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3 Ways to Build a Better Radio Ad

Jodi Sali

3 Ways to Build a Better Radio AdIf you read or listened to the riveting audio blog from last month, you already know the 5 secrets to mastering the radio ad.  If you missed it, be sure to check it out.

Better writing sets up better connectivity for your message. Knowing who you are as a business and who you’re talking to matters. So, what makes better connectivity in the produced commercial? It’s how you put it together in the studio! Anyone can hit record and chop up an audio file, mix it down and save it. Getting into the intricacies of voice inflection and music accents to highlight elements of the voice-over is where it really gets fun!
Here are three things to build a better commercial.

1. Voice over – Say it like you mean it

The most important part of producing a great commercial is the voice-over or VO. Get this wrong, and the best music bed can’t take away the stink.

A script is more than words on paper! It’s the story of why your product or service is worthy of attention. How you tell that story matters! A great storyteller uses pace, tone, and timing. They are the soloist of the spoken word. They get the opportunity to communicate the message with emotion and passion. Anyone who has ever been in the studio with me knows I will say two things in a session, guaranteed: “Smile when you say it,” and “Do it one more time.” What you say is not always what you communicate! I can hear “it” in your voice. The “it” is the truth of what you feel.

I am listening for the tiny subtleties of inflection that communicate authentic warmth or confidence. The voice-over artist is as important to the VO as a musician is to a piece of music. You can’t feel the power of music by seeing it on sheet music. The power is in the presentation or performance. In the same way, don’t just read the script. Present it like you mean it!

2. Remember, it’s audio – I can see it in my mind

Your imagination is like a shoot with a billion-dollar budget and no limitations. Here’s the secret. When your listener can see it too, they have filled the storyline with their own imagination. They have taken a sense of ownership, and your message is through the front door. What they hear matters. This is hard to illustrate on paper, but I will try.

“It was a dark and stormy night. (Sound effect) I needed to bring in the garbage can from the street. In the rain, it seemed so far away. (Sounds effect) After only a few steps, I could tell something wasn’t right. (music change) I could feel it…(pause) the hair on the back of my neck tingling. Someone was watching. (sound effect) Or something. (Sound effect) Lightning lit up the sky and there it was…my watcher.”

(Bark bark) or (Bark Bark). Jack the Yorkie or Satan’s hell hound? Depending on that bark, either my shoelaces are in danger, or my life.

Music and sound effects enrich your audio and fill the imagination with cues and direction. It’s like adding color and shading to a painting. Like any great piece of art, it can take time to get it just right. Don’t rush. It is not uncommon for me to go through 300 music beds to find the right one.

3. Be willing to change it up

I can’t count the times I have changed the script in session. Why? Because it sounded better when we changed it. Just because it looks good on paper does not mean it will sound good in the VO. Try to quickly say “all month long, get a 21-cubic foot, cabinet depth, stainless steel refrigerator.”

While your well-thought-out script is important, it is not written in stone. Be creative. We are communicating an idea, not just reading a pre-approved script.

If you can say it differently in a way that carries more meaning, then do it! Pick it apart. What are you really saying? Most of the time, the copywriter is not the one who does the actual voice-over or even the one who produces the ad. It does make a difference. We write to the voice in our head. It’s not wrong; it’s simply stylistic. Be creative and willing to explore other right answers.

Building memorable radio ads is a craft. It’s a form of art. It starts with a vision and a well-written script. It comes to life with a great voice-over, complemented by smartly chosen music and sound effects. The finished commercial talks to the right audience at the right time about something they care about in a way that makes them feel good. It’s more than just being memorable…it’s being effective in getting into the conversation.

Be part of the conversation, and you might get picked! If you’re not part of the conversation, you run a 100% chance of not getting picked.

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