radio advertising

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Yesterday while driving to work I found myself singing the Mavis Discount Tire song with the radio.  Later I heard the familiar voice of the Winthrop University Hospital announcer. My friends Mike Welch and Jack Schultheis handle that advertising, but even so, I immediately knew it was Winthrop from the music and voice.

Radio is still a powerful ad medium.  It’s a unique way, at a reasonable cost, to condition consumers to listen, associate and remember. When working on North Shore-LIJ Health System years ago, I used lots of radio to extent the TV work.  It worked brilliantly.

But while singing the Mavis Discount Tire radio song I wondered if it was a reason to buy?

I reckoned consciously I knew the price is right, thanks to the name, but with the web and search so prevalent is name awareness enough to tip the scales?  Has the ability to simply slip a phone from my pocket and say “best tire prices near me” changed the formula for advertising?   

Search changes everything in marketing. The first page web experience is critical. We “twitch to buy” today. Radio needs to recognize and account for this.

My kids are in their twenties. Both have two phones. When they sing the discount tire song are they Google searching for other tire stores? You bet they are.





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Claim shoveling.

This morning while washing the coffee pot the radio was tuned to a bank commercial. Some tier-two bank with “commerce” in the name (maybe) made a service claim — something like “We treat every customer with respect.” It was one of a litany of unsupported claims that typically go into ad copy these days — not unlike spring blackflies in the Connecticut woods.  Who writes this stuff?  More importantly who approves this stuff?   The bank CEO clicked the “like” button, I’m sure.


Here’s the first rule of storytelling or copy writing: Don’t make a claim without proving it. Again, for emphasis, don’t make a claim without proving it.  By following this simple rule, you’ll find yourself with less dead air to fill – and believe me, it is dead if you are simply shoveling claims – and you just might find yourself with a strategy.

I’m a fast swimmer. Bad.
I swim a .56 in the 100 meters. Good.

Our cold pressed juices makes you healthier. Bad.
Since I started drinking cold pressed juices I haven’t had my annual cold. Good.

Filling out the application online is easy.  Bad.
Most people fill out the form in 2 minutes. Good.

Great ad writers get this premise and defend it like Davy Crockett. Unfortunately great copywriters live in very small villages and are hard to find.  Claim-shovelers are a dime a dozen. It’s bad tradecraft, it inoculates consumers against proper selling and is a blight on the business. Peace.



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One of my favorite advertising campaigns is for Frank’s RedHot Sauce.  It may be my only favorite ad campaign.  I heard if yesterday morning and had to remark about it to the lady at Ace Hardware.  The business strategy is to get consumers to put Frank’s RedHot Sauce on more dishes.  I use hot sauce on burritos and tacos only.  My brother in law from North Carolina likes it on his eggs.  (It’s not bad.) The more dishes Frank’s can get you to spice up with hot sauce the more sales it rings.

Now normally funny advertising for the sake of funny is not something I advocate.  Funny is rarely a brand plank. But the little old lady with the graggy voice who performs these spots is quite the star. But the copywriter is the true star.  Each ad repeats the line “I put that shit on everything.” Of course the word shit is beeped out. The bleeped word is the hero of the spot. Try not laughing. Try not understanding the strategy. Try not visualizing a little old lady putting hot sauce on her breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Some church people will be offended. Some parents with small children will have to explain to their kids why they are laughing. Some will want to protest.  Me?  I just love that ____.  The best ad campaign I’ve heard in a long time. Peace. 

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I was listening to a radio commercial this morning in which Joe Torre and the president of J.H. Cohen are prattling on about professionalism and category experience in the consulting and accounting business.  And it’s bad, so I’m really only listening for how poor the performances are — not really hearing the words.  And then president or announcer recites a list of fluff ending with “unmatched integrity.”  WTF!  Is anyone reading this shizz?

Advertising Claims

There was a time when you couldn’t just poop out claims on the radio. Or in print.  I suspect they are a little more vigilant in the TV standards and practices depts., but today you can say just about anything on the radio. Maybe that’s why advertising is so ineffective.  Anyone can say anything.  “Unmatched integrity?”

If Coors Light can say it’s the “world’s most refreshing beer,” what does that make all the competitors?  Is someone sleeping at the switch?  Words are important; anyone in marketing will tell you that.  As we make words less important, is it any wonder that we need the algorithm to help us find our arses.  Peace.

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There is a radio campaign I’ve been hearing lately for Frank’s Hot Sauce – it’s actually red hot sauce, but my ears don’t hear it that way – and I absolutely love it.  There are snippets of video on the website which suggest the campaign may be on TV but I haven’t seen it.

You can’t miss the radio.  It’s typical actor product banter but punctuated by line “I put that bleep on everything.”  Whatever word you think is bleeped out is up to you, but you just know it starts the “shhh” and rhymes with “hit”.  The line is delivered by a granny-sounding actress and you can’t help but giggle (out loud). Even moms of the Southern Christian Right have to twinkle a wee bit.

The strategy is straight forward – use Frank’s on more dishes in more dayparts – but the humor is wonderfully disruptive.  It’s the best radio out there. For me, though, the jury’s still out on the TV. If the website videos are representative I think the TV will fall short.  The acting performance isn’t the same.  The surprise isn’t there.  And it almost demeans the radio. As a branding idea, I don’t see it translating in print either.  But enough darts, the radio is killer.

If you know the agency and the creative minds behind the work, please share.   I smell a Mercury Award. Peace!  

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