I’ll admit there are advertisers who should be discouraged from doing their own radio commercials. (Here I would love to insert a few perfect examples, but let’s be charitable.)
Still, my tendency is to err in the direction of giving the client a try at it, at least, before deciding to go in a different direction, because:
1) Client-voiced commercials are distinctive. The client is unlikely to be mistaken for any other voice, personality or advertiser on the air.
(2) The authority and expertise of the spokesman adds to the credibility of the message.
(3) Over time the advertiser becomes a familiar voice, no longer a stranger even to listeners who have yet to patronize his business.
(4) And yes, 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 terrific.
Writing ad copy for clients to read requires fine-tuning to fit their personality, vernacular and style. Be prepared to edit or even rewrite copy on the fly, i.e. during the recording session. Also, most clients need coaching and feedback, requiring equal measures of persistence and patience. It can be frustrating for both parties to have to do 15 or 20 takes to get everything right. Stay focused on the objective: an effective commercial that will stand repeated listening.
What about advertisers with pronounced accents?Meet Avi Levy. Avi purchased a floor covering store back in 1992, the same year I purchased my present home. I bought a houseful of carpeting and other floor coverings from him and he became a regular radio advertiser for many years. From my experience as his customer I picked up on a phrase he was fond of using: “Don’t worry—I’ll make you a good deal.” So, it was only natural to cast him in his own commercials as Avi, the Good Deal Guy, which caught on immediately and stuck fast.
Avi was born in Morocco and grew up there and later in Israel. He was fluent in French, Hebrew, Arabic (in recent years he’s added Chinese to the mix)…and English. Well, sort of. Between his pronounced accent and occasionally stilted pronunciations, conventional wisdom would have suggested letting someone else read his commercials. But one man’s drawback is another’s challenge, as Inspector Clouseau might say it, and I hoped that Avi’s distinctive approach would work to his advantage in a radio campaign. My favorite line in the spot is where Avi urges his prospective customer to use that tried-and-true tactic for postponing a buying decision, Let me think about it…on his competition!
Although Avi left the airwaves years ago as he migrated away from local retail into international wholesaling, people in the market still remember his commercials, still refer to him as Avi the Good Deal Guy.
Here’s another successful radio advertiser whose distinctive individual style—obviously ethnic, a little rough around the edges, and in-your-face—creates a compelling commercial for his Las Vegas-based company: (Thanks to one of my favorite radio people, TalkRadio Guru Holland Cooke for passing along Mr. Elliot’s spot.) Honestly, don’t you find yourself wishing there were a 24/7 Private Vaults branch near you?
Not every client is comfortable reading from a script. But even those who for whatever reason can’t read or even ad-lib well from the printed page may still find a way to participate meaningfully and effectively in their own radio commercials. I’ll share some fun examples of this next time.