One of my very favorite advertising campaigns of all time has to do with horse racing.
And life, laughter, and modern culture.
It’s DeVito/Verdi’s brilliant “And They’re Off…” campaign, winner of multiple advertising awards over the years, including their induction earlier this month into the Clio Hall of Fame.
Here’s one of the commercials from the long-running campaign, winner of the $100,000 grand prize in the 2006 Radio Mercury Awards.
If you haven’t heard this one before, you should probably swallow that sip of coffee or soda before you hit the play button.
Crazy, huh? A vivid moving picture, painted entirely with words, comes to life in your imagination.
One voice. No music. No sound effects (until the tagline).
Pretty amazing, when you stop to think about it.
The campaign has stayed true to its premise over many years, demonstrating the value of consistency in advertising. (Another good illustration: Tom Bodett and Motel 6.) Every commercial has followed the same approach. According to the press release from DeVito/Verdi:
…a fast-talking announcer provides running play-by-play of an everyday outing or happening with the same brio as if he were calling an action-packed horse race. Invariably, all of these events fall short of the excitement and thrill of visiting a thoroughbred racetrack.
“Sushi” (above) and “Dinner Date” were my two favorites among all the ads I’ve heard for NTRA. Until yesterday, that is, when I ran across this spot, “Gym.” I’m pretty sure it’s a guy thing, but listening to it had me laughing out loud.
Here’s something you should take away from this campaign. There’s no way you could this in video or print. Only in the realm of pure audio, where imagination is given free rein (so to speak), can ads like these be pulled off. It’s pure theater-of-the-mind.
Want to hear more from the NTRA campaign? Click the play button below.
A year ago, I was asked to update the tags to my client Clearview Eye Clinic’s testimonial commercials, to introduce the new surgeon who’d joined the practice. I had misgivings about messing with the commercials that had taken so long to put together and were working well. So, I decided to enlist the help of Roy H. Williams and wrote to him in advance of the August 16, 2016 “Wizard of Ads Live” webcast (now rebranded as the monthly videos of the AmericanSmallBusinessInstitute.org).
His generous response blew me away.
I’ve written before about testimonial advertising, how it’s painstaking work to do it right and have the people come across as real and genuine, not contrived. Even if what they’re saying is true, if it sounds contrived or uncomfortable the ad will not have the desired effect. When you hear these ads and the people come across as authentic and believable, know that a great deal of work went into putting these stories together.
Rather than telling you what he had to say, I’ll let you hear it from the Wizard himself. Thanks to Daniel Whittington of Wizard Academy for allowing me to share the video.
Losing a key employee sucks. It’s also inevitable.
Sooner or later, most often when you least expect it, your MVP is going to drop the bomb: she’s moving on.
You’re going to need to fill those shoes, and fast.
What’s the best way to attract your next superstar? Hire your local radio station.
Many years ago, when newspaper was still King of Local Advertising Media, your automatic response might have been to place a Help Wanted ad in the classifieds and wait for a response. And wait. And wait some more, becoming increasingly discouraged by the shortage of suitable applicants.
The problem? Help Wanted classifieds, by definition, are for the unemployed, often the chronically unemployed, and those unhappy with their present situation.
Whereas the superstar you need isn’t unemployed, isn’t looking for work, ergo isn’t scanning the Help Wanted ads.
She may be working for a competitor. Or she may be working in a different field, in a comparable position. But even though she’s not looking for a new job, she might consider a better opportunity were she to hear about it.
How’s that going to happen? Well, if one of the people in her circle of friends and associates knows about the opening, it could come up in conversation.
Or, you could advertise the position on your local radio station and create the conversation.
Putting your recruitment advertising on radio will reach more prospects and influencers, faster and more effectively, than anything else you can do.
The result? You’ll find and hire your superstar sooner, minimizing the strain on your business, not to mention your mental and emotional well-being.
Consider radio’s advantages over other media:
Reach. Radio’s vast weekly reach (91% of adults) is superior to that of any other medium. Can you say “opt-in?” Radio is the ultimate opt-in advertising medium!
Frequency. Radio gives you multiple opportunities throughout the day to reach listeners with your message.
Intimacy. Radio is highly personal. It’s a conversation between the host and listener. They share a connection.
Polite company. Radio keeps you company without being a distraction. You can listen while you’re driving, jogging, gardening, or any number of other things. That’s a unique advantage pure audio has over visual media.
