Friday, 24 July 2009

We couldn't agree with this more...

Watch this.

Want your radio to have just as much recall ? Lets talk now.

John Calvert

Advertising Radio Advertising on the radio: Is your station doing it right ?

It was many moons ago when I wrote an Ad Vantage article about many radio stations needing to adopt a more strategic approach to promoting their medium as a great place to advertise.

The world is a different place now. At the time of publication, the recession and Credit Crunch was not even a tiny dot on the horizon. Everything was fine.

Today, the media (rightly or wrongly) is telling us that life is tough and all of us have to fight for every last penny. Revenues from advertising in all media have suffered big downturns, so more than ever before radio has to fight back....NOW !

Forgive me if I am covering old ground here, but I really do think some local commercial stations need to up the ante when it comes to promoting themselves as an advertising medium. Sure, they go some way to promoting their wares by means of Advertiser Testimonials, but there’s a lot more that could be done.

I have always been in the opinion that local commercial stations could increase their own customer base by establishing a more structured approach to the way they promote their medium.

When a radio station books a long term advertiser, they generally ask their Commercial Producer or contract provider of production to come up with an idea that has legs. In other words, a framework that can be built on as the weeks and months of the campaign unfold. Yet when a radio station promotes itself on the radio as a good advertising medium, all that thinking goer out of the window. Locally-based campaigns promoting radio advertising are often sporadic, fragmented, predictable and not hugely inspiring. I’m not blaming the Commercial Producers for this either. From what I hear, some Proddies aren’t even given the opportunity to create a campaign. The messages are often produced by the same people who make the station promos.

Advertising is everything to a commercial radio station, so it seems only right that a station should invest significant resources in promoting itself as an advertising medium. Consideration should be given to allocating a percentage of airtime to promoting radio advertising. Not only that, a proper campaign structure should be established – just like stations do with paying advertisers. In addition, the Commercial Producers/Production providers should be given proper money to devise and create a comprehensive series of spell-binding radio commercials.

Radio advertising on XXXXFM should be turned into a brand. A ‘brand’ is defined as many things. Some have said it is "a name, sign or symbol used to identify items or services of the seller(s) and to differentiate them from goods of competitors.".
Others define a brand as "a set of assets linked to a brand's name and symbol that adds to the value provided by a product or service..." I could go on and on.
But we all know brands have a huge influence on us. So let’s use these values and make it relevant to radio advertising.

Radio stations already know that if their clients adopt consistent, engaging radio advertising, the clients will be successful advertisers. So if a radio station does the same thing by regularly promoting itself as great advertising medium with an engaging and consistent campaign, it is inevitable that they too will enjoy great success.

Using the above approach with a message that’s relevant to your TSA will only do good for your station. As far as I see it, you have absolutely nothing to lose. So do it !

Let Airforce create a plan for you. Get in touch now. Contact details are at

John Calvert

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Are your radio commercials getting a fair play ?

Many thanks for the great interest in my short guide ‘The 11 Most Common Mistakes Made in Radio Adverts’. As recently posted in the Airforce blog

The fact is that just because there’s a recession on, it doesn’t mean the core principals of radio advertising should be ignored. In fact, more than ever, radio advertising campaigns should be planned with meticulous detail. Even down to the scheduling.

Scheduling. Now there’s something that I haven’t spoken about for a while. In this context, I am not referring to day-parts and the like. I am referring to the tone and texture of a commercial break. I have always had the feeling that many ad breaks inadvertently let a station and it’s advertisers down.

A Programme Controller will be very much aware of how much better a station sounds when songs are scheduled in a certain way. For example, in ‘normal’ programming it may not be a good idea to put a number of dance songs together. For other stations, that’s a great idea. But whatever the format, a PC will always ensure that the sequence of songs flows smoothly and logically.

I am wondering how much attention is made to the actual commercial breaks themselves ? On regular occasions, I hear radio advert breaks that can be simply described as ‘lumpy’. A bit like driving a car with an iffy gear box: Irregular momentum and no smooth transition from one gear to another.

In addition I often hear ad breaks that just feature solo-speaking voices. Because many stations broadcast commercials so tightly together, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish when one solo-speaking ad has finished and when the next one has started. The final effect therefore is one long confusing message that the human brain just can’t cope with.

Then there are product, offer and brand clashes. Breaks that feature more than one furniture store or home improvement company. Breaks that feature more than one 0% interest free credit offer. Breaks that feature more than one public service message. The list goes on. Of course there are times when clashes are unavoidable, but at all times, attention should be given to exclusivity. Exclusivity in a break instantly gives the advertiser a brighter light to stand under, so giving them a better chance to lead the listener’s mind in the direction we want it to go. 2 similar products, services, propositions or brands in a break simply dilutes the impact of all the ads and confuses the listener.

