How to Write a Great Radio Ad | Business Town

How to Write a Great Radio Ad


According to Nielsen Catalina Solutions, radio advertising delivers a bigger return on investment than any other form of advertising.

Did that sentence get your attention? If it did, it might be a great way to start a radio ad. It also happens to be true, according to the tabulators of the famous Nielsen ratings. Nielsen found that radio ads returned on average more than $6 for every $1 of investment among respondents to its survey, and one advertiser even managed to rake in more than $23 in sales for every dollar spent.

Radio is a viable and approachable medium for small businesses looking to promote themselves, but as with any advertisement, a radio ad will only be effective if it’s written and developed to fit the medium and target the right audience.

Here are some expert tips on how to write and produce a radio ad that will bring customers to your business.

30 Seconds to Make a Case

Most radio ads run only 30 seconds, which means they need to pack a lot of punch into a short period of time. Radio spots need to get to the point quickly while also nailing your key messages and leaving a lasting impression. Doing all of that in half a minute isn’t easy.

“Writing ad scripts that can effectively drive traffic to your website and convert ad viewers and listeners into customers is an art,” writes Marnie Grumbach, marketing communications strategist at Fluent IMC, a marketing agency based in Maine. “It’s also a challenge for even the most seasoned copywriters and advertising creative directors.”

But by following a few principles, business owners can create radio spots themselves that will have customers beating a path to their doors (or Websites). Here, experts weigh on how to write and produce a great radio ad.

Get to the Point

You don’t really have 30 seconds to get a listener’s attention. You might have more like two or three—just enough time to grab a listener before he or she flips to another station. That means you’ve got to say something compelling with the very first line.

“You want to get to the point as quickly as possible and in a way that will stick with your audience without annoying them,” says content writer Heidi Hecht. “If you treat it like an elevator pitch, you probably won’t go far wrong when writing a radio commercial.”

“Starting with a question helps grab the listeners’ attention,” says Bennie Smith Jr., manager of Brown Beans Consulting, LLC. Smith offers an example: “Do you have a massive amount of student loan debt and you feel there’s no way out? Well, call 1-800-HELP-ME …”

Make sure to keep sentences short and easy to understand, Grumbach writes: “There is no time for extra language. Write short, concise, easy-to-understand sentences. If you’re struggling with the length of your script, type your ad in 16-point Times New Roman, all caps, double-spaced. A half-page is about 30 seconds; a full page is about 60 seconds.”

Do Something Different

Lots of businesses advertise on the radio, and lots of radio ads sound the same. Yours shouldn’t sound too much like everybody else’s. Departures don’t have to be that radical—even a memorable voice can stick with potential customers longer than a standard pitch voice might. And while facts are important, one expert says that feelings might matter even more.

“You need to stand out from the crowd,” says Brandon Hoffman, director of digital marketing for KEA Advertising Inc., a New York-based advertising agency. “If your competitors zig, then you need to zag. Choose a unique voiceover actor with a memorable voice and engage the user by pulling them into your story line. Don’t tell people about what you’re selling. Make them feel it. Make them emotional. Let them sell themselves.”

Along those same lines, make sure the message you’re sending in your ad differentiates you from your competitors. Don’t just sell your product; sell what makes your product different from or better or more beneficial than everybody else’s.

“For example, if you are opening a new pizza shop, be sure to tell people about any special item that makes you unique or stand out,” says Kerry Potter, director of business development for WRCR AM 1700 in Pomona, NY. “Any radio station’s listening area could have a dozen or more pizza shops. Maybe yours is the only pizza place in town that offers a particular style of pizza or topping on your pizza. You can’t tell listeners everything about yourself and your business in 15-30 seconds and you shouldn’t feel compelled to do so. Pick what makes you and your business unique.”

Include a Clear Call to Action

After you’ve made your pitch, don’t forget to tell potential customers how they can actually procure your product or service, Smith says: “Always add a ‘call to action’ to make people visit a website or call a number or show up to a certain place at a certain time. The details of the commercial should highlight the important facts about the subject. Repeating the number, address or date will help the audience remember what is being promoted.”

Or, Grumbach says, if you’ve got everything together online, repeat your Website in your ad, and let your site do the rest: “Include your web address in the ad, and have your contact info easily accessible online. Make sure that the web address is the company name and easy to remember. If your custom URL is hard to say and spell, it’s going to be hard to remember. Rethink hyphens or clever spellings.”

Don’t Forget the Music

One final piece of advice comes from Ryan Allen, president of Trad Ventures, LLC, who issues a reminder that the music you use in your spot—if you choose to use it—can make your ad stand out as well.

“An often overlooked part of the radio ad process is sourcing quality background music and sound effects,” Allen says. “A very simple and cost-effective way to get quality audio, and ensure licensing compliance is through stock sites.  A good stock music site will make it simple to search using parameters like genre, mood and instrument, and will only carry high-quality music.”

Grabbing a Captive Audience

Most radio listeners are tuned in while in their cars. They’re a captive audience, but they have other stations at their fingertips. In order to catch them before they switch away from a commercial, you have to have a quick, compelling message followed by unique selling points and a clear call to action. But if you can put all of that together, radio can be a great catalyst for driving customers to your business.

About Bob Adams

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.