Radio: The Best Place to Tell Stories

Author: Annette Malave, SVP/Insights, RAB

In today’s social world, consumers will connect, engage and follow brands that reflect their mindset and lifestyle.  It’s one of the biggest challenges that brands have today.  Developing that connection begins first with brand awareness or exposure.  Numerous advertisers have successfully used radio to do just that – drive brand awareness and influence purchase intent.  Nielsen studies have pointed to the important role radio plays in the effectiveness of any campaign.  Also, one look at any of the Radio Mercury Award winners proves the impact and success that brands can experience.

Throughout the years, Radio Mercury Award winners had one thing in common – they were all great engaging commercials. What makes a great engaging commercial?  Chris Smith, creative group head with The Richards Group and a seven-time Radio Mercury Award winner.  Chris refers to radio as “the modern campfire” or the place to tell stories.

Here Chris shares his top 5 rules of great creative:

      1. Don’t do ads. Tell STORIES. “Radio is the modern campfire.”  A story includes character, plot and theme – the same should hold true for a radio ad.  In the ad the main character is the brand.  Make sure the brand is relatable to consumers – something that the consumer can identify with.  The brand must always “stay in character.” Drastic shifts or changes to how the brand was originally introduced to consumers can have a negative impact.  The theme is what you want the consumer or listener to walk away knowing.
      2. Find your brand’s conflict as a strategy, then challenge your creatives to find a dramatic conflict to illustrate it so that the strategy isn’t showing.  Think about what the consumer currently believes and what do you want them to believe – that is the conflict.  Use that to creatively get your brand’s message across.
      3. Discipline yourselves to say ONE thing. Stick to one important point about the brand.  Even if you have a lot of features, try to encapsulate that into one thing to say. Consumers won’t hear all the information you are sharing, and the product’s benefits will be lost.
      4. Challenge your writers/agencies to say that one thing BETTER.  Once you determine the best way to encapsulate the one thing, find a way to say it/communicate better or more creatively.
      5. Use the strengths of the medium to your advantage: Words, music, sound effects, and even silence.  Create an expectation with your audience and deliver on that expectation every time, but with a surprise. Citing examples of award-winning commercials that consistently used a theme song or voice always works well.

“It’s an amazing time for radio; creatively speaking it’s an interesting time,” stated Smith.  “There’s more ways to deliver it thanks to technology.”  Citing what he considers as an oft-overlooked attribute, “Radio is the one medium that, more and more, we can consume while doing something else.  Audio is finding a whole new life.  A good radio spot is still king!”

Chris reviewed these best practices of engaging commercials during Radio. It’s On In Philadelphia* – a local event created to excite and ignite interest in all of radio’s attributes and how it can successfully drive revenue for Philadelphia’s business owners.

    1. *Produced by the RAB and done in partnership with local broadcasters – Beasley Media Group, Entercom Communications, iHeartMedia and Radio One, and sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters.

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