3 Things You Need To Know About (Very) Short Radio Commercials


It wasn’t long ago that most commercials you heard on the radio were a standard 60 seconds.A :60 commercial was considered the amount of time you needed to establish your brand, tell a story, and make something “stick” with the listener. I have a degree in broadcasting from a well-known university, and I was taught almost exclusively how to write in :60s for radio.

Much to my surprise, by the time I made it out of college and into a medium market and then a major market, radio changed dramatically. One of those changes was the shift from selling mostly 60-second spots to offering clients a wide variety of lengths to choose from. Common commercials now are :30s, :15s, :10s, and even :05 seconds –  in all markets.

Can you still buy :60 radio ads? Yes – however, the standard is now :30. Can you effectively deliver a message that works in 30 seconds? Yes – but it’s harder. A message that gets results in 15… 10… 5 seconds? The hardest!

Don’t get me wrong, I think this shift is a good thing. A variety of spot lengths are good for Houston businesses, because it gives you more options. You can create a schedule that really works for your budget, and still provide the frequency and reach that you need to achieve results. It’s good for everyone… except sometimes…the creative department.

We get the daunting task of putting together something that will get the attention of listeners and get them to act. And we get less and less time to accomplish that goal. It can be done, but like any investment you make in advertising, you have to be smart about your choices.

Here are some pointers to consider:

1) Short spots work best as part of a campaign including well-written :30s and/or :60s

If you are a local auto mechanic who has never advertised on radio before, a bunch of 15- second commercials may be affordable, but they’re not likely to get the results you need. Don’t waste your money on the cheapest, shortest ads you can buy. Use the short spots to fill gaps in dayparts that are more expensive. Use them to add frequency your existing schedule of :30s. Just always make sure you have enough commercials that are :30 or :60 where you can establish your Houston business in the mind of the audience, and explain in more detail what makes you different/better.

2) Deliver a consistent message

Short commercials are a great way to deliver your slogan, jingle, or audio logo. Make sure you pick something that defines your business, and use it in every spot you do! The best :05s, :10s, and :15s are used to trigger the listener’s memory. You want them to remember your :30 or :60 message when they hear your :10 spot, so make sure you develop an obvious “trigger.” It can be a phrase, a very noticeable music piece, or even a sound effect. Along with that trigger, you might be able to get one brief message across, such as a tip or an easy to remember offer.

3) KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Commercials under :15s are no place for legal jargon, disclaimers, or wordy price details. It should NEVER be about cramming everything you want to say into :15s. Don’t put information in the copy that requires a disclaimer, you might be shooting yourself in the foot. For example, I produced a :05 second spot for a wireless company recently where the copy was: “Come to XYZ and get a free 4G phone after rebates. Fees may apply.” To me, the word “free” is the opposite of “fees may apply.” So if your legal department sees something in the short spots that requires a disclaimer, my best advice is to change the direction of the short spots rather than add jargon. Go with the less is more approach.

I want to leave you with some of my favorite short commercials that have been on the radio recently. Enjoy!

The Dos and Don’ts of Back to School Advertising in Houston

back-to-schoolWith more than 300 private schools, eight public school districts, and dozens of colleges and universities in the Houston area, the market for back to school advertising is not lacking and may benefit your business. Here are some dos and don’ts for successful back to school marketing for your Houston business for the next school season and beyond.

Do: Plan your Marketing Campaign Early

Studies have shown that back to school shopping, internet searches, and planning increase the first two weeks of July. Savvy moms, dads, and college students are getting a big head start these days. Begin preparing for this time a few months early. Think about the sales and promotions your business would like to offer, and the means by which you will advertise (i.e., via social media, paper mailers, email list campaigns, and if applicable, store front displays).

Don’t: Forget the Dads

Traditionally, moms have been the target audience for back to school advertising. But more and more dads are getting involved with the school shopping/preparation process and can be great targets for your business’ marketing campaign.

In line with increasing your digital device campaign, a recent report from Microsoft Advertising cited that “50% of men are influenced by digital ads and 44% are influenced by online search results.” So, focus on your digital device ads and promotions to appeal to the men shopping for their kids.

Do: Use Social Media to Bring in Back to School Customers

According to Experian Marketing Services, 64.8% of moms are social media users and are very willing to promote businesses to their friends, if they are pleased with the service and prices. They will also let their friends know when the service and/or prices aren’t to their liking. So prepare well and outshine the competition with your outstanding customer service and promotions.

