I assume an awesome responsibility each time I ask a Maine small business owner to buy advertising on a Portland radio station. When a local retailer or service provider hands over a check to pay for ads, I know its money they could have put in their kid’s college fund; contributed to charity; or given to their employees (or themselves) as a bonus. So, it is important to me to ensure every word, sound, and pause in their radio commercial will contribute to their campaign’s ultimate success.
Often, when business owners buy commercials, they want them to sound like, well, a commercial. Without guidance, these owners will want to utilize every comfortable trope, expression, and device used in every other commercial they have ever heard. This is why the same 3 mistakes get perpetuated in so many ads on the radio.
Mistake #1: Phones Numbers: A 60-second radio commercial consists of about 170 words. When a Maine business owner inserts a phone number into the ad, that use 7 words each time it is said. Say the number twice, the 14 precious words disappear. Some people might say the phone number has to be repeated three times, so that’s 21 words or 12% of the commercial consumed. But here’s the thing, no one is going to remember your phone number.
According to research published in the New York Times and the London Daily Telegraph, 9-out-of-10 people forget a phone number within 5 seconds of hearing it. The study goes on to reveal that 70% of people cannot remember their best friend’s phone number and 50% cannot remember their parents’ phone numbers
This inability to remember phone numbers is a result of a relatively new phenomenon called “digital amnesia.” It seems, as we become more reliant on personal technology to remember things like phone numbers for us, we employ our own memories less to preserve that type of information.
In other words, our brains have become hardwired to depend on our smartphones, tablets, and laptops to remember information and to find phone numbers. As a consequence, we no longer invest the cognitive resources necessary to store this information in our brains.
My advice: Hold the phone! Eliminate the 7 digits from your radio commercial and replace them with words that will compel listeners to buy your products or services.
Mistake #2: Cliches. “Fast and friendly service.” “Conveniently located.” “Knowledgeable sales staff. “For a limited time only.” “Free estimates.” “Acres of free parking.” “The best kept secret.” ‘We won’t be undersold.”
This is a partial list of cliches you will hear in commercials many times on Portland radio today. You will actually hear competing Maine business owners all making the same claims in ads they each paid good money for.
Dictionary.com defines a cliche as, “
Here are some examples of how ‘get’ was used in radio commercials I heard just today. I have also provided more powerful replacement words.
Health Club Commercial: “Get the body you want.” This could be made stronger: “Achieve the body….,” “Possess the body…,” or even “Build the body you want.”
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