In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell acquired the patent for the telephone. Fast forward about 20 years to the mid 1890’s and the idea of transmitting sound wirelessly was born. Believe it or not, AT&T owned the first radio station that played the first paid advertisement 100 years ago, back in 1922 (in case you’re curious, it was for the Hawthorne Court Apartments in Jackson Heights and aired on WEAF in New York).
The first paid audio ad was 10 minutes long and cost $50. It’s probably the 10 minutes long part that caught your attention. These days, it is estimated by marketing experts that we are exposed to between 4,000-10,000 advertising messages a day. (yikes!) We’re getting lots of quick impressions everywhere we go – even if we don’t go anywhere!
Developing strong audio creative requires more than just checking off some boxes if you want to leave a lasting impression on your target audience. To write effective audio creative, we must be concise, capture attention and have a compelling call to action. But there is room for nuance, which when practiced can help your audio creative stand out from the bombardment of audio ads that are everywhere.
An estimated 95.6% of Americans 13 or older listen to some form of audio in their daily lives, which amounts to 270 million people listening daily.Adweek
While how we listen to audio has dramatically changed over the past 100 years, the fact that we are indeed listening hasn’t changed. Here’s four tips to make your audio creative be more effective.
1) Be relatable
Put yourselves in the shoes of the listener and practice empathy – be personal. Talk directly to the listener, using terms like “you” and “yours”. Show them how the product or service can address a pain point. Be helpful!
Make the listener feel like you care (and you should). When appropriate, consider including a testimonial in your audio creative that helps demonstrate how your product or service solved this same problem for another person. This makes it relatable.
2) Use theater of the mind
With audio creative, you don’t have visuals – and that means that visuals aren’t limiting the imagination of the listener. This gives you the opportunity to paint the picture in the mind of the listener. Use sound effects and music to transport the listener into the space you are conjuring and they will fill in the details, which can be powerfully engaging on an emotional level.
On top of sound effects and music, if you choose to include actors in your audio creative, be intentional with how they are used. And avoid using fake conversations to get your message across – this negates the theater of the mind opportunity.
Here is an example of what NOT to do:
- Actor 1: Did you know that Ford is offering two thousand dollars cash back on new models, only while supplies last?
Actor 2: Oh really?! Wow, I didn’t know that.
Actor 1: Yes! It’s true, this month only, Ford is paying us to buy a new car.
Actor 2: That’s incredible, let’s go!
Sfx: tires squeal as two people drive off to the dealership
This is obviously super cheesy, and we’ve all heard ads like it before. Let’s avoid this – it’s demeaning to the intelligence of the listener. If there is an offer, be straightforward about it.
Consider doing something way over the top with banter, which tells the audience that you know you’re being cheesy, but it’s on purpose – and it’s memorable.
An example of how this could work would be to make modifications to the above “bad” copy, but deliver it with a Bill and Ted type of style:
- Actor 1: Hey Bill
Actor 2: Ya Ted
Actor 1: Ford is paying two thousand bucks if you buy a new truck from them
Actor 2: Noooo waaaaay
Actor 1: Yes way Ted
Actor 2: The princesses like totally deserve to ride in a new truck.
Actor 1: Ya, and with two thousand bucks, we could buy some new amps
Actor 2: And all our gear will totally fit so easy in the back.
Both Actors: EXCELLENT!!!
Sfx (electric guitar riff)
VO (Disclaimer spoken quickly at the end): Bill and Ted are not real people. Keanu Reeves did not endorse this offer. Offer valid only at Ford dealerships in the greater Seattle area through March 31st, 2022. Other limitations may apply, see dealer for details.
Humor can be a really fun way to get your point across and be memorable. It can also turn into a pop culture thing that catches on and gives real legs to your campaign.
3) Be repetitive
An audio ad doesn’t have shelf life, meaning it doesn’t lay around like a magazine or newspaper ad. It plays and then, poof! It’s gone. So it’s important to make your key takeaways sticky in order to maximize the few seconds you have with your audience.
What’s worth repeating?
- Your Website: If you want people to visit your website, say your URL repeatedly (and no need to say www. Or “double-you-double-you-double-you-dot) That takes up too much airspace. Just hit the website URL multiple times and consider mentioning it early in the ad, and then again twice at the end. If your website has a weird differentiator, spell it out (literally) and do it the same way every time. It will stick in the listener’s head like a jingle.
- Your Brand Name: If you want people to remember the name of your brand, and your brand is new or not yet well known to your target audience, say it throughout the ad. For a :30, this might be said five times!
- Your Calls-to-Action: No need to give out physical street addresses or other minutiae in a radio ad. Use other assets like a website landing page to provide those details, or ask them to text to a number that will easily get them to the landing page you’ve created that has all the details they need.
Marketing Strategy Note: In driving traffic to a landing page, you can remarket to them with digital ads until they convert. This additional strategy is very effective to layer on top of simple audio creative. If you need help exploring these types of layered strategies, get in touch!
4) Consider how you use music and sound effects
Ever heard an audio ad that was hard to understand because the music was a bit too loud? It’s unfortunate but it happens. Using compression as an audio engineering tool will help even out the loud and quiet parts of a piece of music, but the voiceover should always be easy to hear and understand in any playback media (from the sweet car stereo to the crappy desk speakers).
It’s important to use music when it makes sense, but don’t over do it – and don’t assume that you necessarily need music at all!
For example, consider a dry voiceover with no music bed as your creative delivery where the placement is on a music platform – it will stand out. Conversely, if your ad is playing on a podcast, using music to intro and outro your ad will help the listener with the transition and help get their attention.
- If your ad is playing on a music station, you could start your ad with a record scratch to grab the listeners attention.
- Use music to punch certain points or pull back attention in a longer spot, or use music as a gimmick.
- Work with professional voice over artists to ensure quality and keep your production efforts on schedule.
Using a distinct musical sound in specific ways in your audio ads, or consistently using a music bed that captures your brand can help you gain brand awareness and recognition more quickly.
Additionally, the use of a jingle can aid in retention for the listener. A jingle doesn’t necessarily have to be a sung song, it can be spoken word, rhythmic or punchy. It just needs to accurately reflect your brand promise and effectively achieve the goal of retention (not annoyance).
[See our post on working with voiceover talent]
Before you tackle that next copywriting task, remember to step back and consider your audience. Put yourself in their space, mentally, emotionally (if possible) and maybe even physically. Ask yourself, what would it take to reach me if I were in their place?
Then, flex some creative muscle, make sure you capture their attention and give them a reason to take that next step (and make it easy for them!)