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The Diary An Angry Ad-Man

This week something unbelievable happened.  Monday was the first day of a brand new radio campaign for a brand new client. I won't name the client, the station, or even the market this happened in.

Due to budget restraints on the client-side, the spot was produced by the station (read free). Of course the script was written by your truly and my trusty copy-writing sidekick. The spot was finished last Thursday - and on Friday I gave my stamp of approval.

Monday morning I received an email from the station rep saying that they had decided to make a few changes to the commercial - just a few "small things" - and the new commercial started running that morning.

Calmly, I asked for a copy of the new commercial.

At about second 6 my jaw dropped so far down that it hit the desk. My other orange half swiveled in his chair and stared at me in disbelief.

"Did that just say 'one stop shop?'" he asked? Indeed it did.

It seems that the station sales manager felt the spot needed to be rearranged a little bit - and was lacking a few lines. So they made some changes - without consulting me.

Well, I was steaming mad. But, I quickly saw an opportunity through this adversity: I can write a journal entry about this! So here we are.

The primary point I want to make is to illustrate the difference between our script and their script. Why the minor changes could have made tremendous negative impact. Ultimately, I hope you'll learn some good copy writing pointers and understand why you shouldn't let a radio station, newspaper, or anyone else who sells ads write your ads.

Our Formula:

  • Introducing something new
  • Who can take advantage
  • Smaller benefits
  • Basic features
  • More benefits
  • Personal name to contact
  • Call to action
  • Limited time
  • Call to action again

Their formula (made by rearranging our script, adding one line and deleting one line):

  • Introduction
  • One stop shop for all your ____ need. (Statements like these are drivel, amateur and cliche and have no business in real marketing. Even worse, they are all about you - the seller, instead of them, the buyer. One stop shop is the listener's cue to stop listening, make a cell phone call, or change the channel).
  • Features
  • Features
  • Smaller benefits
  • and the rest was basically the same.

What got cut out was the HUGE PROMISE/BIG BENEFIT. The benefits that were left were pushes toward the middle, buried underneath the self-centered discussion of one stop shops and a laundry list of features.

When I "asked" the station about this they told me  that they were looking out for the client's best interest. They were concerned that listeners may not understand exactly who the client was or what they did - or exactly what the package contained.

Guess what? In a sixty second radio ad they shouldn't learn those things. The purpose of the ad is not to get the person to completely understand the offering and make a buying decision. That can't happen in 60 seconds - unless you're selling gum or erasers or something.

The purpose of the ad was to get the listener to say, "Hmmm...that big benefit sounds good...oh and they're talking to me...and those other benefits sound very fine...oh - a few features, that sounds like something I could that's the person I need to talk to to learn more, and there's the number - eh....better hurry - it's only good for this week - and there's the number again." The point is to get arouse the listener's curiosity, engage their greed-glands, get them to picture themselves with the benefit in their lives, then to call and learn more.

But as soon as you throw the self-centered cliche gorilla snot in there, the entire process breaks down and the listener disengages.

Incidentally, the station manager admitted, "I guess I could have chosen a better line than 'one stop shop'...that is pretty cliche." Mty point exactly.. So why did he change it?

It makes me think we're not charging enough. Most copy writers at our level charge $15,000 a pop for a campaign. I'll bet if my client had paid $15,000 for that script, an act of congress couldn't have changed that ad without my agreement. Interesting.

My parting message to the station - and to you - is this: Let the stations and newspapers do what they do - which is sell the advertising, and leave it to us to make the advertising.