Writing Radio Ads

writing radio ads

When you’re writing radio ads, you have some built-in challenges to deal with. One, your ad has a time limit, so you’ve only got so much space to get everything in there. Two, you have to make your impression fast but not give listeners too much heavy stuff to think about. And three, your call to action has to be easy to remember.

I’m going to use as an example one of the radio spots I wrote for a long-time client who’s a Realtor along with his wife in Fort Smith, Ark. There are many ways to approach writing radio ads, but this is what works for us, and I’m always getting feedback about the positive comments on the ads the client receives from people around town.

The majority of the ads we do are 30 seconds—actually about 27, because of a legal boilerplate that has to go at the end. We do two general formats: dramatizations with characters and situations (humorous), and a single narrator speaking directly to listeners (straight).

The ad I’m talking about here is a dramatization. You can listen to it on the player below and then below that is the actual script I wrote.

(Note: In Fort Smith, Arkansas Razorbacks football is a big deal. Everyone instantly connects with the subject, so we periodically capitalize on that.)





SETTING: In a bar, country music is playing in the background, glasses are tinkling. BILLY is crying.


(He has just walked up to BILLY.) Hey, Billy, what’s wrong?


(Tearfully.) The Hogs were up 24 to 21 . . . then Clark fumbled . . . TCU recovered and – BANG – we lost 28 to 24!


But we’re not playing TCU this year.


No – 1981!


(Perplexed.) Nineteen eighty –


(Cutting TOMMY off and wailing.) I’ll never recover, I’ll never have a normal li –

(The word “life” is cut in half by a sound effect like material being ripped or something to show an abrupt change. All bar sounds stop and pleasant music starts.)


Get out of the past and into the present. Selling your home means using today’s technology and today’s strategies. And that means Ellie Glidewell. Get her on your team at Nick and Ellie dot com.

(Legal boilerplate.)


Several points about this ad that will help you when writing radio ads of your own

When writing radio ads, you have to get and keep their attention.

1. I’ve been writing radio ads for the Glidewells over the last six-plus years, and Nick Glidewell has used the same production team for every one of them. This produces much better results, because the head of production knows our style and how to make it fly.

2. You’ll notice a lot of parenthetical directions in the script. I do that to show what needs to happen as well as to explain how I want certain effects to sound. When you’re writing radio ads, don’t assume that the people producing them can read your mind.

3. I make use of dashes and ellipsis points (. . .) for emphasis and to control pacing.

4. Until the announcer comes in at the end, there’s no mention of real estate. That’s by design. In this type of ad, all we want to do is grab listeners and keep them engaged.

5. But when the announcer does come in, he ties the theme into his call to action. In the dramatization, Billy can’t get over a 1981 Arkansas loss, and the announcer advises listeners to “get out of the past (the old way of buying and selling homes) and into the present.”

6. Finally, in any radio ad writing project, you have to decide what to tell listeners to do. Our earlier ads always had Ellie’s phone number, usually repeated twice. This took up a lot of time, but our strategy was to get people to call Ellie so she could connect directly with them rather than send them to the Glidewell website.

If you only have 30 radio seconds, you need a call to action that’s as easy as possible to remember. A phone number, even if repeated, can be hard to recall, and listeners may not have quick access to something on which to write it down.

If you supply a phone number and a URL, that’s too much to expect people to process, plus it takes up too much valuable time.

In early Glidewell Realty ads, we went with the repeated phone number. In hindsight, we believe that may have not been the best strategy, but you live and learn.

Fortunately now, after hearing Nick and Ellie ads (on the radio, in magazines, in newspapers, on TV and everywhere else) for so long, the “Nick and Ellie” brand is pretty much locked in with a large number of people in the Fort Smith area. Nobody else does radio ads like we do, so they’re instantly recognizable as soon as they start. Our call to action now is just the URL, NickandEllie.com, because people are already familiar with the names, and it’s an easy URL to remember.

“TCU” is one of our humorous ads, but we also do some ads that are straightforward and real estate-heavy. You can a selection of both kinds on the Portfolio page.

The takeaway when writing radio ads: Give the production team sufficient direction, get listeners’ attention, don’t be scared to be a little different, write in a way that’s appropriate to your market, and make it as easy as possible for listeners to contact you.



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