Orbell Communications

Communicating Your Message

Guest author: John Calvert – Revealed: 11 of the most common mistakes made in Radio Adverts

Posted by jorbell on December 1, 2008

John Calvert is Managing Director of Airforce: One of the UK’s most prominent names in Radio Commercial Production. Here he reveals how your business may inadvertantly be throwing thousands of pounds down the drain by adopting poorly-constructed Radio Adverts.

(see Guest Author section for biography)

With revenues approaching the £600 million mark, Radio Advertising is proving to be an extremely popular advertising medium. However, not all the businesses who advertise on the radio will enjoy success with the medium. This could be down to a number of reasons, however a key point in the failure of a radio advertising campaign may well be down to the commercial itself.

Businesses often pay handsomely to broadcast their radio commercials. However, many commercials are inadvertently sending out the wrong messages. The result ? Confused and irritated listeners. For the advertisers: Vast amounts of money wasted.

In times when local and regional radio advertisers need to make every second (and penny) count in their radio advertising, it is vital we get back to basics and indentify the small things that could cause radio advertisers big problems.

Communication is all about creating the right response in the mind of the radio listener, so here are a few of the things that can make a radio advertising campaign fail.


We’ve all heard lines like: “Thinking about buying double glazing ?” Or “Will you be coming to the big car sale this weekend ?” Or “Need new carpets ?”.

If your listener answers “Yes”, you stand a chance of converting them. If your listener answers “No”, it’s unlikely the remainder of your commercial will be not be listened to. And because it’s likely more people will subconsciously answer “No” than “Yes”, the money you spent getting the commercial produced and broadcast will be wasted.

Another commonly-used statement in advertising is the phrase “Why not…?”
“Why not come to the furniture sale..?”, “Why not treat yourself”. The line may appear to be suggestive and helpful, but actually on closer examination these sentences are leading the mind in the wrong direction.

Question “Why not come to the furniture sale ?”
Answer: “Because I’m busy”. Or “I don’t need any more furniture”

Question: “Why not treat yourself ?”
Answer: “I can’t afford it”.

Phrases like “Why Not”, “Why go anywhere else ?” and “What’s stopping you ?” simply bring to mind all the things that remind folks why they shouldn’t be buying a particular product or service. The result ? Businesses spending a ton of money inadvertently inviting listeners to think of a reason for why they shouldn’t buy their products or services.

Oh, and what about this cracker of a line: “You’d be mad to miss these special offers”. The ‘You’d be mad….’ phrase is such a commonly-used line in advertising. Yet telling your audience they are one wave short of a shipwreck is not a good way of winning their hearts.


I am noticing a trend where many advertisers want to talk about ‘recession-busting offers and deals’ in their commercials. Again, care should be taken here. Reminding your audience about recessions and the like only re-enforces their belief that perhaps they should not be spending their money. If listeners are reminded of that fact, they’ll be more reluctant tto spend their money with you and you’ve wasted a few more thousand pounds.

By all means be topical, but convey the current economic climate in a softer way.


Some business-owners love to voice their own radio commercial. Just because you own the company does not mean your voice should be the ambassador for it. Some of the most embarrassing radio commercials ever recorded are the ones that are voiced by the company’s owners. The result will be a production that conveys a company as highly amateurish and on some occasions: An absolute joke. We all judge people on their appearance and radio is no exception. Remember, you’re not saving money by using your voice, you’re actually spending more.


Saying you offer the best service, products, quality etc is incredibly arrogant and presumptive. At the end of the day, the only people who can say you are the best are your customers. What listeners want are benefits, not boasts. Tell your listeners what they want to hear. Don’t waste money on broadcasting an ego trip.


Thousands of local radio advertisers admit their commercials and jingles are irritating, yet they remain happy to continue broadcasting their ads. If you know your commercial gets on people’s nerves pull it off air, NOW ! For all the people who somehow manage to tolerate your sound; Believe me, there’ll be thousands more who won’t give you business because they simply can’t stand you. Good quality jingles cost a lot more, but you’ll get a significantly higher return on your investment.


In this day and age, it’s tempting to ensure the listener knows as much as possible about your offering. If you’re doing this, you’re money is going down the toilet. If you’re paying to broadcast ads rammed full of facts, figures and information, give the money to charity instead. It’ll be better spent that way. The human brain can only take in limited amounts of information in one go, so stick to the ‘one commercial – one thought’ policy. A single, clear message will work much much better.


It is highly common-place to put phone numbers in radio ads. But hang on, how many do we actually remember ? Try this. Write down the phone numbers that were broadcast in the last three radio ads you heard.

Can’t remember them ? So what’s the difference with your phone number ? You may know it off the back of your hand, but it’s unlikely anyone else will. Don’t waste valuable airtime promoting something most folks won’t remember.

There are very few radio-friendly phone numbers. So don’t waste money promoting them. Instead, promote an easier to remember point of contact, like a web address.

But hang on, even web addresses can cause problems !

Web addresses such as ‘jones4cars.com’ are a no-no in radio ads. On air, it sounds like ‘jonesFORcars’. And if you don’t have the ‘jonesforcars’ domain name, you’re wasting your airtime because fewer people will get through to your site.

In addition, avoid domains that have hyphens in them like ‘jones-cars.com’. To make sense of it on air, the voice will have to say ‘jones hypen cars’ or ‘jones dash cars’. There’s more for the listener to remember and some people will (amazingly) type the word ‘hyphen’ or ‘dash’ when searching for you on the web.

In addition, examine your business name carefully. If it is in anyway odd or could be spelt in a number of ways, register as many domain names with these differences and direct them all to your main website. If your company name is really hard to spell, use a domain name that is relevant to your business like ‘used car expert.com’ or something similar.


As a business owner, you wouldn’t dream of shouting at any of your customers on your business premises. It is regarded as insulting and at worst, threatening. So there is no excuse to do it on the radio. Shouting more than your competitors on air won’t mean your offering is anymore better or exciting than anyone else’s. To the listener it simply means you’re an irritant and therefore they will turn your ad down to a level so low they won’t be able to hear it. Well done, you’ve just thrown away another few thousand pounds.


How many times have you heard radio ads that give directions to the business ? IE: “We’re on the second turning after the railway bridge, west of Hardwick Street”. Giving directions not only wastes airtime, but by giving directions you’re suggesting that your business is hard to find.


I’ve never understood why radio advertisers constantly spend millions of pounds telling listeners they have cut their prices. If a business does nothing but tell people their prices have been reduced by 50% or more, the audience will eventually begin to not believe you. Yes, price is important. But so is your brand and all the wonderful things that people love you for. People will only buy if they A) Like and trust you and B) Have a desire for your product or service. If you’re promoting just prices, you’re wasting money on just preaching to the converted. To get more business, broadcast commercials that attract new believers.


Yes, having a commercial that’s engaging is vital. But when ‘Creativity’ clouds the main message, you’re wasting a pile of cash.

Ever listened to a funny radio ad and then say to someone “Have you heard that advert for…Whatsisname?” Being creative is good, but the point of you paying lots of money for a radio advertising campaign is for you to do more business and get richer. Things like humour, clever writing, scenarios and the like are welcome, but they should not be more important than your core message. Get it the other way round and you’re paying to make people to laugh and not remember you.

For a free, no-obligation consultation about your radio commercials/radio adverts, call John Calvert at Airforce or visit www.airforce.co.uk


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