By Jeffrey Hedquist
Hear that sound? It’s happening every minute throughout the country. It’s the off switch on your listener’s attention. All it took were the first words of a cliché, and…there it is again.
We may wince when we hear those over-used phrases that are devoid of meaning, but not our listeners. They simply ignore ‘em. And they ignore the message.
What can we do to regain their attention? Stop using clichés in our commercials. Easier said than done. We’re so used to using them that we don’t think about it, or we assume it won’t matter. Wrong.
Just listening to the radio over the past few months, I collected more than 100 of these gems. I know there are lots more. What we can do with them? Some clichés do nothing but take up valuable time and should just be eliminated: Going on now… And what’s more… You heard right… Much, much more… You owe it to yourself… Not to mention…
Many clichés are words from a client, or an agency or from us trying to state a benefit in a concise way. The problem is, what may have been fresh 50 years or even 2 years ago is now stale and empty. When you discover a cliché lurking in your script, ask yourself, “Is this a relevant benefit?” If it is, then rephrase it. Express it in conversational language.
Example: “Conveniently located” If the advertiser is located in an area that may be convenient for many potential customers, describe where it’s located with a landmark, and maybe suggest to listeners how convenient it is. “Second Street Coffee House is right across from the Post Office, so when you pick up the mail on your way to work, stop in for a fresh Danish and a gourmet blend coffee.”
Example: “Savings throughout the store” “In every department at Vigil’s you’ll find something on sale. So, if you come in to pick up something at our pharmacy, you might want to wander over to our garden department to see what we’ve marked down.”
Example: “Hurry in for best selection” “These imported rugs are all unique, but we only have 37 of them in stock. Soon there will be 30, then 20, then 10, so the sooner you come in soon, the more you can choose from.”
Scan your scripts for clichés. When you find one, ask yourself, “What am I trying to say here? How would I tell a friend what’s in it for her?”
Then, as my writing mentor would say, “Push it further.” Try to phrase it in a way that’s conversational, unexpected, shocking, provocative, unusual or intimate. Tickle the imagination and talk to your listeners.
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