look into arranging a deal where a radio or podcast host endorses your product as a segue that leads into your audio ad being played. Getting your brand or product endorsed mid-show in the morning or evening really does heighten your chances of listeners hearing about you.
Also, depending on the talent, this can be a powerful reinforcement of the brand’s value proposition, as listeners who may not otherwise be interested might very well tune in if their favorite host is a fan.
Study the on-air talent roster to better understand who might already be providing on-air endorsements.
5. If you use host endorsements, reach out often and make thoughtful gestures
Building relationships is crucial to establishing powerful campaigns. It heightens what would otherwise be a simple endorsement into a personal message that resonates even more strongly with listeners. It never hurts to be a fan and supporter of the show you’re advertising with.
6. Leverage promotional value
Look to the promotion department to expand the reach of a given campaign. Many stations and podcasts will add promotional consideration in exchange for providing value-in-kind products and services for giveaways, remotes, and other on-site and on-air activities. Negotiate larger multipliers. For example: advertiser provides $1,000 worth of product in exchange for $10,000 in promotional value by entering negotiations with a firm plan.
7. Treat online streaming as a bonus
Many radio stations will ask for additional payment for online streaming. Don’t pay for the privilege. Instead, ask for it as a bonus. Bandwidth is cheap, and unlike conventional ad slots, it doesn’t compete against other commercials for online airtime. Asking for it to be tossed in is an easy win.
8. Ask for interviews
If the podcast or radio show you’re advertising with is structured in a news-talk format, ask for interviews with the hosts. Not all hosts will bite—careful separation of editorial and advertising-based content often precludes such arrangements, while some show formats simply don’t have room for interviews—but it’s worth researching to see if it’s even an option.
9. Don’t reinvent the wheel
Ask for examples of similar advertisers’ successful campaigns, then work with your broadcast partners to replicate the formula. Keep in mind that different approaches may work differently for individual shows, stations, formats, and markets. Generally, broad understanding of what worked previously under similar circumstances can maximize the potential for a successful campaign.
Radio Advertising is a Relevant and Effective Method For Reaching a Wide, Attentive Audience
Ignore the buzz that asserts radio is on a downward spiral and risks being overtaken by all things digital. The truth is that the spheres of analog and digital media are intersecting more and more. An investment in radio can also be an investment into digital media channels. Though traditional broadcast radio is still important, the medium has done a wonderful job of adapting with the times by growing into online streaming options and more.
So, keep radio in mind when you’re weighing out your promotional channels! There’s no better way to directly connect with a captive audience that trusts and acts upon the vibrant information delivered to them through radio ads.