Get Those Commercials Right


(By Bob McCurdy) I recently worked with an owner of several auto dealerships to refine his radio commercials. We often talk about seguing from vendor to valued partner and this is one way to do it. Everything else about the campaign can be on target, the offer, station, and daypart selection, but if the commercials are not “right,” the campaign will under-perform and leave dollars on the table.

This is something each of us can do for any/all of our clients if we evaluate their creative by asking ourselves the following questions:

  1. Is there consistency of voice, music, or audio logo across both radio and media-mix campaigns? The listener should be able to tell immediately who the advertiser is rather than starting from ground zero with each new campaign.
  2. Is the advertiser mentioned throughout the commercial, especially during the early months of a campaign? Note that the need for constant name reinforcement can decrease as the number of months of consistent audio messaging increases.
  3. Are there unnecessary words? Master the art of reduction, making the ad as long as necessary but as short as possible. The length of a commercial has little to do with its success just as the length of a song has little to do with whether it is a hit or not.
  4. Is the commercial spoken in a conversational tone and not too fast? The number of words in a commercial has nothing to do with its impact.
  5. Unless the copy is world class, avoid “reveal” ads, which put off mentioning the advertiser’s name until deep within the commercial, particularly during the early months of a campaign. Once the advertiser’s audio elements are thoroughly ingrained and the copy truly compelling, this approach could be effective.
  6. Does the commercial’s pace and tone vary? Alter the “rhythm.” You don’t want the spot to become “white noise.”
  7. Does it sound the way people actually talk? In broken sentences? Awkward wording captures attention.
  8. Is there an emotional hook? Some kind of storyline? Stories, not facts, generate emotion.
  9. Try to avoid voices made for radio. They blend in and are easier to ignore.
  10. Is there a certain degree of edginess? Is the commercial too “safe,” too bland to command attention?
  11. Humor is not easy. Make sure it is actually funny.
  12. Does the commercial start/end strong, grabbing the listener’s attention at both ends? If not, figure out a way to make this happen.

I evaluated this client’s copy based upon these dozen guidelines and suggested:

–  Doubling the number of advertiser mentions: Each commercial contained considerable periods of time that was devoid of any advertiser identification (yellow). I used Excel to illustrate this (advertiser name mentions denoted by “Xs”).


–  Focus on fewer key points. The color-coding of the five different USPs in commercial #1 below enabled  me to highlight the need for “focus”


–  A second of silence at the beginning and the end of the commercial to provide audio “distance” from the commercials that precede and follow. Silence is “contrast” on the radio and contrast commands attention.

–  Read the tag at same pace as the rest of the commercial, if not, listeners’ BS antennae go up, effectively negating all that came before.
–  Slow it down
–  Utilize connective audio “tissue” in terms of voice, tag, music that immediately identifies the advertiser—I’m still working on this.

Finally, I am quantifying, via Media Monitors and Miller Kaplan, the media landscape in which this dealer competes by identifying their share-of-voice, as well as creating a reel of TV and radio commercials to better understand and evaluate the competition’s offers, creative style, and taglines. This will provide insight that will prove valuable on a number of different levels moving forward.

We all can’t be creative masters like Roy Williams but that doesn’t mean we don’t try. With some additional effort, and with the above guidelines firmly in mind, we can provide valuable direction to enhance the impact of our client’s ad campaigns.  (BTW, my thanks to Roy for his input a while back on number two and number five.)

Bob McCurdy is The Vice President of Sales for The Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. “Comprehension” is such a necessary and useful capacity. Not everyone has access. Anonymous trolls are always suspect.

  2. Very well done, Bob. Copy/production departments across the fruited plain will be copied this item today.
    You see, Ronnie, articles like this can assist the industry as opposed to your ego-trip Webster’s Dictionary tirades that contain nothing useful. Even your comment below has it’s sneering, condescending swipe. At the end of your diatribes, read it and ask, “Is there anything useful contained within?” If not, delete.

  3. All terrific points, Bob.
    Leaning on the experiences of Roy “The Wiz” has merit, as well.
    However, if one were to wander into the creative departments of too many stations, they would find a storage area full of old desks, janitorial supplies and a bent, broken individual with a 15 year-old computer – hacking the hype – completely unaware of their desperate need for a personal deodorant stick.
    Radio, generally, has no desire for or appreciation of the need to follow or implement the strategies you urge.
    As it applies to many of radio’s leadership, the Zen Master has said: “You can lead a horse to water. But, you can’t make it write checks.”


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