Radio Hed: Take Risks

radio-hed-logo1By Jeffrey Hedquist

Every day on the radio you can hear spots that were created by committee: politically correct, watered-down, automatically-written radio that offends no one. Commercials that sound like…well, like commercials. They make you want to change the station, or at best, ignore them.

If you want your spots to make it all the way from the ears to the brain, you’ll need to take a few risks: that your idea won’t work, that you’ll offend someone, that it might not get immediate results, that people will think you’re crazy. You’ll also need to risk having phenomenal success, that you’ll be thought of as a visionary, that your clients will bow down at your feet (well, maybe I’m dreaming).

Surprise the listener. Present the unexpected. Turn the rules upside down. Try writing a 300-word :60, or one with only 14 words. Mix two cuts of music together. Use 56 voices in a spot. Create a spot backwards. Use operatic music for a dance club. Have a spot for retirees narrated by a child. Cast an ancient voice for a young hip audience.

Go in the opposite direction. If your competition has a jingle, use straight talk without music. If they’re listing lots of features (they probably are), do a spot on just one simple one: the way the lettuce is chosen at a restaurant, the way a car is washed at a dealership, the 14 steps a plumber takes to make sure he leaves your house spotless after a service call…but make sure you sell the benefit.

Create a continuing story and make each spot an episode that picks up where the last one left off. Design a quiz that listeners have to call or come in to complete.

For help getting your clients to join the adventurous with out-of-the-box ideas for their commercials, see RadioHed “Peer selling” in the R.A.P. December ‘98 issue.

Remember, even with a risk-taking approach, the goal is to sell, so get the listener’s attention and keep it while motivating her to respond. Go on, take some risks. Safe radio is dull radio, and is only useful as a sleeping aid.

© 1999 Hedquist Productions, Inc.