Radio Recon

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RIP: Slogans

May 26th, 2016

Every clever formula will eventually fail. The more successful they are, the more likely they’ll become poisonous eventually.

Let’s talk a little bit about tag lines. People freaking love tag lines. Business people love to debate ad nauseam about their precious slogans. The truth is slogans and taglines can be as useless as pilots on planes with modern automation…

Pilot Douche

The idea of a slogan has a lot of value. It makes sense to boil down everything about your business into a concise thought. The practice of deciphering a slogan makes sense because it helps you define what is truly important about your business. We just get lost in the importance of the actual words. What’s more important is how you use your concise message over the previous 27 seconds of advertising. Your slogan isn’t the climactic marketing orgasm you think it is.

Usually it isn't...

Usually it isn’t…

To make things worse by the time everybody in your conference room agrees on something it’s usually the lowest common denominator like “Excellence in X for over Y years.” Ughhhhhhhhh…

Slogans were a great idea. Nike made a huge impact on people with the tagline “Just Do It.” It literally got millions of people off of their fat asses to get active. Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” delighted people so much that they sat right back down on their fat asses and waited for heart disease to claim them once and for all! Incredible! Slogans were such a great idea for such a long time that we have trouble even hearing a commercial without expecting this formulaic conclusion…

Business Name: (DRAMATIC PAUSE) Something about said business.

The problem is when something becomes expected it becomes less effective. The point of your ad is to make people pay attention. You need to surprise them. Nobody wants to hear your advertisement. If you give them something that they’ll expect they’re already half way to ignoring it. Give them something they won’t expect.

Luckily, clichés always offer opportunity to the creative.’s Captain Obvious campaign is a fantastic example.

The best part of this commercial is right where you expect the tag line to go. “Hotels Dot Com would have mentioned the finger” is a classic example of surprising your audience. We are expecting a cliché and are hit with something that brings us joy. These are the memorable moments in advertising that actually make us talk about them with friends. Every Hotels Dot Com commercial ends with the same type of joke. When I see a new commercial I wait for the punch line instead of the tagline. That’s truly using every part of the commercial (the way the Eskimo do!)

Here’s the thing though… If they keep doing it, and other companies copy the technique, it’ll eventually become ineffective. It’s just the way she goes with marketing. Perhaps by that point this tag line will be relevant again…

“Hotels dot Com. Excellence in Online Hotel Booking for over 8 years.”

What to do about “Boaty McBoatface”

March 23rd, 2016

“Spin” gets a bad reputation. Spin-doctoring tends to be seen as the domain of only villains or the incredibly rare “3 hit wonder.”

I think “spin” can be used in a positive way as well though. Take for example the “Boaty McBoatface” ordeal in the UK. The current situation is the National Environment Research Council put it out to the public to help choose a name for it’s new £200 million research ship. The NERC suggested that they “would like the name to be inspirational and about environmental and polar science, to help tell everyone about the amazing work the ship does.” So… of course… this being the internet… the overwhelming frontrunner for naming rights to this beautiful vessel is “Boaty McBoatface.”


Should have been a contest to name a fishing troller.


Of course, as expected we’re now seeing articles suggesting that the NERC will likely overrule the popular vote.

Well crap… oh well… it was fun while it lasted. But wait?! Does anyone else see this as a huuuuuuuuuge missed opportunity?

The goal of any marketing is to get your business/organization noticed. The #NameOurBoat social media campaign launched by the NERC received a massive and unexpected surge from unwanted internet lunacy. It’d be easy to take your dolls and aquatic research facilities and go home. But, that would be an incredible waste of a lot of public attention. Your campaign worked. It just didn’t work the way you expected it to. Pull your head out of your hands and make it work for you while you still have the spotlight! Spin it. If you still have the Spin Doctors video playing in the background pause it, because here’s where it gets good.

Here’s what I would do.

Clearly the NERC would like more attention from the public on the values of their research. I think the absolute worst thing they can do right now is thumb their noses at the process that they suggested. Some people would scoff, some would be happy, and some wouldn’t care whatsoever. The whole situation would slip away like Leo after Kate REFUSED TO SHARE HER GODDAMN WRECKAGE FLOAT!


