By Roy H. Williams
When I presented my latest research to a theater full of businesspeople and advertising professionals in Stockholm, Sweden, a number of them immediately bought plane tickets to cross the Atlantic for the full Wizard Academy experience. (To meet a few of these people in a short video, click here.)
A month later in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, same result.
The first published glimpse of this new material was the Monday Morning Memo I sent to you on December 15, 2003. Since that day, I've been feverishly researching my December hypothesis and found the rabbit hole goes far deeper than I suspected. The conclusion of the matter – including some startling predictions concerning the next 4 years – was the essence of the presentation I made in Stockholm and Sydney. I'll be making that same multimedia presentation during our October 2 Celebration in Austin. Be sure to let us know if you can come. It's important that we have an accurate head-count for food, etc.
A Word to the *Cognoscenti: 2003 marked the end of an era of societal preference toward Claude Monet ‘impressionist-style' communications and the beginning of a new era of preference for Robert Frank-style ‘unposed reality.' Get the details and see the evidence:
- at the Oct 2. Celebration
- at any session of the
Secret Formulas Advertising Workshop
- from any authorized
Wizard of Ads partner.
A succinct glimpse of where we're headed as a society is embodied in the
following quote from a recently published work, “When you grow up, you have to
give yourself away. Sometimes you give your life all in a moment, but mostly you
have to give yourself away laboring one minute at a time.” – Gaborn Val Orden
Remember what I wrote to you recently about serving others?
*(The Cognoscenti are graduates of the Magical Worlds Communications Workshop.)
Okay, so instead of giving you a concise Monday Morning Memo to read this week, I've just been rambling about things that have me excited. So now I'm going to make a hard left turn and emerge from the jungle of wild exploration to roll proudly onto the prairie of practical advice; I'm going to give you some pointers about how to use radio advertising more effectively. So if you're not into
advertising, right here would be a good place to quit reading. Thanks for your indulgence. I promise to write something fun for you next week.
60s, 30s, 15s, or Mentions?
Shakespeare would argue for fifteen-second radio ads, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” But W.C. Fields would suggest sixties, “If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” I agree with both.
When people ask me, “What's the best length radio ad?” I always think of Abe Lincoln's answer when asked, “How long should a man's legs be?”
Long enough to reach the ground.
In other words, a radio ad should be exactly as long as it takes to say what needs to be said.
Use 60-second ads when:
- …your message is complex. Better to write a 60 that makes your message clear
than a 30 that leaves doubts and questions. (Unfortunately, many advertisers believe their messages to be far more complex than they really are. About two-thirds of all 60-second radio ads on the air today would be much more effective as tightened-up thirties.)
- …you need to include specific details to help persuade. Specifics are always
more believable than generalities. Close the loophole. Answer the question
lurking in the listener's mind. But don't bore your audience by answering
questions no one was asking.
- …you're in a business category that's new and not easily understood. If first
you must create the realization of need before you can sell your solution, this can easily take 60 seconds.
- …you need to “baffle them with bull.” If you sell a generic commodity and
your strategy is for people to buy from you simply because they like you better,
you're going to need a world-class creative team. These ads are, without
question, the hardest of all ads to write. But they can also be the most
entertaining. These are the times when your production people can shine like the
sun. Inspire them but don't instruct them. Buy them food, give them praise,
remind them that they're geniuses and yes, everyone misunderstands them but you.
Production people live to create ads like these, but you've got to give them
time, encouragement and freedom. And maybe beer.
Use 30-second ads when:
- …your product or service category is clearly understood and you're making an
easy-to-understand offer. Say it plain. Say it straight. Eliminate all but the
most essential adjectives and adverbs. Replace clichés and predictable phrases
with unanticipated wording. Focus on verbs and use as many as possible. Make one
point per ad, but make it powerfully in the script. Please, for the love of God,
don't write a weak message and then try to compensate for it with powerful
delivery (vocal inflection, dramatic music, sound effects.) The seventies are
Use 15-second ads when:
- …you have an incredibly powerful, simple message. Don't screw it up by blah,
blah, blahing for thirty seconds when you can say it more powerfully in fifteen.
Sadly, many ad writers fall into the trap described so eloquently by Blaise
Pascal, “I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to
make it shorter.” At least twenty-five percent of the thirties on most stations
would really work better as fifteens. But most stations aren't willing to sell
fifteen-second ads at a price that makes them attractive. Even more difficult is
training ad writers how to uncover the vital, core message that can be
powerfully communicated in fifteen short seconds. Tight, powerful ads are hard
to write, but definitely worth the effort.
- …you're in a business category in which no one advertises but you. When path
dominance has been acquiesced to you by your competitors and simple name
recognition will likely be enough to make customers think of your name when they
need what you sell, don't be an idiot, buy fifteens and mentions.
Use mentions when:
- …you sell a commodity in a crowded marketplace and your strategy is to go for
Top-Of-Mind-Awareness. (I've long suggested that radio stations fund a TOMA
study every two years. Few things are as valuable in the eyes of advertisers as these revealing “marketplace snapshots.”)
- …you merely want to add additional frequency to a schedule that is delivering
barely-sufficient frequency of your thirty or sixty-second message. But don't
fool yourself by calculating a reach and frequency analysis that lumps the
mentions into the same schedule as the thirties and/or sixties. The schedule of
ds must deliver sufficient frequency on its own. Mentions are merely
gravy for these schedules. And like gravy, they're really not much use when
there is insufficient meat on the plate.
The most common mistake is taking too long to say too little. The second most
common mistake is allowing your budget to dictate the length of your ad. Never
try to squeak by with fifteens and mentions when what you really need is thirties or
sixties. Sacrifice reach, never ad length. Buy a less expensive daypart. Or a
Make your message exactly as long as it needs to be.
Roy H. Williams