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| September 12, 2014

Al Herskovitz
H&H Communications


herskovitzwriterBRADENTON, FL — Like everything else in today’s world, language is changing, and language in radio commercials is changing with it.  New phrases and descriptive terms are popping up all over the place. Even a venerable old clothing retailer, Abercrombie & Fitch, is planning to drop its long-running identification and is reported to be working on a new logo yet to be revealed.  And are you familiar with “YP?”  This is the way the Yellow Pages is now labeling itself.  That big, fat, old  yellow book that used to materialize on your doorstep is all but gone.  It’s now a website where you tap in your desired category and a listing of choices appears for your specific area.  You can even download coupons.  A heavy national radio ad campaign is currently underway.

The term “trending” has popped out of the computer world and “doubling down”  has emerged from the current interest in that casino card game, Blackjack.  And neither of these is being used as a direct reference to its origin.

Yet many commercials, particularly those on local stations, seem to be stuck in the ways they have been making their sales points in the past.  Some of the spots I hear sound as if they were churned out of one of those old “fill-in-the-blanks/client’s-name-inserted here”  books that stations and ad agencies used 30 years ago.

I still hear restaurant commercials that proclaim their food is delicious.  Would they ever say it tastes terrible?  How about describing a house specialty in detail.  That could get the point across.

Car dealerships continue to shout their messages.  I assume they believe that the louder it gets, the more likely you are to buy your car there.  And how many of you know what MSRP stands for?  I know because I looked it up – Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price.  But offering cars at discounts below MSRP is not so special.  Car dealers have been doing that for years without the initials.

Drug and supplement makers are into the initial business also.  COPD; ED&BPH; Lo-T; ED and my particular favorite – OAB….Over Active Bladder.

It’s not clear why the use of letters instead of words has become so popular unless it is to give the product or service a certain technical or scientific legitimacy.

Another technique has caught my attention.  I call it “hedging” when, for example, a cleaning product “will clean virtually any stain.”  So if you pour an entire container of the stuff on the smudge and it is still there, the manufacturer or the retailer remains on safe ground.  After all the commercial did say “virtually.”  And here’s a beauty I heard this morning. “(Product X) will improve your (X) up to 38%!”   There are two winners in this one statement – “up to” and “38%.”  The former leaves the manufacturer plenty of room to hedge.  The latter is a mysterious number.  How did they come to that percentage?  What if it works  only “14.8%?”

All this twisting of the language in commercials as a safety net for the sponsor and station is causing me to have  OAB!


Al Herskovitz is president of H&H Communications and a TALKERS marketing consultant.  He can be emailed at: h-and-h@verizon.net.

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Category: Sales