Getting Results From Radio Ads

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As a direct response radio consultant, I applaud the growing number of Web advertisers who take advantage of the medium. Internet marketers obviously recognize its cost-efficiency, mobility and personalization.

However, as a person who has overseen several dozen direct response radio efforts over the past several years, I question how you can get sufficient results. Overall, Web marketers seem to violate basic principles of direct response copywriting. It is likely that many Web marketers have scratched their heads following a recent radio effort saying, "I spent all that money for those few responses."

The disregard for simple results-oriented radio copy is almost nonstop. Take the electronics Web site that mentions its address only twice during a 60-second spot and not even consecutively. This same ad paints an amusing scenario with humorous dialogue yet does not emphasize any unique values available on its site. On the other hand, a major job-hunting site repeats its address quite often. Unfortunately, it is nearly drowned out each time by annoying country music. Note: Jingles should be mutually exclusive of direct-response radio copy.

Then, there is the major local telephone carrier promoting its high-speed Internet access at a competitive price. Unfortunately, the Web site and complicated toll-free number each are mentioned only once and 40 seconds into a one-minute ad. A friend mentioned the ad and his desire to purchase the service but could not recall the company or how to contact them.

Friends, don't let this happen to you.

Understand that direct-response radio is more science than art. Many Web marketers appear to be taking the advice of talented ad professionals who have histories of success with branding and image advertising. Unfortunately, many of these agencies have never tried to get a radio listener to dial a toll-free number. Now that we are in the era of e-commerce, this task is exactly what your ad experts need to do.

Here is a checklist for selling goods and services direct by radio. Ask yourself if your radio spot aces this exam:

* Keep it simple. The more overproduced an ad is, the lower sense of urgency it creates. Unless they create a unique selling position, avoid dialogs and unnecessary sound effects and do not overuse music. Stay away from cute story lines and amusing tales of irony. You have 60 seconds and no visuals -- portray the listener's problem, describe the Web site's benefit and why yours is the best site out there. Male-read, single-person scripts still pull better than any other method.

* Repeat the call-to-action. A typical direct-response radio spot might read, "Have your credit card ready and call 800/555-1111. That's 800/555-1111. Call in the next 30 minutes and save an additional 20 percent. That's right. You get the entire package for only $20. Order now. 800/555-1111. That's 800/555-1111." Rarely do we get this sense of urgency, clarity or motivation from radio ads for Web sites.

Mention the address three to four times in the closing 15 seconds of a spot in addition to other mentions throughout the spot.

Make sure you say the address slowly or spell it out; the listener may not be as smart as you are. The last 15 seconds of your ad do not have to sound like a Ginsu Knife ad -- not that that model failed anyone, but they do need to leave listeners with the confidence of having found their "magic bullet."

* "But wait, there's more." Direct response companies use premiums, giveaways and time-sensitive discounts. You should do the same. Have the listener click on a "radio-only" button to redeem a coupon. Have first-time users buy $20 in merchandise free. Include a special value product with the first order. In other words, demonstrate the value of not using the next guy's site.

* Radio listeners are individuals. Every radio station targets a specific demographic. On-air personalities succeed by speaking to listeners with a one-to-one sense of intimacy.

Unlike television, radio listeners perceive radio as specifically for them, not the group they fall into. If you chose to have the local personality do a read for you, work with the personality or the producer to determine how best to incorporate schtick into your message.

I must applaud two recent examples I heard that fit this criteria. I suspect they succeeded because of it.

The first company is An authoritative male voice-over repeated the address throughout the copy. No music, just a constant explanation of the site's benefits, including two mentions of credible big-name endorsers. A just-the-facts-ma'am approach. The second is This site had a clear offer, recognizable voice, simple copy and repetition of the address. But last week, when I heard a spot saying I can soon buy gasoline at the site, I knew it understood radio. Oh, did I mention I was in my car at the time and had just finished paying $1.83 per gallon?

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