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Remember the Commercial

| August 18, 2015

Al Herskovitz
H&H Communications


herskovitzwriterBRADENTON, Fla. — Here are two interesting lines I recently heard in a couple of produced and pre-recorded commercials.  From a law firm’s spot: “so get your head out of your apps….” From a seafood restaurant’s ad: “…and you’ll get a shipload of shrimp.”  If you’re not listening super closely to your radio, what exactly did you think was being said?  Try saying these lines out loud.

What were these commercials attempting to do?  Shock you into paying attention?  Certainly as time passes, language use changes, and with the advent of so many audio and video sources of entertainment and information that are not governed by FCC rules, it appears that anything may be spoken aloud on the air.  And the aforementioned two phrases intentionally appear to skirt along the edge of the allowable.

These examples are illustrations of the many reasons why making the sale does not complete the salesperson’s responsibility to the advertiser, particularly on the local direct level.  As I regularly scan the dial I hear numerous local commercials that clearly are direct sales without the buffer of even an advertising agency.  It’s just the program host, the newscaster, the traffic reporter, the weathercaster racing through the copy (prepared in-house), trying to get it all in within 60 or 30 seconds — sometimes even in less time, if there was an accident on Main Street causing the re-routing of traffic or heavy rains in one part of the listening area and not in an other and a network break is coming up.

This high-speed, vocal chase doesn’t do anybody any good, particularly if the live commercial promotes a phone number, website, e-mail address or all of the above.  The concept of “local live reads” is a good one with the advantage being one of personal endorsement of the product or service.  But galloping through the text gives the impression that the reader really doesn’t care, but is just playing beat-the-clock.  The question is, why?
Of course, if the broadcaster is restricted to two minutes to get through one of those reports, plus the commercial, there is a clear dilemma.

Some of the blame can even belong to the advertiser who is trying to jam in as much information as possible within the allotted time.  Here’s where the sales rep should step in as a consultant to his/her client.  It’s a simple fact that people do not listen to the radio with their ears attached to the speaker system, even with earplugs.  And it’s challenging to write down a phone number when you’re jogging!

Here’s a simple solution.  Suggest that more than one commercial be prepared that divides up the selling points, particularly if the phone number or physical location are vital.  Then alternate the commercials on the air.
Eliminate the cliches from the copy: “Plenty of free parking” or “Open nightly till nine.”  If whatever is being offered is desirable, then finding a space to park will not be a deterrent.

The keys to good live copy are finding the most important advantages, hammering away at them in simple, understandable terms and delivering the message in an enthusiastic and sincere manner.  So often I hear local talk hosts presenting the live commercial as a bothersome itch getting in the way of the more important comments that they want to offer.

Once again, it’s the salesperson’s obligation to chat with the program host and encourage him/her to remember that there wouldn’t be any program at all if it weren’t for successful commercials.


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

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Category: Sales