Time Spent Listening. People spend more of their day with radio than any other single medium, including broadcast TV, satellite TV, local cable, and the Internet.*
Car radio. It’s almost a separate medium; as Chris Lytle famously observed, “A car is a radio on four wheels.” Prospects traveling to and from their jobs in their vehicles are a captive audience. Can you think of a better time and place to tell them about your opportunity?
Spotlight. On radio, your ad is like a spotlight shining on you and you alone, for a full 30 or 60 seconds. (Whereas in newspaper, you’re surrounded by competing ads. Maybe they’ll spot yours, maybe they won’t.)
Timing. You can choose when your commercials will air. If you can swing it, I recommend a higher frequency schedule, at least 10-15 spots a day, every day for 10 days to 2 weeks. The cost of this schedule is far less than the cost of a prolonged vacancy to your business. But if you can’t afford to do this, “own” something. At the very least, buy a couple spots in morning or evening drive, every weekday, and talk to listeners on their way to and from their jobs.
A Launchpad to Your Website. Your radio advertising opens a conversation that you and your prospective candidate can continue at her convenience online. Use your website to elaborate on the details: compensation, benefits, work environment, opportunity for advancement, your company’s reputation, etc., etc. One client I worked with was concerned about the time it would take to deal with a flood of applicants. I suggested that we create a “knock-out” online questionnaire, a sort of pre-application that would allow the business owner to prescreen all the candidates. Those who stood out would be brought in for a thorough interview, leading to the selection of the best-of-the-best. (This may sound a bit harsh for those who don’t pass initial muster, but in reality, it’s more respectful of their time as well as the employer’s. And all who take time to apply are thanked for doing so. ) This combination of radio advertising to attract candidates and the website application to pre-screen them has worked very well. I recommend trying this.
Here are a few additional suggestions to help make your recruitment radio advertising more effective:
Use current employees in the commercials, but: Do. Not. Script. This. Seriously. If they sound at all forced, even though they’re being truthful, they’ll come across as contrived. Instead of scripting them, just turn on the recorder and have a conversation with them. Get them talking about their typical workday, its ups and downs, the variety of things they do during the day, the people with whom they interact. Ask them to share what they like best about the company, what attracted them in the first place and what keeps them interested. What would they say to a friend who might be applying for work at the company? Keep it conversational and keep it real, then incorporate the best soundbites into the commercial. This is time-consuming and painstaking. And uniquely effective.
Skew your advertising to run more heavily early in the week. Generally speaking, fewer ads are scheduled on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, compared to the rest of the week. But there are not fewer listeners on those days. So, your early-week ads will reach the same number of people, and there will be less competition for their attention. Also, people are more focused on work-related matters early in the week. Toward the end of the week, they’re focused on how they’re going to unwind on the weekend.
Use a single point of contact for responding. These days, your website is best. Avoid the temptation to include your phone number, street address, and the kitchen sink. Your website carries all that information and a lot more.
Create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list relating to the job, to address your expectations as well as your prospects’ concerns. It’ll save you both time in the long run.
Use respected community leaders in the commercials, talking about how great the company is, its involvement in civic affairs, its contributions to the betterment of the community, etc. Again, make sure these endorsements sound sincere and genuine. They’ll help raise the stature of the employer in the eyes of the prospective employee.
Think about where your ideal candidate might already be employed and make mention of that in your commercial. Here’s how one of my own clients worked that into the message:
Make the company or the job sound like fun by using humor – but make sure the humor really works, and that it serves the message rather than calling attention to itself. Here’s a great example used by Pizza Hut a few years back:
Treat the vacancy as a problem the radio listener can help you solve. For this local jeweler, hiring a new key employee would enable him to eat his lunch in peace. Seriously.
Build the spot around the candidate, rather than the company. Good advertising isn’t about the advertiser; it’s about the advertiser’s customer. Describe the prospect using language she would use, talking about the things that are important to her, then bring the company into the picture. A company recruiting assemblers began its message by saying: “You like working with your hands. You’re good at putting things together. You take pride in the things you build…”
Target by message, not demographics. What I mean by this is, don’t agonize over the format of the station (trying to reach the “right” people); instead, focus on getting the message right. For example, say you’re a beer distributor in Ohio, looking for a delivery driver. Instead of placing a lifeless classified ad (“Wanted: beer delivery driver. Must have CDL. Wage and benefits DOE. Apply at…”), you decide to do something a little more fun: Think that message might find its way to the right prospect? The right message will find its way to the right people. Just ask The Wizard.
