Monday 6 June 2011

Anatomy of a Radio Ad

When there isn’t much in your advertising, sing it.
-          David Ogilvy

Well, we hear radio jingles and slogans every day (I won’t say listen), and whether we agree or not, most of the times they fall on our blind spot errr…deaf spot. It's either because we are currently not looking out for the advertised product/service, or are busy with some other activity, say driving, or may be the advertisement itself failed to leave a mark!
I have been listening to these advertisements on radio for quite some time now and will safely conclude that they follow a set template. The four elements of this template are:
1.       Words

Live Copy Commercials – Once the writer has assembled the words and given a conceptual structure, usually a sales pitch, it is then read by the radio jockey.

Monologues - Unlike a Live Copy commercial, monologues are professionally produced commercial employing a single voice. These are usually confessional in nature. E.g. a dulcet voice will confess that how using a particular brand of white shampoo did wonders to his/her hair etc.

Multiple Voices – Given the budget of the advertiser, a radio commercial can employ more than one voice. Usually such commercials are conversational in nature, portraying a situation or communicating a story.

On the basis of the creative ability of the copywriter, a play with words in a radio commercial, can give it a humorous, dramatic, poignant or an interesting twist, or elicit emotions of pride, greed, envy, fear, etc. The product category being advertised dictates the choice of words and what plays out, say if the advertisement is for a bank, a humorous script may backfire.

Now a days it’s hard to spot creative radio commercials, it is either an advertisement that is read out of the newspaper or an existing television advertisement that is played on the radio. I guess it is for this reason that I have not come across any deodorant ad on radio. Given the sleazy and X rated deo ads we get to see on television, I wonder how they will be played on radio…probably with moaning male and female sound giving a mating call to each other!!

2.       Sound Effects

Sound effects to a radio commercial are akin to cinematography and visual effects in a brilliantly produced television commercial. What image do you form in your mind with horns honking and a whistle of a traffic cop? Yes you are right, if you conjured an image of a traffic jam. There are innumerable examples where properly conceived and thought through sound effects can elevate an otherwise mundane script.  Certain recording studios have a stock library of sound effects like telephone ringing, animal sounds etc. However there are certain sound effects that are hard to script and even harder to find, e.g. someone taking a bath. In such cases the sound has to be supplemented with a script or narration so as to convey the ad idea correctly to the listener.

3.       Music

Music is utilized in radio commercials as jingles or as ambient music. Jingles are commercials with music and singing. Ambient music is one which is used in the background. Music is also used for dramatic emphasis or to communicate a funny situation. Pink Panther signature music invariably reminds of the antics of inspector Jacques Clouseau.

4.       Silence
Silence is golden, not so in the case of radio commercials. A long silence in a radio commercial may give an impression to the listener that something is either wrong with the radio or the station’s reception has blacked out. If used properly and in creative fashion, silence speaks more than words.
There is no sure shot recipe to create a memorable radio commercial. However like a mouthwatering dish, it has to be  a mix of each of the above four elements in the right proportion, that gives the listeners a  radio commercial that they would love to hear and a radio commercial that would undoubtedly rub positively on the brand too.
As always, will request the readers of this post, if you have time, please drop a line.


  1. Your post is very good. Thank you, very good study, let me benefit a lot


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