Friday, May 11, 2012

How to write a radio commercial that sings.

         Want to see a grown advertising writer cringe? Ask him to write a radio commercial. It's the one part of advertising that's the hardest to love.

         For one thing, it can be a lonely job. While everyone else is having the fun of working in teams, the radio writer is all by herself in her office, staring at the glow from the computer screen.

         For another, there's no glory in it. The Clios and Lions make heroes out of TV commercial creators. While there are awards for radio, too, nobody seems to know who wins, or why.

         Several years ago a want-ad in Advertising Age said, "Doyle Dane is looking for a radio writer". I called Judy Wald, the titan of New York advertising recruiters, and asked why. "Nobody wants to do radio," Judy said. "Do you want the job?" I said no, thank you.

         I've learned to love radio. I've made it my best friend. You can do things you just can't do on television --- for under a million dollars. Want to throw a frisbee from New York to New Delhi? Want to take a "fantastic voyage" through the bloodstream to show how an aspirin relieves a headache? Want to take a ride on a flying subway car to get a bird's eye view of traffic in Manhattan?

        Do it on the radio.

        Radio has long been called "the theater of the mind". It's a visual medium, with the pictures created in the listeners' heads.

       Soon after Doyle Dane ran that ad, they started assigning radio to teams of writers and art directors. The art directors to help create those situations and images in people's minds.

      Today there are radio production houses in New York and L.A. that create fabulous radio spots that some agencies still just can't do. I love radio. I have twice as long (60 seconds) to tell my story and can produce the spots economically from anywhere.

     The principles remain pretty much the same as TV. Keep it simple. Make one point and make it well. Help listeners "see" the benefit. And except perhaps in a crisis, don't do any wall-to-wall copy commercials. Tell a story based on emotion, but back it up with a fact.

     Mainly, remember it's the theater of the mind, and I've got a great seat up front, and I'm rooting for you.

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