Use radio to keep your pipeline full. Attract qualified applicants even when you don’t have an immediate vacancy. Invite interested parties to get on an inside track to employment at your company–a pre-screened waiting list, if you will–so that when an opening occurs, your next hire is already in the breech. Consider airing a “This Week at (Your Company)” feature; use it to salute employees, commemorate milestones, thank customers, or even remind people about community events, etc. If your local radio station airs a community calendar, consider sponsoring it. It’s a great way to stay top-of-mind and make people both inside and outside the company feel good about it.
You might want to print this post and keep it handy. Because sooner or later, you’re going to be blindsided by the sudden departure of a key employee. That’s when you’ll want to enlist the help of a powerful ally, your local radio station, to help you find and hire your next MVP, sooner.
*Share of Media Consumption table courtesy Radio Advertising Bureau
Avg. Minutes Per Day
% of Total Media Time
Internet (No e-Mail)
The Media Audit, January 2012 – March 2013 -Radio’s Share of Time Spent with Selected Media -Average Minutes per Day (Adults 18+)- Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding *Billboards based on time spent driving
cli·ché (noun) – a phrase that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought
Just for fun sometime, make a mental note of all the ads you encounter that contain these five words: “for all your __________ needs.”
Every time you hear or see that phrase, know that the copywriter was on auto-pilot. It is simply the most insipid, threadbare, worn-out, uninspired, unoriginal, vapid, meaningless, and useless phrase in all of advertising.
While by no means the only cliché upon which too many copywriters lean to fill time or space, it does top the list.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I stumbled across a remarkable website created by Larry Fuss, owner of Delta Broadcasting, for the benefit of radio advertisers and radio advertising professionals alike. It was a page entitled FOR ALL YOUR STUPID CLICHE NEEDS.
I’ve often wondered how the phrase became so ubiquitous. Did the new advertiser or ad writer assume, because they’d heard it used so often by so many different businesses, that it must be important to include it in their own advertising? Or were they, as my friend Larry so bluntly put it, just being “incredibly lazy?” (In the interest of full disclosure, having been an ad writer for more than 40 years, I’ve foisted my share of this drivel upon listeners, too. Hopefully less often these days.)
Some clichés seem to attract certain categories of advertisers. Automobile dealers, for example, are overly fond of this one: “There’s never been a better time to buy!” Does anybody really believe this? Of course not. Not even when the announcer is shouting it with a reverb effect to boost the hype.
In one ear and out the other.
So why do they continue to use these ridiculous, overblown claims in their advertising? Why do advertisers insist on saying things like: “Never before and never again will prices be this low!” only to inform you the following week that their big whoopdedoo is being “held over by popular demand?”
Please, please, please give consumers credit for being smarter than that.
The typical car buyer goes into the dealership having done enough research online to know as much about the vehicle she’s going to buy as the salesman who’s going to sell it to her. Same goes for most other significant retail purchases. The internet and smartphones have tilted the scales in favor of the consumer. Get over it. Today’s buyer wants the the plain truth, not hype. Just the facts, ma’am.
“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.” – David Ogilvy
If this was true fifty-plus years ago, when Ogilvy penned those famous words, how much more so today?
One of Radio’s enduring success stories, Tom Bodett has been the sole pitchman for Motel 6 for more than 30 years. Throughout three decades of swirling changes in society, culture, politics, technology, and the economy, they’ve kept up with the times without changing their formula for success. One guy reading great copy, same kitchy music, same tagline: “We’ll leave the light on for you.”
Congratulations to ad agency The Richards Group, spokesman Tom Bodett, and client Motel 6. Thanks for keeping us entertained while reminding us of your promise to provide a clean, comfortable room at the lowest price of any national chain.
How long before the rest of the matches in this photo will ignite? It’s a good way to think about an emerging trend in business, including radio advertising sales.
A recent article in INSIDE RADIO talked about new and emerging prospect categories for radio.
There’s no question that the business landscape is shifting under our feet. We’ve been feeling its rumbles for years, and they’re becoming more pronounced.
Consider the “insane, retailer-wrecking” growth ofAmazon. Time reports that Amazon now has more than 80 million Prime subscribers, consumers who shell out a hundred bucks a year for a combination of entertainment (videos, music, e-books, and audio books) and shopping (2-day free shipping).
According to Jeffery Eisenberg* in a recent American Small Business Institute weekly video, Amazon is the fastest company in history to ever hit $100 billion in sales.
