Marketing Sense

A discussion of marketing tools and tactics with a common sense attitude

Archive for April, 2009

Avoiding ‘Monster Truck’ Radio

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on April 24, 2009

By Colin N. Clarke – You’ve all heard it before. You are listening to your favorite radio station when suddenly the speakers start growling “HERE! NOW!… THE EARTH IS ALREADY SHAKIN’!” You’ve just been witness to yet another station produced radio spot.

Here’s how it starts: You are a business owner and a radio station sales person calls on you with a great advertising package. If you’ve written and followed your marketing plan you can objectively make judgment on whether it is a good opportunity or not. But you hesitate, “I don’t have a radio spot that I can run.” The sales person replies “No problem, we’ll record a spot for you for free if you buy our package!” Sounds great. Done deal. But wait…

I’ve worked with clients who have gone the route of a typical station produced spot, not knowing that they actually have other options. The results are predictable – let me know if these sound familiar:

1) The Monster Truck spot – The booming, growling voice demanding you act here, now, move fast, no time to waste! Sale, sale, sale! Usually with a high tempo soundtrack behind it.

2) The Hip Hop spot – A thick, deep bass track pounds in the background as an announcer pitches a product. Often the bass track is so heavy it becomes hard to hear the announcer.

3) The Canyon spot – As the announcer pitches the product a multitude of synthesized voice effects are layered over the top creating echoes and variations in pitch and tempo (low and slow, or high and fast).

4) The ‘Paul Harvey’ spot – The monotoned announcer speaks with no voice inflection in a familiar sounding, matter of fact voice. There are no background music or effects. 

So what is the unsuspecting business person to do in this situation? First, carefully evaluate the advertising opportunity and make sure it fits within your marketing plan.  Second, respectfully decline the “free” spot. Third, find a professional audio/visual studio (or reputable advertising agency) to record your radio spot and deliver it to the radio station.

Professional studio vs. station production – Let’s look at the differences:

1) Professional studios (and most ad agencies) have writers who exclusively write spots for radio production. They will often ask for positioning or key differentiation information from within your marketing plan and will usually attempt to relate the radio production to other marketing materials you may be running.

2) Professional studios have access to a literal wealth of voice talent through their industry talent networks. Station productions generally use their own radio hosts. Having access to more voice talent allows your spot to stand out from other spots on the station that may have been recorded by the same station talent.

3) Professional studios have much greater flexibility in soundtracks and effects, giving you greater opportunity to truly tap into the ‘theater of the mind’ of your customers with a creative and engaging spot.

4) Professional studios will stay in the studio until it is right. If a dozen takes are required to get the spot right, the producer will be patient and helpful and allow you (if you are reading your own) or the talent to take time to get it right. All too often we hear stories of the station production blazing through 3 or 4 takes and ‘calling it good.’ 

Three options for creating a compelling radio spot:

1) Professional studio produced with professional talent. This will be your highest quality spot and often your greatest investment as well. Take the time and do this right, and you could have a spot with great engagement and strong longevity.

2) Professional studio recorded spot with YOU as talent. OK, I need to caution you here. If you are really comfortable in front of the microphone and can tell your story without it sounding like you are reading off a script, this is a great option. But if you can’t pull it off, you could end up with a eerily uncomfortable and amateurish sounding spot. Lean on your studio producer and ask him/her to be honest. If you can do it, good for you!

3) The announcer read spot. With this, your professional studio or agency will write your script. Then the script will be read without effects or music either by the studio’s professional talent or by a radio station host during a broadcast radio program. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THIS TYPE OF SPOT. I have heard so many station produced spots that simply over-do-it with effects, noise and echoes that the announcer read spot really stands out. This is by far your most economical spot. Simple and clean, easy to hear and understand. And if you’ve done a good job of differentiating your company within the script, you will have a radio spot that resonates with your audience. 

In simple straight-forward marketing sense, if you are buying radio, plan on making an investment to produce a professional spot. We’re talking about your BRAND here. It does you no good to spend thousands on buying air time to share your message if you haven’t taken the time to develop a spot that is truly representative of your brand. It’s like getting a haircut to look presentable, then leaving the house in the morning without brushing your hair. It’s YOUR BRAND. Treat your brand with respect, be professional and connect with your customers. You’ll be pleased with the results!


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