Last Monday I had to rent a van to move some furniture for my son’s new apartment at college. While the rental went smooth, as did the delivery of the furniture, I did something I hadn’t done in a while. I listened to FM radio. In my vehicle my phone is connected via Bluetooth so I listen to my own playlists. In the rental van I didn’t have that opportunity.
I tuned in a classic rock station out of Lansing (94.9 WMMQ) until it broke up as we got closer to Ann Arbor. There I was able to get a classic rock station out of Detroit (94.7 WCSX – yeah, didn’t have to move the needle much).
On the ride home, as 94.7 was breaking up, I switched back to 94.9 just as a song was fading out and an ad-block was starting. Nine minutes and eighteen 30-second ads later, the commercials ended and the station started up a 25-minute rock-block.
Nine minutes of advertising! Eighteen advertisers all in a row!
Two days later and I can only remember one of the ads. It was about a golf scramble. I don’t remember when, where, or who it was supporting. I just remember that it didn’t make me want to play golf or support the charity (the only two reasons you would overspend for an outing like this).
The other seventeen ads had nothing memorable. There was a cheap poke at men being stupid, although I forget why. I’m pretty sure there was a car ad with a bunch of numbers thrown at me for how much down, how much a month, and how much interest over how many months if I was an employee. There had to be a drug ad because I distinctly remember being bombarded with all the legal fine print talk of all the ways this drug will make my life worse.
That’s it. That’s all I can remember of eighteen advertisers in an ad block I listened to intently.
How much do you think someone who doesn’t care about advertising is going to remember?
This isn’t a knock on radio. (Although if I were an advertiser on that station, I would be drawing up my contract to make sure I was never in a block longer than four minutes. It is hard enough to stand out among eight commercials, let alone eighteen.) This is a knock on lack of creativity and lack of understanding just how much we tune out advertising.
If you want to get someone’s attention, you have to say something unexpected. If you want them to remember you, you have to make them feel something—anything—happy, sad, angry, nostalgic, or even frustration!
I might have remembered your ad if you ran something like this …
I served them ice cream. 8:30 in the morning and I served my staff ice cream. Some looked at me like I was crazy. Others dug right in. Yeah, I’m a little unconventional that way. Kinda like how we staff the store. I have more staff on the floor than stores double our size. Some think I’m crazy. Others love it. There’s always someone available to help you. It takes a little more ice cream, but it’s worth every scoop. Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.
Or this …
She almost fell out of the pew. Her pastor actually called Toy House the Promised Land for kids. Right there in front of a packed church. The lady on her left leaned over and said, “You work there, don’t you?” She nodded. The lady leaned in again, “I love that place.” She couldn’t help but smile. “Me too,” she whispered back. It’s the promised land for kids and adults. Just ask the lady sitting on your left. Toy House and Baby Too in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.
Your advertising is up against a bunch of obstacles. First, our brains are wired to tune out all ads. Second, we purposefully do what we can to avoid ads. Third, your ad is competing to be seen and heard among thousands of other ads.
- Boring doesn’t cut it.
- Data doesn’t cut it (see rule #1)
- “Me too” ads that sound like everyone else’s ads doesn’t cut it.
- An ad that doesn’t connect emotionally doesn’t cut it.
Get me interested by saying something different and original. Then make me feel something. That’s how ads truly work.
PS This doesn’t just apply to radio ads. This applies to Facebook and all other social media. This applies to your email newsletter. This applies to the posters you put up in your store about upcoming events. Do something surprising, unexpected, and heartfelt. It doesn’t cost you more—but it does make you more.
PPS This actually is a knock on radio, this station specifically. Just like your goal is to get your customer to want to come back, the radio station’s goal is to want to get their advertisers to sign up again. When a radio station puts this many boring ads together in this long of a block, they are simply looking at their advertisers as short-term money. That’s a lets-pay-some-bills block, not a lets-make-our-own-customers-happy-because-their-ads-are-effective block. I would hate to be a salesperson for this station because they are creating a huge base of businesses who “tried radio” but didn’t see the results. Don’t create a bunch of customers who “tried your store” and don’t ever want to come back.