Of particular interest: they close an astounding 74% of their web traffic! (How’s that compare to your close ratio?) People go to Amazon prepared to spend money.
Consumers love Amazon because Amazon loves them.
“The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company.” – Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
Recently Amazon announced the hiring of 100,000 new employees. Meanwhile, venerable stores like Macy’s, Kmart, Kohl’s, JC Penney, Target, Sears, and others are closing by the thousands in 2017 alone.
Depending on the size of your market, these changes may or may not be affecting your business today. But they will have a domino-effect (or matchbook-effect, to return to the photo illustration above) that will eventually impact all of us: consumers, retailers, and advertising companies.
Small business owners need to be keenly aware of the shopping experience they’re providing their customers. Surprise and delight must be their (and our) mantra. As Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads, has been telling us, we must focus less on branding and more on bonding with our customers.
Those of us in radio advertising sales would do well to challenge our current clients (and ourselves) to ask: what are we doing to love our customers like Amazon loves theirs?
As advertising professionals, we must carve out time regularly to identify, research, and understand new and emerging trends and prospect categories. But just as importantly, we need to be bringing our existing advertisers a regular stream of new ideas to invigorate their advertising with more customer-centric messages.
It’s a practice that can only enhance our client relationships.
Radio folk: are you incorporating pro-radio messages into your social media? Here’s an example of a Facebook cover photo/meme we’re using at Grace Broadcast Sales and Radio Sales Cafe to remind our followers of the unique power of speech-driven advertising. Feel free to copy/adapt for your own use.
Over the past few years the guys at Howard Hughes Appliance, TV, and Sleep Shop have used their radio advertising on April 1st to feature imaginative new products or uses for existing products, invented solely to give listeners a little chuckle.
They’ve introduced breakthroughs such as refrigerator planters, pet drying attachments for clothes dryers, pedal-powered appliances for the fitness-minded, self-cleaning refrigerators, Holographic Transport Television (HTTV), and innovative uses for your microwave oven (think: Peep jousting).
Here’s a small sampling of my favorites.
The first time we did this, listeners were caught off-guard. Many called the store or even dropped by just to express their appreciation. A few actually came in looking for the items being advertised, improbable as that sounds.
It’s strictly for fun, not for profit (in a short-term transactional sense). But this is a forward-thinking advertiser, who recognizes that there’s more to a relationship than to be sell-sell-selling all the time.
In today’s (4/10/17) American Small Business Institute monthly video with Roy H. Williams and Wizard Academy Vice-Chancellor Daniel Whittington, I asked the Wizard what he thought about this use of advertising dollars. After listening to a few spots, he said that not only is this a good idea for April 1st, but for an advertiser committed to building long-lasting relationships with listeners, it could be worth doing at different times throughout the year, just to change things up.
Might this be something worth doing in your market? It can’t hurt to give it some thought. After all, we’re pummeled by so much bad news throughout the day, your listeners might find it refreshing to hear from an advertiser whose objective is to make them smile.
Your business is defined principally by what-you-sell or what-you-do. Are these the only things you talk about in your advertising?
May I suggest that you are also defined by what you won’t do or sell, by what you exclude.
The principle of exclusion conveys that you’ve drawn a line in the sand, and you stand on just one side of it. You don’t try to straddle both sides. You’re not all things to all people.
The contrast sets you apart. It helps consumers to understand with greater clarity what your business or brand is all about. Those who identify with you are more likely to do business with you.
Here’s a great example:
Carl owns a repair shop called Imported Car Service (ICS). He specializes in servicing, maintaining, and repairing imported cars. Over the years, Carl has recorded dozens of radio commercials, most of which have been written to provide his customers with valuable tips and tricks to add to their driving pleasure and to help reduce their cost of ownership.
But this spot does something else. It tells owners of domestic brands that ICS isn’t interested in working on those particular vehicles, because all of their time, effort, and infrastructure is poured into serving the needs of import car owners. Telling you what they won’t do makes their advertising more credible and effective, as Carl himself will tell you.
We’ve had a lot of dark skies and rain in recent weeks. When there’s a sliver of clear sky in the west at sunset, the rays of the setting sun seem to intensify, casting a fiery glow on objects underneath the canopy of dark clouds. This view of the WSU skyline caught my attention on just such an evening. If the light had been evenly distributed overhead the scene wouldn’t have been as interesting. But set against a backdrop of darkness (the exclusion of light), it really pops.
