Better Commercial Breaks

We’ve shown before that consumers perceive that stations stop for commercials about four times an hour and play about four commercials every time they stop. So, we’ve suggested that there’s an upside to positioning that your station only stops twice an hour, while recognizing that (1) it’s an easy claim for a competitor to parry and (2) it won’t ring true if you drop a 30-second promo between songs. Consumers know that what we call a “promo” is a commercial about the station.

We know that commercial breaks are often much longer than four spots (and we’re glad that listeners don’t keep track). In the car, they can switch around to other stations. At home or at work, they get distracted (and, besides, who’d bother counting commercials?). But, longer breaks make it hard on both listeners and clients.

In some instances, the breaks go on for so long with so many units that the breaks become the audio equivalent of the placemat in a diner – a cacophony of offers and claims that makes it hard for any commercial to get noticed. And, after all, you DO want the client to get benefit from the time they’ve booked. Helping to ring their cash register is what brings the station repeat business and pays the bills and keeps all of us working.

Stations need to be focused on keeping commercials relevant, interesting and effective. Given the local-market geographic targeting that radio allows, the narrowed demographics delivered by stations and the available research to show which goods/services/businesses will be most relevant to a station’s audience, it’s possible to connect listeners with interesting and relevant commercial offers. Making commercials effective is, of course, the holy grail of advertising.

That’s where the underutilized radio endorsement spot comes in. Familiar voices telling us about relevant goods or services, adding their weight to our decision making. Unproduced voices telling us stories about their experiences with a product or service. Stories that step outside the often-predictable patter of the radio commercial. Delivery that strikes at that one-to-one connection that radio’s been striving for since it was freed from the living room decades ago.

No, it doesn’t have to be live (though it’s great when it is). No, it doesn’t have to be delivered by a marquee name (though it’s great when it can be). Yes, it must be delivered by someone with a name (otherwise, how will the listener relate to him or her?). Yes, it’s best when it’s improvised from loose copy points. Yes, the talent delivering the spot should have personal experience with the thing being advertised. Yes, it should revolve around a story in hopes of engaging the listener. Yes, it’s best when there’s no music or sound effects to distract from the message – it’s personal.

How often they can run, where to place them in a break, which clients are eligible, etc. are station-specific decisions. Making commercials more effective and changing the sameness of the sound of commercial breaks is a worthwhile goal. Here’s to the endorsement!