write a radio commercial

Last updated 16th of May 2017

Author Lisa Hartwell

How NOT to Write a Radio Commercial

A few weeks ago, I shared some of the biggest clichés used in on hold marketing messages. Now, if there’s one topic that can surpass it as something that can get our writers, producers and even voiceovers riled up and ready to share their opinions, it’s the topic of radio commercials.

Writing a bad script is NOT the biggest mistake you can make when writing a radio commercial; the biggest mistake is writing and producing a commercial that blends in with all the others. Sometimes, badly made commercials can stand out more than the highly-produced ones from top advertising agencies. But if a commercial is bland, doesn’t provide anything new or useful, and evokes apathy then you’ve wasted your advertising budget, because it’s not going to bring in any new customers.

First Determine Why You’re Advertising

Why are you running this campaign?  Is it for a specific sales promotion, product launch, or for general name awareness?  If it’s solely for using that part of your budget set aside for radio advertising then you might want to rethink. Who are you targeting? Generic “catch-all” radio commercials and brand awareness commercials will not be as effective as those with a specific purpose and demographic, especially in a local marketplace. It might work for Coca-Cola but they have millions of pounds available to build their brand; you have hundreds available to get people through your door and buying your product or service.

Avoid Information Overload

I’ve lost count of the number of client and agency written scripts I’ve seen that are overwritten. Avoid the temptation of cramming too much information into a commercial.  A good press ad will use devices such as white space and eye-catching photography. A good radio commercial will use an attention-grabbing script and production elements, and run at a comfortable pace. There are no benefits to radio advertising if your 30-second commercial has to be spoken by the voiceover at breakneck speed. It - and the voiceover - need room to breathe!

Everything said in a commercial must be said for a reason, and every element of production should be chosen for a reason. If the content doesn’t support your key objective then it doesn’t need to be there. 

Do You Need All That Contact Information?

One of the biggest mistakes in radio commercials is to try and include every possible way a listener can contact you. If your contact and location details take up half the commercial you’re wasting your airtime.

Remember, radio listeners are usually listening while doing something else – driving, working, cooking. Consider this when you decide what to include and how much information they can absorb. For example, what’s the point of giving out your phone number if there isn’t a chance of them remembering it or being able to write it down? If they like what they hear, they’ll look you up and call you.

They don’t need your full address and postcode; your business name and a road will suffice if yours is the kind of business that people visit in person. Or give a familiar landmark. If most of your business comes through your website or phone enquiries then even that is more than necessary.

Include your website if it’s easy to remember, but if it’s long and confusing - “Or find us online at w w w dot Terry underscore Jones underscore Gas underscore Engineer underscore Services dot co dot u k” – definitely leave it out (that’s 9 seconds of your commercial right there) and it’s probably time to get a shorter more memorable url. Also, you don’t need to include the WWW. anymore That alone is 2 seconds of wasted time!

Similarly, if you’re active on social media, you could include “find us on Facebook” or “follow us on Twitter for exclusive offers” but avoid providing the long-hand version: “follow us on Twitter at Terry Jones Gas Engineer Services for exclusive social media-only offers.” 

Think twice about providing exact opening times: “We’re open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, Saturdays 9am to 6pm and Sundays 10am to 4pm” takes 7 seconds when it would be quicker and easier to say “open every day” or leave listeners to look you up online.

Keep Away Clichés

One way to keep your commercial free of too much information is to avoid the clichés. Scan your script and take out anything that doesn’t work towards your key objective and tell listeners how you stand out from your competitors. Now, look through it again and take out all those words and phrases that a listener will hear in every other commercial they listen to.

There are so many clichés that it would be impossible to include them all here but these are some of our “favourites”:

  • We’re a family-run business 
  • Free parking
  • Conveniently located at…
  • We’ve been in business for 30 years
  • One Stop Shop / For All Your ____ Needs
  • Friendly and knowledgeable staff

None of these are a bad thing for a business to be or have but they are so over-used that they no longer hold any meaning for the listener. Some should be aspects of every business (if your staff are not friendly and knowledgeable then it's time for some staff training). And in most cases these are throwaway lines that do not contribute to your key objective and use up time that could be utilised elsewhere.

Get Professional Help

Hopefully, this article has guided you on your way to an exceptional radio commercial. Don't be afraid to ask for advice from the professionals; even if you have a very good idea of what you want to include, your production company can offer creative tips and ideas you might not have considered.


Fresh Air Group provides a full radio commercial production service. Click here to get in touch or call us on 020 7100 9786

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