Which is more powerful, the eye or the ear? If you could keep just one of these two senses, which would you choose?
Strange questions to ask, but stay with me for a moment.
We don’t give much thought to our senses; we just use them. Hearing, sight, smell, and touch all affect how we perceive our environment and the people with whom we interact.
In advertising, we’re concerned primarily with the first two, hearing and sight. Which of these, if it came down to it, would you give up first?
Whenever I’ve asked this question of different people, I’ve heard both answers. But I’ve also noticed a tendency among those who answer without hesitation to say they’d give up their hearing to save their sight, while those who take more time to think about the ramifications tend to favor preserving their hearing.
Strangely, we sometimes confuse them in our everyday speech. For instance, a friend tells you about something he’s learned and you reply, “I see what you mean.” Or we see (read) something interesting on the dinner menu and say ‘that sounds good.’” Why is that?
Al Ries and Jack Trout, co-authors of Positioning: the Battle for the Mind, one of the most influential advertising books of the 20th century, conducted extensive research in an effort to learn how the human brain responds differently to ear-oriented stimuli and eye-oriented stimuli.
The March 14, 1983 issue of ADVERTISING AGE carried the article that detailed their findings: “The eye vs. the ear.” (It was subsequently reprinted as a chapter in Jack Trout’s excellent follow-up book, The New Positioning.)
“Written language,” they said, “is recoded by the mind into an internal form of oral language. It seems that your mind must translate printed words into their spoken equivalents before it can understand them.”
When people communicate with one another, the ear is the preferred avenue of entry, either in person or over the phone.
When people turn to one of the senses for pure pleasure, the sense they generally turn to is the ear. Compare, for example, the time spent listening to music with the time spent looking at art or photography. There’s no comparison. The ear wins by a huge margin.
What are the implications where advertising is concerned?
Clearly there is a striking inconsistency between advertisers and the target of their advertising, the prospects.
Prospects spend 85 percent of their overall media time immersed in ear-oriented media…and only 15 percent of their time with eye-oriented media such as newspapers and magazines.
Advertisers, on the other hand, spend 55 percent of their dollars on eye media (print), and only 45 percent of their dollars on ear media (broadcast).
It’s worth repeating: Consumers spend 85 percent of their overall media time immersed in ear-oriented media, and only 15 percent of their time with eye-oriented media such as newspapers and magazines.
The emergence of the Internet and new media has added more variables to the equation, but the central fact remains: the mind works by ear.
Speech remains our primary form of communication. Print, in any form, is an imitation of speech. The only pure-speech mass medium is radio.
P.S. You remember Paul Harvey, don’t you? For my money, he was radio’s most trusted voice. Got a minute and 12 seconds to hear his take on all this?
It’s well established that sounds enter the brain faster than visuals, and the memory of those sounds fades more slowly. Which is why, as Paul Harvey once pointed out, as a kid in the classroom, you could answer the teacher’s question, “What did I just say?” accurately, even though you’d been daydreaming and your thoughts were a million miles away moments before.
Speech is mankind’s primary form of interpersonal communication. And radio, because it is the only pure audio medium, is the most intimate and personal of all advertising media.
Radio also happens to be the most visual of all media.
It’s true. Pictures in the mind are more vivid, more personal, and therefore more “real” to us. And they’re unique. A hundred people can read the same book, but each will have different pictures of the people and places described in the story.
These things came to mind as I watched the video accompanying the Call for Entries to this year’s Radio Mercury Awards (radio’s counterpart to the Oscars).
Wasn’t that fun?
Wait a minute, you say. Aren’t you contradicting yourself? That’s a video.
Of course it is.
But when there wasn’t a picture on the screen, you were still seeing something quite vividly in your mind!
That’s the power of pure audio. That’s the power of radio.
Still unsure? OK, click the play button below and close your eyes.
Makes the point, doesn’t it?
Produced by WBEB-FM in Philadelphia, that commercial won the 2010 Radio Mercury Award in the Station Produced category. (Six years earlier, I’d been honored with the same award for a spot I’d created for Keeney Bros. Music Centers, entitled “Dreaming.”) What many Radio Mercury-winning spots* have in common is that they’re entertaining, captivating, and visual.
Whether your goal is long-term brand-building or short-term cash-register-ringing you need, you really ought to explore what radio advertising can do for you. If you’d like to learn more, give me a call
*Want to hear some of the most engaging radio commercials ever produced? Check out the Radio Mercury winners archive. You’re welcome.
Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at PalousePics.com.