By Todd Carruth
“You’ve tried the rest now buy the best.”
“Our service is second to none.”
“A friendly knowledgeable staff!”
Have you heard these words before? Even worse, have you ever written those words before? “You heard me right! You can save like never before because this is the sale you’ve been waiting for.” These quick little sayings that roll off the tongue and occasionally contain a speck of truth are called clichés. Webster’s defines a cliché as “a trite expression or idea” originating from the French word, clicher meaning “to stereotype.”
And if you dig down deep into a cliché, you might find the true meaning behind the phrase. Yes, you might really find a friendly, knowledgeable sales staff or this could be the sale you’ve been waiting for, but do you really want your potential customers using a pickaxe and a miner’s helmet just to understand your message?
Too often Radio commercials contain these phrases that have been repeated so many times that they have become tired and stale. Stale in the sense that we know what’s coming next; we know what you are about to say, and we’ve heard it before; so go ahead and say it and we’ll move on to the next thing. It’s familiar, it’s yesterday’s news, it’s… so five minutes ago.
When we hear a cliché in a Radio commercial, for example, “save like never before,”our brain has a tendency to just tune out. Maybe the first time you heard that phrase when you were 5 years old riding around in the back of your parent’s station wagon, you thought for a brief second, “Wow, they must really have some low prices!” But after 10,000 repeated messages, pounding “save like never before” into your head, the impact has been greatly diminished. In fact, it’s now to the point where the words roll through your ears and out the window before you even realize someone was trying to sell you something.
Another difficulty that Radio commercial copywriters run into involving clichés are clients who expect and/or demand to include these trite sayings in their advertisements. Your advertisers might expect their Radio commercial to sound (to them) like a Radio commercial. The problem is, they have heard so many bad commercials in their lifetime, they think that’s what a Radio commercial should sound like!
“It’s bargain time and we’ve got storewide savings. So remember, they won’t last long because it’s happening now.”
Congratulations, you’ve just landed the quadruple Lutz of Radio clichés!
IDEAS TO HELP
Here are some ideas to help combat clichés in your commercials. Take the saying and twist it. What if you heard: “Come late and stay early because everything is marked up.”
Would that get your attention? That phrase sounds familiar but it’s backwards. Now, what if you had a second voice explain to the announcer (in normal conversational tones) that it probably would be better if customers came early, say around 10 am, and then they could even stay late until around 9 pm because you see, the prices are really low.
You have now captured the audience’s attention as well as snuck in the opening and closing times of your client’s store.
Using words that you use in everyday conversation is a great way to get your point across without causing major tune out. Radio is such a personal medium that the devotion of its listeners help market the industry. People enjoy their favorite Radio station because it speaks to them one on one. And when they hear someone addressing them as a friend, it can really cut through the cliché clutter. And yes, we do use clichés when talking to our friends and co-workers but usually only once per conversation, not 2 or 3 every 60 seconds.
Let’s twist another one: “Our stores are conveniently located throughout the area.”
What does that mean? Convenient for whom? Where are the locations? You don’t have time to list them all and trust me, nobody wants to hear a laundry list of your client’s addresses. So you can try a couple of ideas: List your client’s web site — Joescleaner.com or brakes areus.com or whatevertheirnameis.com. The Internet has evolved into an information system for your client’s customers. In fact, according to Google.com, nearly 80 million searches “of a commercial nature” are being conducted each day. Customers now expect a company to have some sort of Internet presence. “See our website for a location that’s close to you” will have more impact than “conveniently located.” Rotate one location per spot and use a nearby landmark not a street address. Nobody refers to his or her dry cleaners as the one on 3207 Maple Street. Instead, it’s the dry cleaners on Maple near Oak right across from the Airport.
Another great way you can use a cliché to your advantage is to draw attention to it. An excellent commercial in the RAB library for appliances begins with a conversation we hear between the manager of the store telling a potential customer about “Dealing Days.” This customer then explains to the manager that he copyrights advertising phrases and owns the legal rights to the words, “Dealing Days.” Apparently he also owns the phrases “bargains galore throughout the store” and “shop early for terrific savings.” As longtime listeners of Radio, we instantly recognize those clichés but the phrases get a new twist when the manager denies using those particular words in their campaign, while at the same time, restating those exact words and reinforcing the original truth. There really are “bargains galore throughout the store” and that it would be a good idea to “shop early for terrific savings.”
As a listener, we are hearing these familiar words in a different setting. Instead of someone shouting “Bargains galore,” we entertain the idea of owning the right to this expression. And when the manager reinforces the cliché by repeating it, we are, in turn, forced to examine the expression and dig a little deeper to uncover the nugget of truth.
Clichés can be a commercial killer so don’t let them get the best of you. Either by twisting the words, drawing attention to the phrase, or simply rewriting the spot, find a way to convey your client’s advertising message so that it applies directly to your client’s customers in a one on one fashion without resorting to short simple trite phrases.
And remember, we have convenient free parking, the best prices in town, and we’re your friends 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.