As someone who has sold, written, and produced millions of dollars’ worth of radio advertising since 1973, I have long been a proponent of using advertisers’ voices in their radio commercials.
This used to incur the wrath of radio station program directors and self-proclaimed radio advertising experts, who felt that only mellifluous “professional” voices were worthy of a listener’s attention, but the opposition seems to have mellowed in recent years. In fact, many of the same radio folks who once disdained the idea now embrace it, based on the results their clients have enjoyed using this effective approach to radio advertising.
Done well, a client-voiced commercial offers several advantages to the advertiser:
(1) It provides a unique and distinctive sound, unlikely to be mistaken for any other personality or advertiser on the air.
(2) The authority and expertise of the spokesman may enhance the credibility of the message.
(3) Over time the advertiser becomes a familiar voice, no longer a stranger to people who have yet to patronize his business.
(4) And yes, all other factors being equal, the client is more likely to have people mention hearing the ad. What’s wrong with that? If it makes his investment in Radio more tangible, that’s just great.
No, not every client belongs on the air – and yes, getting the client to speak to the listener with authenticity and appeal (as opposed to stiffly reading or talking at them) requires an investment of time and effort.
First, the copy has to be fine-tuned to fit the client’s individual style of communicating, his personality. In my experience, this often involves editing on the fly, during the recording process.
Second, in most cases the client will need to be coached and directed to bring out the most effective interpretation of the copy. This involves equal measures of persistence and patience; it can be a bit frustrating for both client and coach to do 15 or 20 “takes.” But the end result justifies the work.
Modern digital editing tools have lessened the need to get one perfect take. More often than not, we’ll take portions of several cuts and combine them into the final voice track – a “best-of” compilation, so to speak. [An aside: Back in the days of reel tapes and splicing tape, this posed a much greater challenge, with a very small margin for error – and no Undo function. Here’s a funny example from back in the early ’90’s, a short piece I cobbled together from outtakes of the legendary WSU baseball coach Chuck “Bobo” Brayton struggling through numerous attempts to voice a spot for a local Mexican restaurant. It’s a hoot.]
But getting back to the issue of coaching – after many less than stellar takes, it can be tempting to throw in the towel and let a substandard reading pass. Resist the urge at all costs! If necessary, come back for another session when you’re both fresh. Because if the advertiser is allowed to get away with a subpar reading, it’ll come back to bite him every time that commercial is aired!
Take the pains to do it right, so that when the spot airs everyone can enjoy it and benefit from a job well done.
Rod Schwartz, owner/creative director of Grace Broadcast Sales and a 38-year radio ad sales veteran, shares stories, commercials, and advertising lessons “from the streets, the studio, and the study” on his blog, RodSpots. He is an administrator at Radio Sales Café, a social networking site for radio advertising sales professionals. Rod can be reached by email at email@example.com or by telephone toll-free at (888) 472-2388. Rod would love to share examples of effective advertiser-voiced radio commercials with you!
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