Radio’s Happy 5-Second Future


(By Roy Williams) I’m experimenting with radio in a way that, for me, is new and different.

Many of those who understand what I’m doing don’t agree with the fundamental premise of my experiment. But that’s not what worries me.

I’m concerned about those who will agree with it and attempt it — and fail — and then blame me. I believe they’ll likely fail because they didn’t do it right.

Here’s what’s happening: I’m airing a 5-second ad every hour, 24 hours a day, for 365 days, on each station in a broadcast group in a major city. The result will be 51 percent reach (18+) with a weekly frequency of 10.4.

That’s right. One 5-second ad per hour, 24 hours a day, on each station in the group. You can run, but you can’t hide.

Here’s why I fear people who attempt this experiment will likely screw it up:

  1. They’ll buy too little frequency. “Well, I think a spot an hour is overkill, so I’m just going to buy a 5 frequency instead of a 10+ frequency each week.”
  2. They’ll rotate too few ads. I’ll be producing 12 new 5-second ads every six weeks. Consequently, even though I have a 10.4 frequency each week, the typical listener is likely hear 10 different ads, one time each.
  3. Their ads won’t say anything worth remembering. The key to success is to make a different, memorable statement in each 5-second ad. You can then open, or close, each ad with a single word that identifies the company. Only one or two ads in every series of 12 will feature the contact info of the company.

Here’s what I like about this plan:

  1. Reach is double what I used to get for the same money.
  2. Frequency is triple what I used to get for the same money.
  3. With a 10.4 weekly frequency, I can safely expect a listener to unconsciously “connect and combine” each of my brandable chunks, nuggets, and factoids to create a coherent mental image much bigger than the information in any single ad. In fact, I expect that within a few months a large percentage of my audience will be able to recite meaningful amounts of information about my client.
  4. The 5-second format — combined with 12 new ads in rotation every six weeks — allows me to dodge the audience burnout bullet.

What will happen if my experiment proves successful?

  1. I’ll finally have a way to help advertisers with small budgets in big cities. Give me a schedule of one spot per hour, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year on the smallest station in town, and it won’t be long before I’m on a second station, then a third.
  2. Get enough advertisers to do this, and radio will become happy again.

Even if you believe that “a unit is a unit, no matter the length,” you can’t argue with the fact that airing 24 5-second ads would mean only a two-minute commercial load per hour. This would mean that a listener tuning in to your station would be greeted by a commercial — instead of music — just once in every 30 visits to your dial position.

  1. Hell, make it 36 5-second ads per hour. I’m fairly certain your listeners would have an orgasm if your station carried only three minutes of ads per hour, and no ad was longer than five seconds.
  2. A station with four breaks of nine ads each would have rollicking, rock ’n’ roll stop sets of just 45 seconds each.

The weakness of this plan is that so few people know how to write awesome 5-second ads. But don’t worry. I’m putting together a training series.

Keep your eye on this column.

Roy H. Williams is president of Wizard of Ads Inc.


  1. We have been selling six second ads since 2013. And we’re selling more tens, as well. They are delivering great results, running 6x/day. In fact, I’ve never had this many clients (the ones using :06 and :10 ads) recommend my station to other businesses. Looking forward to learning how well the :05 ads deliver.


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