The average person will tell you there are a lot of bad ads out there. A professional will tell you there are a lot of ineffective ads out there. From local mom-and-pop shops to multi-billion dollar corporations, so many businesses are throwing money at the airwaves without knowing why or if it’s having any effect.

Lack of Frequency
Whether you’re building a sonic identity or just trying to get a message out, frequency is essential. A recent study by Audacy found that audio advertising typically doesn’t even reach full immersion until around the twelfth listen. So don’t be surprised if you run ads for just a week here and there and don’t see any results.

Poor Sequencing
It doesn’t matter where your ad is playing, the sequencing with other ads is going to have an impact on its efficacy. When you buy ad space/airtime, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

  • How many spots are in a commercial set?
  • Do you put a limit on how many spots are in a commercial set?
  • At what point do listeners start tuning out?
  • Will my ad be playing adjacent to a competitor’s?

Ignoring the Data
There’s a great book by David Ogilvy called Ogilvy on Advertising. It was originally published in 1983. As you can imagine, some of the insights are still relevant, and others are not. He doesn’t say much about radio, but he did say
“In some developing countries radio still reaches more people than television. Yet even there, nobody really knows what kind of commercials make the cash register ring. Isn’t it time somebody tried to find out?”
Well it took several decades, but somebody finally did. In the digital age, we have data and insights that Ogilvy would have killed for. We have more clarity on what works and what doesn’t than ever before. But strangely, some folks are still writing and producing audio media as if they were still living in Ogilvy’s day. If you want to avail yourself of some of these modern insights, the Best Practices blog is a good place to start.

Not Thinking Beyond the Script
There’s a bit of irony in an audio-only medium where many creators don’t think much beyond text. Much of the time, audio is background sound, and it has been since TV was invented. In a medium that is often consumed passively, what you say is not as important as how you say it. Thinking sound-first results in an ad that will stand out and engage. Thinking text-first often results in a stream of clichés. Clichés tell the listener that you’re not any different from your competition. And in many cases, that may be true. Lots of competing products and services are almost identical. When that happens, the one that’s going to win is the one with the stronger brand. And that brings us to…

No Consistency
Audio branding works a lot like visual branding. You wouldn’t dream of changing your colour scheme or logo with every ad campaign. So why do so many audio ad campaigns start from scratch? Different voice, different music style, different writing style, etc. Whether it’s with a brand voice, brand music, or an overall sonic branding strategy, the goal is to reach a point where your ads are so consistent and so on-brand that you could remove your name from the ad and still be recognized. If you’ve been advertising for years, and a passive listener can’t recognize you in the first few seconds, you’re on the wrong track. Consistency is the key to building a relationship with the public, and building trust. Without trust, there is no business.

Photo by Max Wolfs on Unsplash