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Radio Listeners: I Command You

One of the most important elements in successful radio advertising is a powerful Call to Action, fondly known among acronomists as the CTA.  A strong CTA typically carries a sense of urgency, generally tied to limited availability (“Hurry, while supplies last!”) or a limited time offer (“Call before midnight tonight!”).

But another powerful tool in the writer’s toolbox is the effective use of short, abrupt, “command words.”

“Call Now.”  “Log on.”  “Make the call.”  “Find out more.”

These short, staccato directions command attention and instruct you to take a specific action.  They don’t waste time, which is essential because (1) you only have 30 or 60 seconds in a radio commercial to inspire action and (2) you don’t want the listener to delay their response.  You want them to ACT NOW!

So why do quick bursts of copy work better in CTAs than well-crafted, formal invitations?  It’s what works best in life.  When flames burst out in a movie theater, you yell “FIRE!” not, “Hey look everyone, there’s a potential life-threatening situation that requires us all to rise and move swiftly in an orderly fashion towards the exits.”  Just the same as when you’re in trouble and desperately need help, you shout “Help!” not, “Um, pardon me? Could someone lend me a hand as I seem to be bleeding from a vital, internal organ.”

In a radio commercial, this quick, snappy string of copy can also jolt the listener to action, following a flowing testimonial or detailed description of benefits.  Short, brusque words command attention!!  You can trace our innate reaction to these commands back to the first time Mom and Dad sternly chided “No!” or barked “Stop that!”   Single-syllable command words simply demand attention and stress the importance of an equally-brisk response.

The other part of the quick-command equation is casting the right voice talent to deliver the message, balancing the right blend of “trusted friend” and “authority figure.”  A weak or supporting character is typically a poor choice to rally the troops to action.  At the other end of the casting spectrum, an abrasive over-the-top drill sergeant is easy to ignore when the listener has the option to “tune out” without the face-to-face consequence of disobeying orders.

So for the best response, write crisp copy and cast the right talent to deliver the message.

Do It.  Now.

MLJune2014bMark Lipsky is the President and CEO of The Radio Agency. Please follow The Radio Agency’s Blog “Sounding Board” by subscribing to the email or RSS links above.Visit our website TheRadioAgency.com