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Create Effective, Charming Ads

Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your use of endorsements and live reads

One would think that after so many years in the business, we’d all be immune to the power of the medium. And yet there I was, just last week, considering the purchase of a product that I had heard described on the radio.

It was a live read that reached out and plucked me like a fresh fruit from a tree. Actually, I’m not even certain it was truly live. It may have just sounded like it was “live,” but it could have been pre-recorded and endorsed by a talent whom I happen to like very much.

If broadcast cynics like me can be convinced by a radio personality to purchase a product, there’s a lot of untapped potential in many stations.

Because commercials endorsements and live reads are not as common as they once were in our industry, perhaps it’s time for your sales department to reevaluate their potential in terms of driving revenue for your station and results for your clients.

A program director and general sales manager should meet to discuss the big issues surrounding a new concentration on endorsements and live reads. Begin with a clear understanding that not all endorsements need to be live reads, nor do all live reads need to be endorsements. They can be both, but depending on the product and the amount the client wants to spend, they do not have to be.

Plainly put, an endorsement occurs when a talent encourages listeners to purchase or use a product because it worked for them. During an endorsement, a talent typically will use their name and often will sound extemporaneous as they list the excellent qualities of the product.

A live read is just a commercial that is read, seemingly live, by an on-air talent.

Proceed with care

Now that the PD and GSM are using the same language, they should delve into the math.

Credit: iStockphoto/id-work Discuss how many times an hour live reads can be aired without sounding overwhelming. Depending on format, it may not make sense to run more than one live read during one commercial stop-set. Endorsements are even trickier, because the more you air, the more it sounds as if everyone at the station is pitching something.

This can be a problem, especially if the products being endorsed are all in one category. Not long ago someone asked me if all DJs were overweight. When I asked him why he wanted to know this, he surprised me by saying that he hears so many DJs talking about the benefits of weight loss programs or diets that he assumed anyone who played songs on the radio had pounds to spare.

Talent agreements should be written in such a way that every talent is required to do so many endorsements for free per year. Do not attempt to make talent do all of them as part of their job. If they do three or four a year as part of their contract and then you (or the client) pays them for two or three others, you will find that they’ll work a lot harder at sounding great when they do the spots.

Decide who will be the point person on staff to talk to talent about endorsements. Typically, the initial approach should come from the PD with a hand-off to the salesperson who is connected to the client. The sales manager should be involved in the price structure of the process, but may not be needed for any of the other logistics.

Naysayers about the subject are likely to point out that with all the voice-tracking done today, there just isn’t much room for endorsements or live reads.

While it’s true you may have fewer on-air talent to turn to, it’s also true that you can hire outside talent to endorse products when necessary. You’ll find that local celebrities from TV stations, newspapers and even Web sites will be capable of generating action for you.

Endorsements and live reads have been with us since the beginning of the medium and will likely be here long after we’re all history. It’s merely a question of radio people remembering just how effective and charming advertising can be when executed with the proper style.

The author is president of Lapidus Media. E-mail him

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