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1. Don't Be Mild, Dull, or Typical
Think of the hundreds of messages people are now bombarded with daily on the radio, their phones, computer, TV, in store, on billboards, everywhere. If you think, "Well, we'll just have an announcer read the script with some happy music behind it," why would someone remember or take action because of that, compared to say watching another hilarious video of a cat playing the piano? You don't have to be outrageous or too edgy, but you can't be dull or typical and expect results.
2. If You're Using Humor, Make Sure You're Funny
How many times to do you hear a radio spot where it may be cute, or a touch clever, but they're trying too hard? Some radio commercials literally strain to make sure you get the joke, even though there isn't one. When I wrote and produced the Bob and Doug McKenzie parody spots for Monro Muffler Brake & Service, the jokes were in there and the response and buzz was excellent.
3. Focus On ONE Key Thing
There's a great story about ad guru David Ogilvy. He's having lunch with a client who says they need a new commercial that talks about his airline's new bigger seats, better meals, express jet service, more locations where they fly, faster ticketing, etc. etc. etc. After hearing this, Ogilvy picks up a handful of sugar packets and throws them at the client. They hit the guy, falling to the floor and table. The client sputters. Then Ogilvy picks up one sugar pack and tosses it to the man, who catches it. Ogilvy's point: you can't handle too much input, understand it, or process it. But if you stick to ONE key message, your single point of differentiation or primary offer, listeners are far more likely to "catch it" and act on it. No one is going to remember your laundry list of nine different things.
4. Promote Benefits, Not Features
You may care that your product is rated at 1,000 megawatts. But your audience would rather know that this means you can blast your stereo so loud that people in Venezuela can hear it. The feature is 1,000 megawatts. The benefit is loud, clear sound.
5. Grab Attention Right at the Beginning
If your radio spot opens with, "Hi, this is John Smith, president of John Smith's Auto Sales of Decatur...," they've already tuned out. Sound effects, music, an immediate benefit, something with impact grabs your audience's attention. What if you started your commercial with a deep voice intoning in a too-serious manner, "The following commercial may not be suitable for competitors of John Smith Auto Sales, due to extremely low prices and incredible service." That's fun, it's attention-getting, and it instantly demonstrates that you don't take yourself too seriously, while also communicating savings and service.
6. Appeal To Your Demographic and Age Target
If you're trying to reach 20-somethings, your parody of the old Dragnet TV or radio show really isn't going to resonate with that audience. They might understand the message, but they'll miss the Joe Friday, "Just the facts" cultural references. If you want to appeal to those 50+, could be a good idea. Same with the music and language you use. When you try to talk hip and cool to your kids and teens, they laugh and see right through you. Same thing in your commercial. Use language appropriate to your audience, and if you have any doubts about the credibility of your script, ask a few individuals in the target age group what they think.
7. Include An Offer
Ever get a piece of direct mail without an offer or discount? It just begs to be ignored. If you can convey the unique and special nature of your product or service in your radio spot, great. Now add an offer on top of that and you have much more of a reason to get a listener to take action by calling, going online, or buying.
8. Use the Power of Radio and the "Theater of the Mind"
Sound effects, music, drama, humor, excitement. Marshall McLuhan said radio was a "hot" medium, meaning you had to bring your attention to it and be more involved to get it. TV provides you with pictures and sound. It all comes to you as you are a passive viewer. To "see" radio, you have to imagine it. If your spot inspires imagination and involvement, it's going to be more effective.
9. Select the Right Voice Talent
Can I sound like a teenage boy? Kind of. Should I be the one sounding like a teenage boy in your radio commercial? No. A teenage boy should be sounding like himself! Hire me to be your middle-age man or senior or character voice. When you pretend to be something that you're not, the results are generally hokey and unconvincing. Come to think of it, that's probably advice that goes beyond the voiceover world.
Parody Doug & Bob McKenzie "hoser" radio commercial, created for Mason Marketing and Monro Muffler.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ANNOUNCER AND A VOICE ACTOR?
While open to interpretation, I would define it in this way.
An announcer is someone who reads your script. This is what happens when you go to a radio station to have your commercial produced and one of the announcers there reads and records it. It may be good, it may be bad, it may sound too "announcerish."
A voice actor is an announcer who can deliver your script with believability and versatility. He or she adds credibility and can interpret the script to best ultimate effect in terms of making your commercial or narration sound compelling and informative.
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