Don’t: Forget the College Students

They are a large pool of customers to pull from. Marketing to college students has some uniqueness. For example, some students attend school all year-fall, spring, summer, and winter sessions. There is your opportunity to engage beyond the typical back to schoolseason.

During the summer and winter sessions, take special care to market your business through sales and promotions targeted to college students. This is especially beneficial if your business is located in a college town, but even if you don’t, your town still likely has highschoolers departing for college at the end of summer.

Do: Increase Campaigns to Target Different Digital Devices

According to a recent Nielsen report, the average family /individual owns four different digital devices. Do your research so your business can reach each type of device. If this isn’t your cup of tea, hire a tech-savvy professional who can literally hook your business up and get your marketing campaigns seen and heard over the wire (or network).

Don’t: Ignore Opt-in Inbound Marketing

Examples of inbound marketing are SEO (search engine optimization); PPC (Pay-per-click) advertising based on keywords; social media; and blogging. This type of marketing requires constant work and sufficient resources dedicated to producing high quality marketing around the clock. There also has to be excellent communication between your inbound and outbound marketing teams. They need to be working towards the same goals and objectives and collaborate with each other often.

Do: Engage your Customers Beyond the First Day of School

Sometimes in the hoopla of trying to advertise, create sales, and bring in real customers, businesses forget to focus on keeping the back to school customers for the rest of the year and beyond. Keep in mind the students who wait to see what their friends are wearing and bringing to school then shop after the rush. And don’t forget mid-year shopping. Engage well beyond that back-to-school season.

Don’t: Ignore the Good PR You Can Earn by Donating a Percentage of Sales to Local Schools

In the recent economic downturn, schools have received less state and federal funding and many parents aren’t able to contribute financially as much as they once did. A community-involved promotion can surely help to build sales and help the community, in turn, creating lasting relationships.

Marketing for back to school goes well beyond simply lowering prices, shouting out sales, and crossing your fingers that you’ll get some customers. Start planning early; target the right audience; use social media; target various digital devices; engage beyond the rush; don’t forget dads and college students; and be vigilant when using inbound marketing.

5 Ways to Track Your Houston Radio Advertising ROI

radio-roiHouston radio stations reach millions of potential customers each day – just take a look at the freeways during rush hour and you will see what I mean! Can you reach this audience through radio? Absolutely!

However, tracking your radio advertising ROI can be extremely difficult, given that people often don’t pay attention to how they learned about a new business, only that they’ve heard of it. I once had a client who used radio and billboard but 20% of their customers said they saw them in a television ad. So what can you incorporate into your advertising campaigns to better track your radio advertising ROI in Houston?

1. Set up a specialized URL.

Direct radio listeners to a specific homepage, such as “http://www.anydomain.com/radio.” Use that specialized URL to track how many visitors are coming to you because of your radio advertising.

2. Offer an 800 number.

The most loyal listeners in radio tend to be commuters, who need an 800 number to stick in their short-term memory long enough to make it to a phone and actually dial it. Offering a specific 800 number gives you a trackable medium, and provides your audience access to what you’re selling.

3. “How Did you Find Us?”

Add a “How Did You Find Us”  popup on your homepage that gives options such as “search engine,” “blog,” “friend,” “radio,” “mail flyer,” or any other advertising means you are using currently.

4. Give a coupon code.

Direct your radio listeners to your regular homepage, but tell them to enter a specific coupon code in a box displayed prominently on the page.

5. Look at the overall results and work backwards.

No matter how many tracking methods you use for your radio advertising ROI, there are going to be some sales with no associated advertising – at least that you can track. Take a look at your revenue and subtract out everything attributable to advertising methods. Is the revenue left coming from your radio target market? This method is more labor intensive on the back end, and not 100% attributable to radio advertising, but you can certainly get a good idea of your ROI by working backwards.

If you have commuted through Texas within the last few years, chances are you have heard some Houston radio advertising. From the crack of dawn until after sunset, the second most populous state in the Union sends drivers across its roads, with loyal listeners tuned in to their favorite DJ’s, who then provide product introductions, reviews, and personal stories.

Radio advertising is an effective, and relatively low-cost, means to reach this audience. Yet, the ROI can be difficult to track. Give one (or a combination) of these tracking methods a try to help ensure your next radio campaign is effectively being tracked.