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!