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Three ways to fix your radio ad


Avoid these mistakes brands make and create an audio commercial your customers connect with.

Most radio ads suck. Harsh, but true.

They suck because they fail to do what they’re supposed to do, which is to grab your ideal customer's attention at the right time and in the right way so they take action and buy.

These ads are doomed to fail from the moment the idea hits the page and the script is emailed to the client (in fact, therein lies a big problem which I’ll tell you about in a bit.) 

Radio advertising remains one of the most cost-effective channels available to brands, but to realise its potential, the creative needs to be done right/needs to play to radio’s strengths. And when it’s not done right it/and when it doesn’t do that, it can end up costing brands money rather than the opposite.

One of the reasons most radio ads don’t cut the mustard and fail to generate the results brands deserve - is because the people responsible for developing the creative make the mistake of responding to the radio brief in the same way that they would respond to a brief for an OOH, print or banner ad campaign.

Read on for tips on how to avoid making some common mistakes marketing departments make when creating an audio ad for their brand.

What reads well may not sound as good

An audio ad starts life as words on a page but that’s where the similarities with visual advertising ends. To say that an audio ad is not a print ad sounds ridiculous, but there can be a tendency to forget that audio ultimately ends up in people’s ears. That’s why…what looks good on paper might not sound as you intended.

Remember your target audience will be hearing your ad not reading it! 

Here’s an example of an audio ad that perhaps wasn’t fully thought through at script stage. Listen and judge for yourself.

Okay, that was clearly a spoof commercial… but it illustrates the point that you should always appraise your audio ideas by actually hearing them rather than just reading them quietly to yourself.

(And we wanted to give you a chuckle. You’re welcome!)

Let’s look at 3 of the common mistakes advertisers make when trying to create an effective audio ad campaign that jumps off the page and works brilliantly on the airwaves.

(To be clear, these are the things they should do but don’t.)

1. Say it out loud

When sharing new work with our clients we always present the scripts, rather than just emailing them the words. It’s the Radioville way.

We do this so that everyone can hear (and discuss) the intended tonepace and rhythm. And it’s nearly damn 100% impossible to do that when you’re just looking at the words on the page. 


This is more than just the words used. It’s the nuance within the delivery of the script and it’s the well-placed inflections on certain words (or even a certain part of a single word!) - which will play a crucial role in creating an engaging audio commercial. And you can’t optimise this without hearing it.


Yes, this is partly about the speed at which the script is read, but it’s also about knowing the journey you want to take the listener on - i.e. the pace at which you deliver the pertinent information. And yes, you guessed it, you have to hear it to know if it’s working or not. What may look convoluted on a page could sound spot on in your ear!


This is the beat pattern of the speech. It’s the ebb and flow of the commercial - which is particularly important when the script involves dialogue between characters. The pattern in which they interact will have a significant impact on the mood, drama, tension and overall tone of the commercial. And, that’s right(!), you have to hear it to judge if it’s the vibe you’re after. 

PLUS, not forgetting to mention that hearing the idea read out aloud reminds everyone of the number of words that can actually fit comfortably in, say, a 30-second commercial… it’s often less than you might think…And waiting until you’re in the recording studio with the voice talent to find out that the 30-second script you’ve approved is actually 47 seconds is pretty stressful (and costly)!

2. Think about context

Unlike other advertising channels, people often consume audio ads while doing something else - which presents a fantastic opportunity for brands to make their communication even more relevant. By openly acknowledging or giving a subtle nod to the context of the listener, brands are able to create a stronger connection.

Some questions to ask when developing the creative are:

What might your target audience be doing when they hear your commercial? Are they working? Exercising? On the school run? Relaxing at home?  

Bearing this in mind will lead to a commercial that resonates more strongly with your target audience.

What frame of mind might they be in when they hear your commercial? 

Where are they on the customer journey? What is the most appropriate emotional lever to pull on? Understanding this will enable you to connect with them on a more meaningful level which is more likely to lead to them taking the action you want.

Where is your commercial being played? 

Is it being played within podcast content? Given that the majority of podcasts are still conversation based, make sure your ad doesn’t jar with people’s listening experience - so consider refining your ad accordingly…which is something that’s often overlooked.  

Is it being broadcast through smart speakers? If it is, consider running an actionable audio ad campaign that will enable your audience to engage with your brand through voice commands they give to their Alexa or Google Assistant.

When done right, building the creative idea around a clear, specific and explicit context can be powerful and will resonate deeply with your audience. 

Here’s an example that does this very well: 

This commercial has an immediate real-time positive impact. It goes to show the power of a carefully considered, contextualised creative idea.

3. Get the media and creative working in perfect harmony

Unlike visual advertising (where media is often pre-booked and then ads are designed for various shapes, sizes and formats) you won’t know what the optimum spot length of your audio commercial is until you know what you want to say and how you want to say it… 

So, don’t book the media until the creative has been developed! 

Behind every successful audio ad, you’ll find the media and creative working hand in hand. 

The risk of committing to the media before knowing what the creative might look like is that you fall in love with an idea that is 40” long which you then try, unsuccessfully, to shoehorn into a 30” spot which leads to your communication being compromised and you ending up with a less effective audio commercial. 

The most commonly booked spot length on most radio stations in the UK is probably 30”. But that doesn’t mean 30” is the best length for you… 

Wait until you know what shape the creative is going to take before discussing the spot length.

Key takeaways

An audio ad is not a visual ad. So don’t clumsily repurpose your banner or print ad and put it on the airwaves. Your brand and your audience deserve better than that.

An audio ad has to be treated very differently from a visual ad from the start of the creative journey. The art (and strategy) to creating a successful audio campaign requires you to take time to:

  • Present your ideas and provide an immersive experience for your clients - don’t email the words
  • Consider the context of your audio ad to achieve a deeper connection with your potential customers
  • Work out your core message before booking the media (determine what you want to say, and how you want to say it to avoid expensive disappointment in the recording studio!)

Follow these steps to avoid some of the common mistakes brands make and create an effective audio campaign that inspires your potential customers to take action when they hear it.

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Fancy a virtual coffee? 

We love a good ol’ chinwag… almost as much as we love creating attention-grabbing audio commercials for our clients. 

If you’re looking for an effective radio campaign that enables you to connect with and gain more customers, LET’S CHAT!

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