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Your Ads Should Attract, Engage and Persuade

Ownership changes the picture you might have of what a station needs to survive. It's not watts. Some people in radio think you need more watts, but not one of my advertisers or listeners owns a field strength meter.

Fred Krug is sharp. While working for him, I expressed a desire to buy my own station. Fred replied, “Acquisition is easy. Getting the thing to make money is another story.”

Fred had other warnings too. “Don’t ever go out and try to sell advertising. You’re trying to sell something nobody wants to buy. Go out and help people sell cars and furniture and clothing.”

Well, I went ahead and bought my thousand-watt daytime AM station. Of course it’s at the high end of the dial; where else would you put a thousand-watt daytime AM?

Ownership changes the picture you might have of what a station needs to survive. It’s not watts. Some people in radio think you need more watts, but not one of my advertisers or listeners owns a field strength meter. It’s not jingles and programming. There’s always somebody who can program better and flashier than I can, not to mention running big promotions and contests. I don’t have the resources to do big contests; I can’t give away a new car.

Here is what has been working for me: It boils down to being as valuable as you can be to your listeners and your clients.

Swingin’ and ringin’

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn says it best: “If you work hard on your job, you can make a good living. If you work hard on yourself, you’ll make a fortune.”

For your clients, dealing with most advertising people is right up there with buying a car or undergoing a root canal procedure. Learn as many skills as you can that will help you better serve them.

One of my passions is creating an ad campaign that really works, one that “makes the door swing and the register ring,” as Fred would say. One stumbling block is getting a client to get out of the way and let me design their ad.

I have several banks on the air. One is about as friendly and down to earth as you could get. This client let me come up with a series of comical ads that work. They even renewed on a thousand-watt daytime AM station at the high end of the dial – not because I used an RE-20 microphone and the latest audio editor, but because they know I return phone calls quickly, and that if there’s a piece of trash paper on their sidewalk, I’ll pick it up and get rid of it. They know I’m happy to send a copy of their spot to their stations at no charge.

They understand I’m not here to sell advertising. I’m here to help them be more successful and open more accounts.

One bank in the area is a different story. They don’t get it. Talk about stuffy! As Fred would say, “They should have organ music playing in their lobby.” I keep going round and round with them. The president is far too busy to speak with me on the phone, yet his gatekeeper told me the president wants to write the copy. I asked her, “OK – as long as I can write my own loan agreement!”

Imagine an ad written by a guy who spends hit time running a stuffy bank. I couldn’t do that to my listeners.

Bank fraud

Here are the principles I apply to merchants or anybody else writing copy.

When a spot runs on our station, it is an essential part of our sound – unlike print ads, which are passive.

In fact, while it’s on the air, the spot is our sound. As far as I’m concerned, your ad had better be at least as good as the last song we played, or it doesn’t get on the air.

Here’s my point. Suppose I let Mr. Smith write an ad for Smith’s Super Market; it’s going to sound just like every other ad ever written by a supermarket owner. It’s going to be a list of meat prices, ice cream prices and Pepsi prices, followed by his hours, his location, his phone number and what he believes is the biggest reason people shop there, the number of years he’s been in business.

We had 500 listeners. Assuming Mr. Smith is still there, we’ve now lost 499 of them. Remember the bank that was getting great results? Its ad was coming up next, but we let Smith put listeners to sleep and we lost them. They tuned out. We ran a stupid ad and cheated the bank out of the listeners it paid for. We committed bank fraud!

I respect my clients. They support me and put food on my table. I cherish them. Here’s a rule I live by: No one is going to touch their ad without showing me a track record of writing successful, persuasive, compelling copy that engages the listener. Buy Roy Williams’ books. Buy Dan O’Day’s books. Do whatever works for you. Learn how to develop excellent ads.

I hear boring ads all day long. People working in agencies and stations can write ads as poorly as anyone. If you write a stupid song nobody will sing it. Isn’t it hard enough to claim your share of listeners? Why waste everybody’s time and drive them down the dial with an impotent spot?


I recently read an article that fascinated me. It talked about how to handle the problem of a merchant who wants to voice his own ad.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. My problem is convincing merchants they need to voice their own ads. (We write the copy, but the merchant does the spot.)

Here’s why. Our station is well established as producing the best spots in the area. That along with an excellent format are really our strengths. No matter how good the ads that we voice and produce, rarely will anyone walk into a store and say, “I heard some guy on the radio talking about your sale.” Put the merchant on the air and immediately people tease her or make some remark or do something that lets her know she’s being heard. It often happens on day one! She’s getting results. Beyond that, each time she’s on the radio she’s gaining equity in the minds of the listeners. Priceless.

There’s a catch, and this can’t be stressed enough: You must be certain the merchant comes across as sharp, friendly and upbeat. Record her in her gift shop, not in your studio. Record him in his service station, not your studio. They will be far more at ease at their place than they would ever be in your production room. If the location has ambient sound, it adds interest to the spot.

Use the best equipment you have. I used a Marantz cassette machine for years; I still do for some tasks. Just make sure the heads are clean and aligned. Use the best mic available and a good tape. But if you don’t have the latest equipment, nobody cares except other radio people.

Open ears

Joyce Harper bought Rusty’s Restaurant in 1970. She never advertised anywhere, but right after I bought the station, she was kind enough to try us.

A guy driving down the road, looking for a place to eat lunch, didn’t know we had recorded Joyce on a cassette at her counter. All he heard was, “When I was 12 years old, I learned to bake pies standing on a wooden box next to my mama’s cook stove.” Joyce sold a lot of homemade pie with that spot. Ask anybody why Rusty’s banana pudding was so good, and Joyce would tell them over and over that the secret ingredient was “A whole lotta love!” Thank you, Joyce, for being such an important part of our programming and making our station sound great all these years.

We’ve never written an ad for Joyce; we just turn on the mic and let her talk. Then we choose interesting sentences and phrases and put them together in a spot.

Joyce is one of those people with a level of energy you don’t have to tweak. Not all merchants are that radiogenic. For them, create a sample ad so they can get an idea of the pacing, style and tone. Play them a demo of their friends’ spots. Then work with them and coach them. Get them relaxed and laughing. It should be fun and not painful. At least get a couple of sentences out of them if at all possible.

There are always going to be some who won’t do it. I find that fascinating. Who could tell you about Johnson’s Hardware better than Johnson?

Fred Krug often told me that what you say in an ad, how you say it and how frequently you say it are more important than which station runs the ad. Be brief. If you can say it in two words, don’t use three. Jesus said, “Follow me!” A brief message, but powerful because he backed it up with a great offer and a promise of complete satisfaction.

An effective ad attracts, engages and persuades the listener.

I hope some of these principles will be helpful in making you and your clients more successful. Radio works well when you do it right. For implanting a thought, an image or a slogan the listener can’t forget, nothing else works as well as a good radio spot. It’s intrusive! You hear it without even trying! As Chris Lytle says, “Radio works better than print because people have eyelids. They don’t have earlids.”

The spots you run are a major part of your sound. Make your next spot better than your last song.

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