Four Years Later, We’re Still Wasting Clients’ Time


(By Rick Fink) I wrote on this topic nearly 4 years ago, but unfortunately, my words went unheeded. Therefore, allow me to stand on my soapbox for a minute and speak once again about something I am very passionate about, or should I say, very passionate against – using phone numbers in radio ads.

Is it happening on your stations? Regardless of what size market we drive through, while listening to the radio we still hear the dreaded seven-digit, or worse yet, ten-digit phone numbers. The ONLY thing that could possibly be an even bigger waste of breath is when we do the unthinkable and repeat the ten-digit phone number.

In recent weeks while driving to see clients, I went through small, medium, and even two major markets. I would guess that approximately 25-30% of the ads I heard included unmemorable seven and ten-digit phone numbers. Why?

I realize that the business owner is usually the one that says, “I need my phone number in the ad; that’s how people reach out to me”. As media reps, it’s our job to explain to them how our medium is used and instead show them a better way to use those seven, ten, or twenty words.

The listeners of your stations do not stand by with a pen in hand, waiting to write down a phone number from an ad they previously heard that may or may not air again in the next commercial break. It’s simply NOT how people listen to the radio. Do you have a pen and paper handy while listening?

If the message is strong enough and creates enough desire, the interested consumer will find them. Nine times out of ten they will google the business name or speak into their phone and simply say, “Call Joe’s Pizza”, “Central HVAC”, or “Sioux Auto Sales”.

There are only 5 scenarios when we should use phone numbers in radio ads:

  1. When the number is very easy to recall – For example (prefix) – 1-2-3-4 or (prefix) – 20-20 (I’m still skeptical)
  2. It’s said in a unique way that makes it very easy to recall – For example “541- twoooo – sixxxx….seven – eight”! (Still skeptical!!)
  3. A vanity number – For example 541–BEDS, or 1-800 – GOT JUNK
  4. Direct Response ads – The rule of thumb is to repeat the number 4-6 times.
  5. When a business doesn’t have a website or social page. (Shame on them)

Let’s make the world a better place and eliminate phone numbers in radio ads!

NEVER Stop Learning – Get Better Every Day!

Rick Fink from ENS Media can be reached at 605-310-2062 or at [email protected]. Read Rick’s Radio Ink archives here.


  1. I see our job as moving listeners to the point of saying, “I need to check that out,” and giving them something catchy to aid them in checking it out. If the business’s name is unique, that name alone is all people need to remember in order to “check them out,” by which I usually mean search for them online. Most clients listen when I tell them that they don’t need to put their phone number in the ad, but if they insist, I just do it and move on. Just keep the music catchy in the background. : )

  2. I fully agree about phone numbers in radio ads. I would also like to add one of my personal pet-peeves, that I still hear every day on some station or another, including many national ads! … that is, web site addresses that start with “www.”
    There is absolutely NO REASON to waste those ten syllables when giving someone’s website address. It is no longer 1998. The prefix for “World Wide Web” is a given these days.
    Simply saying: “Find them online at joes garage dot com” rather than “Find them online at double U double U double U dot joes garage dot com” leaves 2 to 3 extra seconds to say something more important about Joe and his garage.
    As with phone numbers, you should not repeat web addresses.

    • How many businesses have stupidly spelled business names and as such, impossible websites. One that comes to mind is Surely that’s got to be spelled out!


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