Kate! You Selfish Bitch!


Ride the internet wave and create something good while you’re at it. I would call a press conference to address the situation. Everyone would expect this to be the point where you put “Boaty McBoatface” to rest only to pick some name that elicits no emotion in anyone. Nobody would blame you. But, nobody would care either. Instead, harness this opportunity and accept the name. This is a great chance to show people how fun and approachable science can be. You don’t have to praise the process as if it was something you hoped would happen. Face it head on and say “we put ourselves in this situation. We all had a good laugh while it was going viral and we decided to give the people their wish.”

If you leave it here, people will probably look at you differently. But, they also may think you’re stupid. Here’s how you win everyone over.

Make a toy and sell it.

You want the public to take oceanic research seriously. You have the chance to do that now while looking extremely awesome. Produce a “Boaty McBoatface” toy complete with a big damn smiling face on it (try not to get sued by Theodore the Tugboat and his pals from 90’s Canadian television…)


Don’t let the face fool you. The guy has lawyers.


Tell everyone that the toy will be made available online and in stores. All profits from the “Boaty McBoatface” toy will go towards arctic oceanic research. Then brace yourself as the tsunami of internet love floods over your organization. You’ll look affable, you’ll promote your cause, and you’ll fill your funnel with plenty of brand new school aged scientists. Isn’t that everything you could wish for? Now cross your fingers and pray you never see this headline on CNN…

bmb sinks

It’s called spin. Remember it the next time you think your business is in a bad situation. You might just end up being thankful for your predicament.



Good creative is hard to approve

July 4th, 2013

Often when I play a piece of creative for a client, there is an uncomfortable silence choking the air out of the room when the audio finishes. I relish this moment. It’s in this moment that I realize I’ve achieved what I wanted.

“I don’t know what I think of this… I don’t think I like it” is a common response.

You might think I’m nuts, but the root of my clients response is a great sign. It isn’t too often that the initial aversion to the creative is actually seeded in true contempt. The more common trigger that leads to their distaste is almost always fear.

I love fear. If you’re afraid to air something on the radio, it means you’re frightened that it will be noticed. It’s almost like they’re afraid it will work. Isn’t that the goal of a advertising though?

Good creative is hard to approve.

It’s hard to approve because it isn’t safe. It’s hard to approve because you’ll have to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Your comfort zone will always tell you to approve safe copy. Safe copy is dangerous. Unfortunately safe copy is the easiest thing in the world to approve. It sounds like commercials you’ve heard before. That means it’s good right? Nope. That means it’s easy to ignore. Safe copy does not make it through the listeners mental firewall.

Commercials that grab your attention seem risky because they’ll stand out. But, that’s what we’re here to do. We need to make people listen to your commercial. Only then can we tell them why they should remember your business. So, offer them a reason to snap into consciousness. If you don’t achieve this first, nobody will hear your message. It’ll float by them in the background.

When a client is afraid of the copy I’ve brought them it’s usually because it will work. I love that moment of fear because it’s so easy to explain to them why they’re feeling standoffish. Once I explain the relation of that feeling to the strength of the creative they change their tune. It’s rare that anyone explains the moving parts of the commercial when presenting it. Usually they’ll just say “so what do you think?” I don’t particularly care what the client thinks. I care what your potential customers think. That’s why you must explain how the commercial will work. If your message design has real purpose and strategy within it, it will prove itself to the client.

The truth is, if the person selling you creative can’t explain why your commercials are written the way they are, you shouldn’t buy it from them.

Bad commercials are easy to sell. Great commercials are difficult. Believe me when I say the finest messages a radio writer creates are usually never aired.

So when you’re presented with a commercial that scares you, ask yourself if you truly dislike it, or if you’re afraid it will be noticed. You might be missing out on a huge opportunity.

