Radio and Television Ads: Clever Vs. Annoying

Ever heard or seen a radio or television commercial that you really liked and actually looked forward to hearing or seeing again only to be assaulted by another one so annoying it made you want to heave your radio or television out the window?

What makes one commercial so enjoyable while others seem to be so abysmal? It’s

all in the ability to make the listener or viewer remember the ad in a creative, clever

way and I’m about to give you some advice on how to do just that so read on!

One of the most successful ways of creating clever ads is to add humor.

Unfortunately that’s not an easy thing to do as you have probably heard or seen

many commercials try and fail. There is a fine line between writing a spot people will

laugh and identify with and writing one that falls flat on its face and

unfortunately most spots fall into the latter category. The best advice on using

humor in ads that I can give you is this: hire a professional who specializes in

writing humorous ads. I say this because the majority of advertisers that attempt to

write their own funny ads fail miserably. The main reason is because it takes a

trained writer to know how to create an ad that includes not only genuinely funny

copy, but also perfect timing and the right amount of copy needed to pull it off.

Having said this, if you still insist you’ve written a funny spot for your business the

best way to find out is to read it to some unbiased ears which means someone other

than your wife, husband, or best friend. Humor in itself is subjective but for the

most part if it’s funny they’ll laugh, and if they don’t get it, even if you think it’s a

real knee slapper, it’s time to try another approach. I’ve written thousands of ads

most containing humor but even I don’t know for sure how well they will be received

once they hit the airwaves. Another tricky part about putting humor in ads is that it

takes more time to establish the bit, which means you have less time for the rest of

the copy.

The same rule goes for putting voice impersonations in your radio ads.

I tend to use voice impressions that I or others do in radio spots from time to time

and it can be a real attention getter. However, this can also backfire as I’ve heard

spots where voice impersonations were used just for the sake of putting them in the

spot with no real message or tie-in to the product or service. Once again, this is

wasted ad dollars.

You may have heard or seen ads you thought were extremely annoying and

wondered why the advertiser even bothered. What they’ve learned is that even bad

spots will eventually stick in the mind with enough repetition. The problem here lies

with whether what ends up sticking is a negative reinforcement. There’s a national

jeweler who comes to mind that likes to do his own radio commercials. His nasally

voice and dry as sand delivery while quite annoying, have become his trademark. So

in essence his annoyance is part of his brand. Successful? Perhaps, but you’d be

hard pressed to get me to shop there.

Remember that besides being clever, your ad has to deliver the goods.

In other words, ads that are clever just for the sake of being clever won’t accomplish

much. Have you ever had someone tell you about a funny spot but when you asked

who the ad was for, they can’t remember? That’s a case of the copywriter indulging

his or her own cleverness and missing the main point. Your copy must also give the

listener or viewer a reason to call or come by and most important, remember your


Sometimes a “call to action” works well. This could be in the form of a price point, a

special time sensitive sale or a “radio/TV coupon” in which the listener or viewer is

told to mention they heard or saw the spot for a special price. It could also involve

having the listener or viewer respond immediately as in, “the first 25 people to call

now receive…” however, make sure your phone lines can handle the response.

In today’s world it takes a clever message to be heard, seen, and remembered above

all the mindless advertising banter. And if done right, all the other ads can become

“advertising wallpaper” for your clever, stand out, ad campaign!

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