The 1st 7 Seconds Rule for a Radio Ad

by TedV

The nature of radio is that almost all of the listeners will not give you their full attention, even if your ad is brilliant. Few people sit and just listen to the radio – that went by the wayside with the advent of television. People turn the radio on while driving, while doing housework, while sitting at their desks working or studying – anything other than only listening to the radio. Therefore, the Principles of Relevance Marketing hold the best chance of capturing the attention of someone using the radio as background noise.

Unlike an email or snail mail, with radio you should capture someone’s attention and then stir up their interest. They might not really hear and/or understand your first few words if they are really zoning out.

Interruption With the 1st 7 Seconds

Since no one is going to stop driving to pay attention to your radio ad, and since it is only slightly more possible someone will stop doing the dishes or mopping to listen, you really need to interrupt the listeners’ halfway attention and achieve a more active concentration.

These are a few interruption techniques to consider:

Introduce Someone Important or Impressive
Make an Abrupt Announcement
Ask a Conversational Question
State an Amazing Fact or Statistic
Let the Listeners Overhear Someone Else’s Secret

Introduce Someone Important or Impressive

“Hi, this is Sean Connery speaking to you on…”

Today we’re talking to Dr. Bob Smith, Head of Phrenology at Johns Hopkins Medical School.”

Whether if you interview the person, or just have them introduce themselves, either interrupts audience “zone-out half listening” and captures attention. Then you need to stir up audience interest in what you are talking about, so go forward with the Principle of Relevance Marketing to keep them listening to you. Having come out of a zone-out, they can easily slip back in and ignore a radio message that is all about you and not about them.

Make an Abrupt Announcement

I hate this ad, but it is effective on both radio and television.

“Attention listeners between the ages of 50 and 80.”

This ad is about selling pricey, low face value life insurance. It attracts attention just by the abruptness of it, and kudos to them for speaking only to their segment of the audience. Here are a few other abrupt announcements that should work:

“To all of you that want to learn a second language…”
“If you live in the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, or Minnesota…”
“Business owners…”

These ads are for the people mentioned, so even if listeners don’t want to learn a second language or don’t own a business, most will be nosey enough to listen to at least a little of you ad because there is a guilty pleasure in knowing someone else’s business. And of course you would only play the second ad in those three states.

Ask a Conversational Question

“Hi. Are you one of the 27.3% of the people with above average intelligence?”

Near on 100% of the people want to hear the rest of this message and think it’s for them. I know I do.

“Do you suffer from migraines?”

Well, most don’t but many people do suffer from headaches, so they want to know about a really strong headache reliever.

“What would you say if I told you that you could get $15,000 dollars in life insurance for pennies a day?”

“I’m not picking on insurance sales, a needed service. But let’s admit that no one really wants insurance, they want security. But in this case the question proves we all want a bargain and we all will listen to a question and think about the answer for at least a few seconds.

State an Amazing Fact or Statistic

“Drivers average $452 savings per year by switching from their present car insurance to ______.”

That’s startling and attention grabbing. Now back it up and give people an easy call to action.

“One in three people will contract some form of diabetes in their life time.”

Startling and scary. Scary works well here, but be careful with scaring people.

“We have a lot in common. Did you know that your mother and my mother were mothers?

Yes, ridiculous facts work here as well, and they can be effective if you’re very careful. I love humor but I’d never crack a joke unless I am face-to-face with the ones hearing it. Let a professional copywriter write your humor for you and make him or her explain how it advances your professional business case, even if you sell B-2-C.

Let the Listeners Overhear Someone Else’s Secret

We can’t help ourselves being a just little nosy. It’s just human nature. This is different than the Abrupt Announcement above because in those cases the target prospects addressed made up the total of the targeted audience. In this technique we address a niche but we intend a broader group of potential prospects to listen in. I mean, surely the old Marlboro cigarette ads weren’t trying to sell only to cowboys.

I wrote in an article earlier about a good example of this on a great radio ad produced by Home Depot. The ad started like this:

“If you’re a contractor…”

Now very few of those listening to that station were home and repair contractors. But a larger percentage of the listeners do some of their own home repairs from time to time. I found myself listening in to the special deals they were offering at that time because I was about to start a project of my own.

“My broker is EF Hutton, and EF Hutton said…”

This is an old ad line that was famous years ago. Some of you may not have been alive when it was first aired, and the EF Hutton brokerage was swallowed up by someone else in the ’80s I believe.

When the person said that line all those around the private conversation went silent to hear what EF Hutton would say. On radio there would be loads of background noise like in a busy restaurant or sports stadium. On television there would be the silence and the visual of everyone around leaning in closer to the speaker to hear better.

“You won’t believe what I just heard…”

Any radio ad beginning this way will catch the attention of listeners. You can make it work in so many ways, both very serious and humorous, and anything in between.

“Nancy, it’s a little known fact that…”

This can be close to the idea of Stating an Amazing Fact or Statistic mentioned above, but to make this technique work in this scenario you have the speaker confide in someone.

Relevance Marketing can be intimate and it can be impersonal. In radio it works within the parameters of the audience. If it is the first commercial of the station break, it will be different that if it is the last of four commercials. In each case you need to capture the attention of someone’s mind that will be somewhere else.