The One-Two Punch

April 3rd, 2013

It can be easy to fall in love with a slick commercial when you’re looking for a campaign for your business. Maybe it makes you laugh, maybe it makes you sound cool, or trendy or any number of other images. But, does it actually say anything solid about your business?

The only way that most commercials relate to the business they promote is that they mention their name. That’s probably 90% of advertisements. If you want to be in the top 10% you need to stand out from the pack. To stand out, you need to me more than clever or witty. You need to say something about your business that nobody else says, and you need to say it all the time.

Here’s a quick way to find out if your commercials are mediocre. Keep in mind that your commercials may be superbly written and still be mediocre. To be great, the commercial has to be undeniably about you.

When you get your script cross out every mention of your businesses name. In its place write in your biggest competitors name. Now read it back to yourself. Is the commercial now for them? Could they put it on the air tomorrow without anyone thinking any different? If so, that commercial is not about you. It’s a beautiful mirage with your name on it.

I have to stress again that this is not a slight against your creative team. The script might actually be amazing. They just may not have all the pieces they need to make something great.

Think of all the flash, humour, and grandstanding that is in your commercial simply as a hook to deliver one important message about your business. The funny or interesting parts of commercials that people fall in love with are only the first step towards a great commercial. Those elements can be used for any of your competitors. It is not your message. It is simply a way to make people listen. Once they listen you need to deliver the true message. The true message is that one important thing about your business that makes you undeniably more appealing than your competitor. You may still need to figure out what that is.

Great creative is a one-two punch. Unfortunately, too many businesses get too caught up in the flash to deliver the knock out.

Outward Brand VS Inward Brand

March 27th, 2013

Advertising campaigns are designed to bring attention to your company. The point is to get someone to visit a store, visit a website, or simply gain recognition of a brand. It can’t stop there!

All too often it does though.

It is hugely important to support your outward brand. Your advertising campaign is usually the loudest voice your business has. It should not be just a clever gimmick to get people to contact you. Here’s why…

Advertising is successful when the prospective client contacts you in any way. It’s up to you after that.

Unfortunately, many warm leads are dispersed by not supporting your outward brand. Your outward brand is anything you put out into the marketplace. Your outward brand should simply be a mirror of your inward brand.

This means everything about your brand must match to achieve the best results. People responded to your advertising campaign because they like what you said. If you don’t back that up when they reach out to you, they will not buy.

So, be really serious with yourself. Does your outward brand match your inward brand? Is the experience, the tone, the personality the same in your commercials as it is in your business?

A Big Mac tastes the same anywhere in the world. The brand remains consistent. That builds trust between the consumer and the business. Write out everything you can do to make your brand strong. What can you adjust to make it stronger? Here are some examples…

  • Colour scheme/Interior Design – Is it consistent with creative?
  • Promotional messaging (Signs/Cards/Menus/Anything paper) – Are the messages written in the same style/voice as your outward brand?
  • Transactional Offers – When you have a deal, is it reflected in store? Do you make as big a deal out of it as you do in your ads? Do you make it easy for people to make the connection?
  • Music – Do you play customized music that fits your brand?
  • Specialty products (Chalk boards, in store social media, uniforms) – Do they fit your brand? Have you thought of innovative ways to promote yourself at the point of purchase?

All marketplaces are crowded. You need to do everything in your command to make your brand recognizable. The more brand you can put out there, the more likely it will be remembered. Just remember to keep it simple and consistent. It can be simple and plentiful. Just choose one voice and speak from it often.

Don’t let the thought of this be too overwhelming. It is hugely important. Remember, there is always someone who can help you. One of them wrote this article.

A Call for Advertising Revolution

March 20th, 2013

Honest question. Do we talk about ourselves too much in advertising?

Seriously. We all know that this is why people hate commercials of all types. They’re in your face, they waste your time, and they make you tune out.

Let’s take a moment to think about the commercials that people actually talk about. Usually, they’re funny, surprising, or poignant. That doesn’t necessarily make it an effective advertisement though. Anytime someone says “have you seen that ad … I don’t remember what it’s for but…” somebody has failed. As I’ve said in the past, we’re not here to entertain without purpose. But, can that purpose be earned over time?

