By Jim Conlan, January, 2007

Almost everyone I’ve heard from lately - advertisers, agency people, producers, even voice talent - have been talking about how a lot of radio stations are pushing 30-second spots over 60’s.  Most of these people - but not all - have a problem with this policy.

              Since Radio Works has been creating 30-second spots for 20 years, we understand their value.  In many cases, we’ve even recommended 30’s over 60’s.  That said, I believe that the force-feeding of 30’s is doing many advertisers no good.


              When are 30’s not a good choice?  When they’re not written and produced correctly.  Which is most of the time.  Because creating a 30-second message involves more than writing half as much copy as a 60.

              Sure, there are lots of times, especially in retail advertising, when 60 seconds doesn’t really communicate more information than 30.  In fact, we often wish we could hear less!  But, with the proliferation of 30’s in the commercial breaks, the traditional approach to radio advertising won’t do much to help the listener either with retention of the message - or preference for the advertiser.  Effective 30-second radio commercials require effective techniques - from strategy, to copy, to casting, to execution.


              Think about it.  The average commercial break has up to twice as many messages as before.  Given the bad writing, the boring production, and the lack of invention most radio commercials exhibit, how is any one of them going to stand out?  Basically, the typical advertiser is gambling (often tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars) that enough prospects are in the market for what they’re selling, at the exact moment they hear the message, that they’ll act on it right away.


              It’s no wonder that radio stations are pushing the old “frequency” argument harder than ever: if you’re on often enough, people will hear you.  I guess the implication is that it doesn’t matter how bad your advertising is, as long as people hear it a

lot. Well, this argument may be fine for advertisers with large budgets.  For some of them, frequency really does work.

               But where does that leave the smaller advertiser?  Pretty much out of the game.  Check it out for yourself: are you noticing how large retail advertisers and auto dealers are dominating local radio lately?  In fact, radio advertising has become a game for the wealthy. A game that smaller advertisers simply can’t afford to play.


              Let’s go back to what I was saying about doing effective 30-second commercials.  We at Radio Works have always maintained that a really outstanding commercial can substantially reduce the amount of frequency needed for a return on advertising investment.  We still believe it… even when the investment itself is higher than ever.

              In fact, I maintain that a well-conceived, well-executed radio advertising campaign is the most important part of the advertiser’s investment.  And, by the way, usually the smallest part of the advertiser’s investment.

              If that’s true… it implies that, by abandoning radio, many small advertisers are missing an opportunity to reach their market.


              Like the old Mental Health commercials used to say, “Get help.  If you don’t get it here, get it somewhere.”  By “here,” of course, I mean Radio Works.  But there are many other fine professional companies and individuals who know a thing or two about doing radio commercials.  Find one and let them help you.

              The most important thing is to develop a plan that makes you stand out from all the other advertisers.  That requires more than shouting.  It requires a strategy that helps your prospect understand that you know them well.  You know both what they want and what they need.  And you know how to talk to them so that they’re ready to buy today, tomorrow, next week, or even next year.

              That’s an approach that goes way beyond frequency, way beyond any time constraints, and way beyond any argument about how long or short your commercial should be.

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