Radio Hed: Two Paths to a Successful Commercial

Radio Hed Logo 2by Jeffrey Hedquist

How do you create an effective commercial? Do you just start writing and see where it goes, or do you have in mind where you want the spot to end and then choose a place to begin so that you can take the audience there?

Both work. The process and the outcome may differ, depending on you, the time you have available to create, the market, and the advertiser.

Why not try both approaches and see which one works better for the situation? It only takes a few minutes and it might give you an unexpectedly good result.

The first approach, which we’ll call the “Scenic Route,” works best if you’ve done the preliminary research, brainstorming, thinking about the audience, and backstory development for the voices. Who are you talking to? What would attract their attention, touch them emotionally, or solve their problem?

With just enough preparation, just start writing and let the words pour out. If it’s a story, you’ll be amazed at where it carries you. If it’s a conversation, you may be surprised at what your characters say and how they react. Allow the magic to happen. Don’t try to direct the outcome. Just keep writing.

It’s likely that your story will grow organically and sound more like the way people talk and less like a commercial. When you take a break you may realize that your commercial is now a 7 ½ minute screenplay or short story.

Turn it into a campaign of episodes. As you edit your epic into bite-sized chunks, you may find that what you’ve written sounds more authentic than the typical commercial. And today, authenticity is the most powerful way to reach an audience that is extremely hype-averse.

The second approach we could call the “Express.” Again, prepare by knowing your advertiser’s strengths and what will resonate with your intended audience. Now, decide how you want the story – your client’s commercial to end. What’s the goal? Maybe you even know the last line of the spot. Where do you want to take the audience?

Focus. Everything you write using the “Express” has that overarching goal – to point to your predestined conclusion. This approach will give your writing an efficiency of ideas and words. It will give the message simplicity, clarity, and power. When your client has a great advantage over the competition, information that will make a difference in people’s lives, or a dramatic offer, this technique will help drive that message home.

A commercial written this way becomes a well-crafted selling vehicle. It satisfies an audience who wants you to “get to the point.” It quickly tells them what’s in it for them.

The commercial still needs to be persuasive and emotional, not bombastic. The old saying that is designed to help you focus on benefits not features, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter-inch hole,” doesn’t go far enough.

That hole could be in your living room wall, just above the mantel, to the left of those antique candelabra. The hole will secure the hook from which will hang the sepia-toned photo of your Grandma Ellie in the rowboat, fishing rod in hand, bass on the line. That photo will generate stories that you can pass on to your kids about one of the great characters in your family, a tale that hopefully they’ll pass on to their kids.

So people don’t want a drill. The hole is just a step along the way to what they really want - a way to help bring the family together.

So, is it better to take the “Scenic Route” when creating a commercial or is it better to take the “Express?”

Yes.

These are two of the dozens of possible ways to create an audio ad. If they provide you with a couple of ways to break writer’s block and make an advertiser happy, then I’m happy.

Let me know how these work for you. Email Jeffrey@Hedquist.com.

© 1997-2016 Hedquist Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

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