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I hate the ordinary. I believe that the “obvious” is lacklustre and ignorable. Nobody ever got ahead by doing what everybody else is doing. So why? Why are we still talking so much about ourselves? That’s what everyone has always done. Is it time to stop? Is it time for someone to stop?

I think so.

No more sales. No more service. No more “we can’t be beat when it comes to…”

Just no.

So… what are we going to do? Firstly, let’s take a look at what real people like today, what they choose to be part of.

Namely, social media. People love sharing. People love personality. People love building relationships when it is easy to do  so. The best marketers in social media have discovered that the key to creating a brand on that platform is through personality. You can’t just tell people about your products or your deals. You need to become more of a friend. Your brand needs to be more like one singular person than a company. Don’t worry about sounding small. People want you to be approachable and interesting. It makes you real and that’s what works.

So, how do we use this strategy in other platforms? A tweet is free. Playing a radio commercial is expensive.

That is completely true, but you shouldn’t let that cost define what you have to say. Your natural reaction is going to be, “I’m paying $XXXXX, I need to tell people that we do this, and this, and this, and it costs this.”

Suppress that feeling. That is not what people listen to. We can thank social media for showing us what people truly respond to. A simple microcosm can be seen in the average Facebook page. I know. The Air Support facebook page is atrocious. All I do is post these articles. That isn’t exactly an open dialogue. But, that is the same experience many businesses have with social media. They open a Facebook page or a Twitter account and say the same dull garbage that they feed out in mass media. And what’s the result? Crickets. No likes. No retweets. Nobody cares.

That’s when businesses quickly decide that social media does not work! It is not for them. This isn’t true. I would argue that it works in the same way that a radio campaign does. You’re just using both of them wrong. If nobody cares when you talk about your products on your twitter stream, nobody cares when you talk about it in your radio message.

So, what can we do?!

Challenge yourself to build something new. Create your brand around one singular identity. Create a voice for your business and start talking. Radio writers always get irritated by phoney two way conversations…

V1: Hey Jim. Killer shoes! Where did you find them?

V2: I found them down at Shoe Warehouse. Did you know they’re having 50% off sale?

V1: I didn’t!

V2: Visit them on 67th street or online at…

…We all know that this is crap. But, giving this same information to an announcer is also crap. It says nothing about your business. So… stop talking about your business. Start talking to your client.

That might mean you barely describe what you do. Impart a personality, a feeling, a sense for your company, and do it consistently. This has to be done every day, and it needs to extend to everything you do.

Give your clientele the respect they deserve. Connect with them on an organic level and they will choose to learn more about you. The greatest thing you can possibly do with your advertising is to build your brand around a feeling.

It’s time for something different. Anybody want to join me?

Are Your Commercials Easy to Ignore?

March 13th, 2013

The point of buying advertising time is to make your business stand out. So, why are so many commercials so easy to ignore? How are businesses allowing this to happen? Actually… it’s pretty easy. Don’t fret. Read this article and take the points to heart. If you’re brave enough, your ad won’t land on the bone heap of invisible commercials. Let’s do this!

Do you over-think creative? – It’s ok to scrutinize a script. You should take a personal interest in your creative. But many of us critique a script word by word. What often happens is you’ll end up picking your script apart until it’s useless.

How do you avoid this?

Hire a professional that you trust and let them do their job. A good creative writer has had their hands on thousands of campaigns. They’ve learned what does and doesn’t work. When you receive a script from your writer ask them why it was written the way it was. They should be able to transfer their confidence to you. DO NOT ask the advertising representative. They aren’t the experts. You need to ask the writer.

Every sentence should be written as a working part to an effective script. Each cog is placed for a certain reason. When you begin to tinker with the cogs, the machine stops working. This is the main cause of an ineffective commercial. I’ve found that each revision to a script tends to make it a little less effective until it ends up being just another ordinary script. Find a writer you trust, and let them work wonders for you.

