How to create online radio ads that convert

radio ads
Photo by Alexey Ruban on Unsplash

radio ads

It’s easier than ever to launch an audio advertising campaign: just write a script, get a voice, and publish it on Pandora, Spotify, or Stitcher. Boom, radio ads! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, let me tell you a secret about radio ads: the vast majority of businesses that spend money to create an audio ad fail to convert customers or users.

It’s not because they had a bad idea; it’s not because their customers don’t listen to online radio. The reason they fail is that they do not follow the proven methods and strategies that get customers to convert.

But not to worry: this guide will show you the complete blueprint to creating online radio ads that bring you clients.

1. Start with “why”

Every successful marketing campaign starts with “why”. For an absolutely terrific video about the power of “why”, check out this video by Simon Sinek here.

Answer these questions before building your ad and launching your campaign:

  1. What are your goals with this ad campaign?

    First and foremost, what is the ultimate goal of the campaign? Is this a seasonal ad to get customers to buy during the holidays? Is this a branding campaign meant to stick to the mind of your target audience? It’s important to identify your goal so that you can determine your success metrics.

  2. Why should the listener pay attention to you? What’s in it for them?

    You have a goal — compel the customer to make a purchase — so what is the call to action? The majority of ads utilize a discount as the hook during the ad, but you don’t have to limit your creativity to a discount.

    The best ads appeal to the inner drive of the target audience. If you sell basketball shoes, then listeners want to know how they’ll jump higher, run faster, or defend better with your shoes. If you sell email tracking software, then companies want to know how they’ll sell more with your product.

Example: Wilbur’s Ladders

Listen to the following advertisement that Wilbur’s Ladders created:

This is a clear example of what NOT to do when advertising on online radio. Wilbur’s Ladders loaded up on what we like to call “fake benefits” — here is a breakdown of why the advertisement is so ineffective:

Cliché 1: “conveniently located”

Unless you’re literally right next door to your customer, this phrase is absolutely meaningless. You have a very limited amount of time to get your information to the listener — telling them you’re conveniently located next to them will not make them pay attention and drive to your store right at this moment. Don’t waste precious air time with this fake benefit.

Cliché 2: “been in business for 6 years”

This is another one of the most commonly used fake benefits out there. Sure, being in business for 10 or 20 years proves that you’ve been able to stay afloat for a long time, but does it really drive a listener to take action? The goal of an advertisement is to compel the listener to do something right now. This phrase just wastes your air time as it doesn’t evoke emotion or tell a story.

Instead of using this phrase, it’s better to use social proof, such as a testimonial or case study.

Cliché 3: “for all your ladder needs”

This one is the worst… it’s pretty much telling the listener that you don’t have anything of value to say. What kind of ladder needs do your customers have? Instead of asking them to imagine what needs they have, tell them what needs they have. If it’s a rainy season, tell them that those clogged gutters aren’t going to clean themselves. If you’re an email marketing platform, tell your target audience that current clients are the most effective group to go after for immediate up-sales.

Cliché 4: listing detailed types of features

“Small ladders, tall ladders, expensive ladders, cheap ladders”… who cares. Ladders are ladders, and a 15-second or 30-second online radio spot is no time to start listing out features. Studies show that people tune out after the second feature in a list. Instead of listing out your features, talk about the value that your product will bring to your customers.

This is an important exercise in what your customers need to hear vs what you want to say.

2. Know your demographic

So now you have your “why”. The next step is to fully understand your target demographic. In radio speak, you need to find your P1 (primary listener). These are the questions you should answer:

  1. Where do your customers work?
  2. Where do your customers live?
  3. What stations do your customers listen to?
  4. What is your customer’s biggest problem?

People don’t want a drill — they want a hole in the wall

Step into the mind of your target demographic and understand their needs and wants. If you’re selling hammers, don’t sell them on the features of your hammer; instead, sell them on the value that the hammer will bring them. In the case of Wilbur, people don’t want a ladder, they want to clean their roof gutters before the rain season.

Example: Wilbur’s Ladders

  1. Target: business owners that need to buy ladders in bulk: contractors, small business owners
    • Typical home owner is going to go to Home Depot to get a ladder
  2. Pain: finding a quality ladder provider that sells large quantities for a discount
  3. What do customers listen to: NPR, business radio stations

3. Understand how people listen

People listen to online radio while commuting to work, cooking, driving, or working out at the gym. Music radio is generally a distracted listening channel; Podcast radio is generally an active listening channel. It’s therefore important to understand which channel you will use to target your customers, as the more distracted your customer is, the more you’ll be competing with external factors for attention.

Common mistake: don’t say “hey everyone” or “hey listeners” as listeners immediately tune out and pay attention to something else; instead, talk directly to the listener.

Be human, be direct, and be honest. If you can, tell a story.

Example of an honest company that produced sales through a radio ad: An air conditioning repair company ran a radio ad with a heavy promotion that was very successful:

Our repair guys are just sitting around during the winter, so we want to put them to work on your house! This is why we’re giving you such a crazy huge discount!

4. Know your time constraints

Important: listeners are often distracted, so spitting as much information at them as possible is extremely ineffective.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • 60 seconds = 150 – 160 words
  • 30 seconds = 75 – 80 words
  • 15 seconds = 38 words

When you write your ad, you’ll most likely go way over your allotted word count. To cut down on the fluff, take out those fake benefits!

Take the wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-slap-your-forehead test: no one is going to wake up in the middle of the night because Wilbur’s Ladders is conveniently located 5 miles away. You’ve got to focus on the key elements that will keep people awake at night.

Extra fluff that must be taken out of your radio ads: Unless you have an incredibly easy phone number (like 1-800 Flowers), don’t include it in your ad. No one is going to remember it.

But definitely, do include your website URL in the ad.

Bonus — get some great SEO benefits: tell listeners to Google your brand. The more Google sees people searching your brand, the more Google will see you as an authority online.

(Learn the basics of SEO.)

Example: Wilbur’s Ladders

Wilbur finds out that many customers listen to talk radio in the morning, specifically, they listen to shows about business and finance. He then asks the host of a radio talk show to record a 30-second spot endorsing his product.

The key element is that he uses a testimonial to get the listener’s attention and build trust.

And the final result: here is the optimized Wilbur ad

  1. Used the host of the radio show as a testimonial to build trust
  2. “specialty ladders for contractors, business owners, and even home owners” talks directly to the target audience
  3. Highlights bulk rates

FAQ about online radio ads

Is it effective to send listeners to testimonials on the company website?

Yes, an important part of good website copy are case studies — this is social proof. We listen to others to make our purchasing decisions and are therefore more likely to buy because someone I trust recommends it.

This is why a testimonial radio ad works so well. It tells a story.

Do comedic ads work?

Of course, but comedy is very subjective. What you find funny may be offensive to someone else. If you can nail it, like in the Geico or Old Spice radio ads, then do it. But you really have to know your target demographic.

Funny is engaging and catches your attention: so when it works, it works. But when it doesn’t, it could go horribly wrong. Stay away from sensitive topics such as politics or religion.

A great way to catch the listener’s attention is to change their expectations. Instead of using an adult voice, use the voice of a child. When people hear what they don’t expect, you’ll catch their attention.

How is online radio different from traditional radio?

People are people. The medium may change, but people will still listen to emotional stories that affect them.

The key differences are that online radio ads can more clearly measure success and provide detailed analytics of listener information. Because online stations know the detailed demographic information of an individual listener, you’re able to more intelligently target them with radio ads.