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Voice Over Script Considerations for Advertising and Radio Campaigns

Tara Parachuk | April 20, 2018

Radio scripts

As you begin on your script for radio, one of the first things to consider is how you are positioning your offer.

In the radio world, the ad ‘sell’ refers to the kind of approach that you’ll use to promote a product or service to the listeners of the radio station. The effectiveness of each type of radio commercial sell depends on the kind of product or service being advertised and the personality of the target audience. But that being said, there are three basic sells for radio advertising.

In this article

  1. 1. Soft Sell
  2. 2. Medium Sell
  3. 3. Hard Sell
  4. Ideal Length of a Radio Ad
  5. When a 15 Second Ad is Best
  6. Why You Should Consider a 30 Second Ad
  7. When 60 Second Radio Ads are Effective
  8. Guidelines for Radio Ad Voice Over Reading Speed
  9. Average Reading Speed
  10. Line Count
  11. Word Count
  12. The Number of Words in a 30 Second Script is Around 80 Words
  13. History of Advertising in Radio
  14. Even in the Digital Age, Radio Ads are Still Relevant

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1. Soft Sell

The soft sell approach is suggestive and persuasive without directly asking for the business. For instance, it presents the ask as more of an invitation than a direct order. It doesn’t push the listener but instead often appeals to intellect and emotions. These are the commercials that pull at your heartstrings, or are positioned to be informative and entertaining.

Musical selections used in commercials with a soft sell are generally pleasant, depending on the content of the script, and can be used to evoke a certain feeling from listeners. When it comes to the type of voice actor or vocal performance that’s best suited for a soft sell, a friendly, conversational tone works best, although authoritative reads can also be used.

If the target audience is made up of educated or older people, the soft sell method is a better option. This method is more subtle and refined, and it appeals to the mind and imagination of the listeners.

2. Medium Sell

A medium sell asks for the business, but not in a forceful or abrupt way. These commercials have a more upbeat, lively, and entertaining composition. Excitement, discovery and family themes permeate this category of sell. Music varies but is invariably fun. The medium sell often targets families, but it also reaches out to young adults and kids.

A medium sell may remind people of why they love a brand and sell new people on the feeling it brings. Voice over actors are often required to speak in a conversational and humorous manner in a medium sell. Remember that you’re talking to someone in a comfortable way but still asking for the business.

3. Hard Sell

The hard sell demands the audience’s business. Although not entirely pushy, this approach is assertive.

Also, unlike any of the other formats, the hard sell has a sense of urgency and is generally associated with limited-time offers. The music is upbeat (if not rocking!) and helps take the company’s pitch up another level.

Voice over actors who are reading an advertisement that’s a hard sell will incorporate hard-hitting vocal attributes, such as a tone of voice that’s gritty or booming, and always full of confidence.

Ideal Length of a Radio Ad

Most of the commercials aired on radio last for a duration of 15 seconds to 60 seconds. This amount of time allows the advertiser to make sure the intended message will be comfortably conveyed, but relatively quickly. Ideally, your radio ad message will grab the attention of the listener, but remain concise and easy to remember.

When a 15 Second Ad is Best

A 15-second radio commercial only allows the advertiser to provide very basic information about the business, such as the name of the business, its products or services, and contact details. This type of commercial is effective if the audience is already aware of the existence of the business, and they have probably even tried its products or services.

Why You Should Consider a 30 Second Ad

If the advertiser wants to include some sales flair in the commercial, the 30-second commercial is a good option. With 30 seconds, commercial scripts can be written in a more creative manner. They can be presented as monologues or conversations, and can include more details about the businesses they are promoting, such as: experience, the benefits of its products, and unique selling points.

When 60 Second Radio Ads are Effective

Most of the traditional radio ads are 60 second long, and offer enough time to do a complete sales pitch. This type of commercial is the preferred method for promoting a new product or service. The advertiser can make the commercial more compelling by introducing an engaging headline, identifying a problem, providing a solution, and offering dramatic assurance.

Guidelines for Radio Ad Voice Over Reading Speed

When writing a radio ad, many people wonder how many words they should use in a radio script, specifically, how many words they should have per second of air time.

Here is some information to help you find the idea radio script word count:

Average Reading Speed

  • Average person reads 3 words per second (range is 2 to 4)
  • Average person reads 88 words per half-minute (range is 60 to 120)
  • Average person reads 170 words per minute (range is 135 to 215)

Line Count

  • (12 point Arial, double-spaced, margin-to-margin)
  • Average 21 lines per page
  • Average number of lines per 30-second spot: 7.5
  • Average number of lines per 60-second spot: 15

Word Count

  • (12 point Arial, double-spaced, margin-to-margin)
  • Average words per line of text: 13 (range is 8 to 18)
  • Average words per page: 273 (range is 168 to 378)

The Number of Words in a 30 Second Script is Around 80 Words

Typically, advertising agencies are encouraged to limit their commercial copy (script) to 80 words or less in order to convey their message.

What are the benefits of having fewer words in a commercial?

  1. A more moderately paced voice-over
  2. More concise copy
  3. Higher percentage of listeners who retain your message

Take the key words that you want your listener to remember and form your copy around them. Be sure that each word is relevant to your script.

If you are stuck on crafting your script, check out some of the sample scripts and get inspired.

History of Advertising in Radio

Radio advertising has been a part of radio broadcasting since the beginning of the 20th century when radio became a recognized medium of communication. In those times, most radio stations were owned by businessmen, who used their stations to promote their own businesses.

Announcements that were aired to raise public awareness about business activities or products were essentially considered commercials, but these were not paid commercials.

The first paid radio ads were aired in the year 1922. Many people believe that the earliest radio commercial was the WEAF “toll broadcasting” program developed by AT&T. It was introduced in August 1922, and it offered businesses the opportunity to advertise their products and services by sponsoring radio programs. Real estate company Queensboro Corporation from New York became the first sponsor, and it paid a total of $100.00 for a 10-minute advertisement to promote the sale of Long Island apartments.

In the following years, radio commercials began to gain popularity in the US.

By the year 1930, almost 90% of all the radio stations in the country were broadcasting commercials, and they were able to generate enough revenue to support their operational costs.

Due to the increased demand for radio ads, radio stations began to pre-record commercials instead of presenting them live. This created lots of career opportunities for Americans who possessed voice talent as well as those who were skilled in writing radio commercial scripts.

Even in the Digital Age, Radio Ads are Still Relevant

While radio faces a lot of competition from other traditional advertising channels such as television and print, not to mention new media like the Internet and mobile ads, radio still remains a relevant channel for many advertisers.

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