Do you embrace fear? – Buying commercial airtime is scary. It’s even scarier to air a commercial that truly stands out. Which is funny, because that’s the entire point. A great commercial should make you feel uncomfortable when the time comes to hit the approve button. If you feel nothing, neither will anyone else.

  • Don’t be afraid to piss someone off. We want people to talk about you. Complaints are a great sign that you’re getting an effective message out. Don’t worry. These people are not your target customer.
  • Don’t be afraid to be a pioneer. The best commercials are based on ideas that no-one has ever tried.
  • Don’t be afraid to offer a difficult deal. Deals don’t mean as much to people as they used to. They’ve just been beaten to death. So, if you’re going to offer one make it count.

Do your commercials sound like commercials? – It’s really easy to approve a bad commercial. It’s really hard to approve a great one. Bad commercials sound like commercials you’ve heard before. They don’t test any fences. They don’t offer anything new. They shouldn’t exist at all. Be honest with yourself when you approve a script. Does it sound like a typical commercial? If it does, it will be very easy to ignore. Don’t air it.

There are many ways to make an ignorable commercial. Thankfully, there are many more ways to make one that stands out. The litmus test is whether the creative sitting in front of you gives you butterflies. If it does, you may be on to something.

As always… I’m happy to help you find your way.


February 27th, 2013

Keywords are a hugely important element of good marketing in almost every medium. Unfortunately, most businesses haven’t realized the sheer power of strategic wording.

Where is it used?

Absolutely everywhere!

  • Online – When you build a website you add keywords into the framework of the coding. This article has plenty of related words attached to help Googlers to find it.
  • Hashtags – Twitter users organize common keywords by use of Hashtags (adding a # before a word to make it searchable.
  • TV/Live Events – More and more people are realizing the benefit of organized keywords like the Twitter hashtag. That’s why you’ll often see keywords in hashtag form at the bottom of your screen while watching a show. This makes it easier for fans to share opinions with each other.

So, what are your keywords? What describes your business? Are you using those words consistently?

It doesn’t matter what medium you use. You need to be cognizant of the words that are associated with your brand. Sit down and make a list of everything that relates to your business. Make it long. Once your list is complete, eliminate anything mundane. Ordinary words like “service and “experience” aren’t going to help you as a keyword. They’re boring and overused. Try to invent words. Base keywords around your current campaign. Circle words & phrases that describe you; words that people would never confuse for someone else. These are ideal.

Now, use them in everything you do.

Use them in your radio ads. Use them in your billboards. Use them on your menus, business cards, flyers, signage, vehicle wraps, social media, sky-writing, propaganda, smoke signals, & chainsaw art. Use them absolutely everywhere until you actually own those words. Make your competitors fear using them in their advertising. Use them consistently in everything you do for one good reason.

It will make you memorable. It will also arm your customers with words that will help them find you. Those words will be plastered all over your search engine optimization. Your brand will deepen and you’ll make more money.

Find your keywords, and you’ll find your target clients.

Horizontal Schedules

February 20th, 2013

Radio advertising is expensive. Unfortunately, you don’t have $30-120K a year to drop on one station immediately. That’s ok.  I mean, how many people open a business and have that kind of cash to drop on their new venture.  If you had that money already, you might be sitting on a beach in Hawaii right now instead of beginning whatever it is your beginning.

The crap part is marketing is very important for getting your new business started on the right foot. Too many new businesses open there doors early without considering advertising. The only way that can work is if…

  • You are located in a high traffic area and your store front looks impossibly enticing.
  • You are a sales machine that can bring in qualified customers en mass with your charms alone.
  • Your business fills the void of a missing (and very popular) industry in your city.

But please, don’t get too excited about point #3. You’re a new business owner and it’s your job to be optimistic about your future. Unfortunately, your business probably isn’t as much of a sure thing as point #3 describes.  Point #3 is only relevant if somehow there are no sushi places in Beverly Hills right now, and you happen to open one. Enjoy your riches. The rest of us need marketing. Read on…

So, how do you buy affordable radio?!

It doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. Simply go and find a radio station that suits your brand. Your budget is small, so you can only buy one right now. Don’t get greedy!

Also, don’t pick with your heart. It doesn’t matter what you listen to, it matters what your prospective clientele listens to. Figure out your demographics. Narrow them down to one specific person. Now, what would that person listen to? That’s the station you want.

I don’t care what it costs!! Don’t be fooled by the price tag of each station. It is irrelevant. There are only two kinds of radio station for you. The one that fits your brand and the one that doesn’t.

But, I can’t afford that station!?

Yes you can. You just can’t afford the entire station yet. Start with a horizontal schedule. This means you pick one time of day, and own it.

  • Start off by buying 2 commercials a day between Noon and 1pm.
  • Buy overnights (in big cities this is an undervalued time slot)
  • Buy one commercial a day in the morning/afternoon drive (at the same time everyday)

A horizontal schedule will not get you a radio stations entire cumulative audience. But, it will give you access to one specific segment of that audience. Which is ok, because you can’t afford the whole pie yet.

Make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin.

On a small budget, your business should own no more than three hours a day. The smaller the budget, the smaller the amount of time you should own. The reason is simple…

You need to get the same people to hear your commercial multiple times. You can’t afford frequency all day. But, you can afford it for a couple of hours every day.

People have routines, and that means they likely listen to the radio at the same time each day. Target specific hours, and those people will be all yours.

As your business grows, so should your advertising buy. Own more hours until you own an entire station. Once you own an entire station, then you can buy more.

Soon, you’ll be an advertising juggernaut, with a powerful company, and a Hawaiian beach to call your own.

Mental Anchors

February 13th, 2013

Crappy commercials suck. You hate watching them, listening to them, being bombarded by them at every second of every damn day.

But… some of them. SOME of them get you. Some of them trick you into listening.

I think it’s almost impossible to get your message across to your target audience without offering them a reason to. I call this a “mental anchor.” It’s the 10-15 seconds you use to unlock the listeners mind.

This can come in many different forms. The easiest example to identify is through comedy. A commercial begins with something entertaining to draw the listener’s attention. This is where many of these ads fall apart. Don’t use advertising as a chance to do stand up comedy. The joke you use must have purpose. It must be memorable. It absolutely must be attached to your business. You don’t want to air “that funny commercial that was for … uh … I don’t remember.”

A mental anchor is anything your listener can relate to. It doesn’t have to be funny. It just has to be something that makes someone agree with you. Once you make them agree with you on a topic, you have common ground. When you have common ground, you’re more likely to be able to successfully introduce a new idea (your business.) I began this article with a mental anchor. Almost everyone can agree that commercials suck. Almost everyone can also agree that they have enjoyed a select few commercials though.

Keep the idea simple. Remember, we’re talking mass media here. Ideally, we want as many people to agree with you as possible. Think simplistically.

  • Taxes suck
  • Investing is boring
  • Potholes = bad

Take these simple ideas, and make them entertaining, intriguing, funny. Take a simple idea, and make it memorably different.

  • Taxes suck. But, being arrested for tax evasion and thrown into a prison cell with a guy name “Knife Fists” is worse.
  • Investing is boring. But it needs to be boring. Because excitement in an investment usually comes in the form of stress. We’re the most boring insurance company you’ve ever met.
  • Potholes in this city are the worst. They wreck your car. ABC autobody offers you their anti-pothole service.

Use invented words like “Anti-Pothole.” That’s another mental anchor. When you invent a word, and use it in all of your advertising, it becomes synonymous with your business. Your business now owns its own word (which by the way, opens up some very interesting possibilities in the world of URLs and SEO keywords.)

A mental anchor will make people listen. It will make people remember you. Most importantly, it’s something you need to do to insure that you’re noticed. You can’t just deliver a message that screams your prices at people. I mean… you can… but you’ll waste your money. Give your listeners a reason to pay attention to you. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll have their undivided attention for 10-15 seconds. That’s when you talk about you. Just never forget that you need to earn that time first.