Radio is an incredibly visual medium.

Back in college, one of my profs had this poster in his office that said “I saw it on the radio”. For years I thought this was just a joke, but I later realized that it may have been more insightful than I initially thought.

One of the most powerful tools any radio commercial writer or producer possesses is imagery. The memory of something you’ve imagined is just as strong as the memory of something you’ve actually experienced. Remember too, that radio tends to be very peripheral; people are usually listening to radio while doing other things.

A few weeks ago I was out in the car running errands. The radio was on, but I wasn’t really paying attention. My mind was on all the things I needed to accomplish that morning. At one point the station was airing an ad for St. Hubert. Again, my attention wasn’t on the broadcast, but they spent a good portion of the ad describing the chicken. It was all very simple, but I eventually found myself craving this chicken at an almost subconscious level. It eventually reached the conscious mind and I decided it was time for lunch.

Unfortunately, far too often, the imagery backfires.

I heard another ad for a furniture store (which will remain nameless) that was trying to impress upon us just how “big” their sale was. They started off talking about Godzilla and how massive he was, and then stating that their sale was even bigger. They then proceeded to bombard their listener with what was essentially a flyer on the radio (rarely a good idea). Of course, my mind, which was not focused directly on the radio, was still stuck, almost subconsciously, on Godzilla – a much more interesting visual than a bombardment of numbers.

Imagery is an incredibly powerful tool, but use it wisely. If your ad is about insurance, and you spend most of the ad talking about surfing, what do you think the listener is going to take from it?