Radio Hed: Commercial Hooks Catch Customers

Radio-Hed-Logo-2By Jeffrey Hedquist

Your clients are nervous. They’d love to have a way to measure the effectiveness of their ads. They want to prove they’re working. They think if they put these in their commercial…

“Mention this ad and get a free gift, or…we’ll give you 20% off, or…your next ______ is on us…” that they’ll be able to track response to their radio campaign because customers will come in and say those magic words.

Unfortunately, this rarely works. People will respond to a campaign because they heard the ads, or a friend who heard the ads told them, but customers are RELUCTANT to respond the way your client wants them to. They don’t want to follow your clients “doggie commands” as Nick Michaels calls them. To do so is mildly embarrassing, and so 1950s.

So instead of asking them to beg for the prize, tickle their imaginations. Put something in the commercials that will stick in their minds. Give ‘em a hook - a mnemonic device, a catchy phrase, image, sound, taste, touch or smell that jogs the memory. Hooks help listeners remember your client’s commercial. They help inspire them to respond. No, they’re probably not going to say “I heard it on the radio,” but if your hook is distinctive enough, they may refer to it when they speak with someone at your client’s business.

Here are some examples of hooks we’ve used that have increased sales for the advertisers, and gotten customers to mention the ads to the happy clients. I’ve included a typical customer comment (CC) for each, to give you an idea of the kind of responses we got and you can expect.

• For a real estate company we told the story of a guy stuck in a closet that he thought was his apartment. CC: “Time for me to upgrade from my closet.”

• For a university, we nailed someone inside a box, put someone in cage with a cougar, left our main character stranded on the side of a road in a foreign country, dressed him in a pickle costume. CC: “Where’s Mr. Pickle?”

• In a spot for a landscaping company we had someone arguing with his wife about the merits of dressing up as an eggplant to promote the company’s outrageous guarantee. CC: “I’m here for the eggplant guarantee.”

• For a remodeling company, we created two characters who were very typical of the company’s customers. CC: “Your commercials sound just like my husband and me talking in our kitchen.”

• For a furniture company we created a giant who dominated dozens of commercials in a campaign. CC: “I suppose I get to meet the Giant?”

• For a travel agency, we used a sound effect that reminded listeners of the agency’s name. CC: “I remembered your bell and called.”

• For a restaurant chain we created a film noir type character. CC: (Listeners would call the station to ask when the next “episode” would air.)

The hook may be the only thing they remember about the commercial/your client. Wendy’s “Where’s The Beef?“ from the ‘80s took on a life of its own.

It’s most effective if you can create a hook that ties in with or amplifies the name of the client.

Got a commercial hook you’re proud of? Send it to me for a chance to win a nifty prize (see below).

When you build in a memorable hook, listeners are more likely to mention them on their own. Then they’re not responding to your request, they’re participating of their own volition. They’re sharing an experience, they’re in on the joke; they’re part of the club.

You or your client should play the campaign for all the advertiser’s employees, so when a customer references the spot, employees will know what they’re talking about.

When the hook is sharp, potential customers remember it, and are more likely to mention it to the advertiser who just might need to be reminded that their campaign’s working.

© 1997-2013 Hedquist Productions, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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