Putting Your Phone Number in a Radio Ad is a Bad Idea. Here’s Why.

Why you shouldn't put your phone number in your radio commercialYou’re not one of those advertisers who puts their telephone number into their radio ads, are you?

Good. Didn’t think so. Because you know better.

You chuckle at the mental image of somebody pulling over as they’re driving down the road, scrambling to jot down your number.

You know that there are seven to ten other words that would serve your marketing goals far better than that string of seven to ten numbers, right?

Seriously, unless you’re a direct-response marketer whose business is conducted principally or exclusively by phone, there really isn’t a good reason for you to waste valuable airtime by sticking your phone number into your commercial. (And if you are one of those businesses, you’re much better served by having a “vanity” number that employs a mnemonic device to aid in retention, e.g., 1-800-FLOWERS.)

Generally, your ad should contain one point of contact, not several, and then only if it’s absolutely necessary. Might be the physical location of your store or office, but these days a better choice may be your website*.

There was a time when “Let your fingers do the walking” meant using the Yellow Pages to look up a business. When was the last time you did that?  Today, we Google that information, or we ask Siri or Alexa to make the call. Today’s World Wide Web has eliminated the need to remember a phone number.

When was the last time you heard an ad for WalMart, Home Depot, Geico, McDonald’s, or any major retailer or brand? How many of them included their telephone number in their ad? Why do you think that is?

For the majority of marketers, it’s far more important to get people to remember your name than your phone number. And it’s infinitely more important for a prospective customer to know why she should do business with you, what she should think or how she should feel about doing business with you, than it is to know how to reach you. Because once she knows who you are and what you stand for, once she’s convinced that she wants to do business with you, finding you is easy.

Are there exceptions? Of course there are. If you operate a pizza delivery service, having a memorable phone number is a good idea, so that whenever someone feels like pizza for dinner, they can call you (and get put on hold until the person answering finishes with a previous caller). But even pizza joints are gradually moving toward online or mobile ordering with an app; this will eventually reduce the need to use the telephone to arrange a pizza delivery.

Other good examples: emergency services (Think: “Call 911”). A hospital emergency room or urgent care provider might benefit by having dedicated, listener-friendly phone number. Ditto local taxi cab companies, HVAC emergencies, and plumbers. Ken Paulson has for the past year been training Pullman area residents to remember his phone number by means of a catchy jingle. (“Clear that drain with one call. Call 3-3-8-oh-8-2-4. Ken Paulson. Ken Paulson Plumbing.”) When you’re ankle-deep in water down in your flooded basement, it’s nice not to have to look up his number to call for help.

Music can be a powerful ally in getting people to remember your business, without even trying. Right from the time we memorized the alphabet as kids, singing it to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, we’ve effortlessly learned thousands of songs, motion pictures, products and brands, thanks to the irresistible influence of their music.

Should you have any doubt about the effectiveness of music for local businesses or brands, just ask Steve and Theresa Myers, Devon Felsted, Don Frei, Kevin Peterson, Archie McGregor, or Sam Dial to share their experience.

In a recent discussion among radio advertising professionals around the country, my buddy Blaine Parker related this experience:

We once tried to convince a new retail client to NOT put a phone number in a commercial because it would reduce traffic to the store. They had a “super secret sale” going on. Their first commercial said, “Just come into the store, say ‘Super Secret Sale!’, and get 20% off anything in the store.”

The first week of the sale went gangbusters. The client also said, “But we’re getting all these phone calls. We need to put the number in the spot!” We said, “No, you don’t. They found your phone number without it being in spot. You’re good. Add the phone number, and you’re going to kill response.” They wouldn’t listen.

The phone number went into the spot. As predicted, the phone number clouded the message. Traffic dropped off precipitously. The client walked away saying, “Radio doesn’t work.”

Sometimes, you can’t save an advertiser from himself. As for phone numbers, they are death for retail and any other message where the call to action is “come in.” The ONLY reason to include a phone number in a radio commercial is that it’s the only way to take advantage of the offer being made to the listener.

Carl Quist, proprietor of Imported Car Service in Pullman, has been advertising consistently in the morning news on one of our stations for many years. He could end his commercials with his phone number, since virtually all his customers call him on the phone to schedule service appointments. But he chooses not to. He knows that they can find his number quickly by asking the Goog. So, what does he choose to say in those final few seconds of his commercial, instead of giving his phone number? “Drive an import? Get to know Imported Car Service. On Bishop Boulevard in Pullman.” (Incidentally, his phone number is (509) 332-2314 – in case you’d like to ask him how his advertising is working.)

So, if your telephone number has been part of your radio commercial without a compelling reason, whether through inertia, laziness, or misguided advice, take it out. Replace it with words that will serve your business better.

*Brent Walker, an audio advertising specialist, provides additional perspective in his video, Think Landing Page, Not Phone Number. (You might be asked to sign up for a free account at Marketing Profs to view it. It’s worthwhile.)

About Rod Schwartz

Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He joined the Pullman (Wash.) Radio Group in 1979, where he worked until his retirement at the end of 2022. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales (GraceBroadcast.com), providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. Rod also operates an independent advertising, marketing, and communications consultancy for small business owners and professionals, FirstStrikeAdvertising.com. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at PalousePics.com and on his Viewbug gallery.
This entry was posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Copy, Copywriting, Jingles, Professional Services Advertising, Proofreading, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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