Yonks ago, I worked with a brilliant Traffic Manager called Brian Lee. Although his scheduling system was completely computerised, he still took the time to ‘listen’ to ed breaks just to check the commercials sounded good together. If there was too much or too little contrast, Brian would shift things around. In certain commercial breaks before the top-of-the-hour news ident, Brian would end the break with an ad that wouldn’t have any topicality clash with the news or ensure that no ad would undermine the importance of the news. At times when a break featured a mix of good and bad ads, Brian would schedule them in a way that didn’t undermine the prestige of radio advertising. The list went on.

No matter how sophisticated commercial break scheduling software can be, nothing, but nothing beats a Human Being lending an ear to the break before it is transmitted. Successful radio advertising isn’t just about how good the ad is and where it is scheduled it’s also about how it’s broadcast.

John Calvert is Managing Director of Airforce. One of the UK's most prominent creators of radio commercials and radio adverts. For free stuff, visit the website at

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Friday, 17 July 2009

We're doing it for the kids...

Airforce has been hitting the news quite a bit. And in both cases, it's because we've hooked up with schools to get involved in some worthy projects.

First up: Ian Axton, owner of the radio station Andover Sound asked us to get involved with an initiative called 'Andover Vision'.

School pupils were asked to come up with a multi-media advertising campaign to encourage folks to not litter the streets. A cinema ad, press ad, bus back and radio commercial were all to produced by local schools under the supervision of mentors.

Airforce was asked to mentor the radio advert production.

After a talk to the pupils, they came back with a demo ad. Considering they had never done anything like this before, the demo was pretty good !

From there, we set out to record the ad . Everything was written, voiced and recorded by the pupils at Harrow Way Community School. My job was to 'tidy up' things in the recording and post production and turn it into a nice neat package.

Here's an article from the local paper...

Another project we're working on is something extremely exciting. Airforce is currently in the process of creating a radio commercial that contains more individual speaking voices than any other radio ad on the planet !

Currently, there is no set record. But our aim is to set the benchmark for others to follow.

We're working with Tanbridge House School in Horsham. The finished radio commercial will be for the school itself, with the all the voices provided by the pupils. The epic 90 second script has been co-written by pupil Tristan Smith aged 13 and 2 Airforce writers.

We are currently in the process of recording the pupils at the school. So far, we've recorded about 100 different pupils individually reading the script. Once I think we've got enough, we'll be editing all the reads to create a rado ad that features dozens and dozens and dozens of INDIVIDUAL speaking voices.

To get as many voices in the ad as possible, some words will be split into individual syllables; Therefore allowing more voices to appear. I am dreading the day when I will have to fire up Pro Tools and start this long, laborious editing process !!

When the ad is complete (probably late summer), the paid-for ad will be broadcast on Mercury FM in Crawley.

The attempt has generated loads of publicity for the school (and for Airforce !). Countless newspaper articles, web presence, even a radio interview so far. And this is BEFORE the ad has been made !

Here's a clipping from one of the many articles published...

John Calvert
July 17, 2009
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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Your radio commercials may be wasting thousands of pounds of your money ! Revealed: 11 of the most common mistakes made in Radio Adverts.

John Calvert is Managing Director of Airforce: One of the UK's most prominent names in Radio Commercial Production. Here he reveals how your business may inadvertently be throwing thousands of pounds down the drain by adopting poorly-constructed Radio Adverts.

With revenues approaching the £600 million mark, Radio Advertising is proving to be an extremely popular advertising medium. However, not all the businesses who advertise on the radio will enjoy success with the medium. This could be down to a number of reasons, however a key point in the failure of a radio advertising campaign may well be down to the commercial itself.

Businesses often pay handsomely to broadcast their radio commercials. However, many commercials are inadvertently sending out the wrong messages. The result ? Confused and irritated listeners. For the advertisers: Vast amounts of money wasted.

In times when local and regional radio advertisers need to make every second (and penny) count in their radio advertising, it is vital we get back to basics and indentify the small things that could cause radio advertisers big problems.

Communication is all about creating the right response in the mind of the radio listener, so here are a few of the things that can make a radio advertising campaign fail.


We've all heard lines like: "Thinking about buying double glazing ?" Or "Will you be coming to the big car sale this weekend ?" Or "Need new carpets ?".

If your listener answers "Yes", you stand a chance of converting them. If your listener answers "No", it's unlikely the remainder of your commercial will be not be listened to. And because it's likely more people will subconsciously answer "No" than "Yes", the money you spent getting the commercial produced and broadcast will be wasted.

Another commonly-used statement in advertising is the phrase "Why not...?"
"Why not come to the furniture sale..?", "Why not treat yourself". The line may appear to be suggestive and helpful, but actually on closer examination these sentences are leading the mind in the wrong direction.

Question "Why not come to the furniture sale ?"
Answer: "Because I'm busy". Or "I don't need any more furniture"

Question: "Why not treat yourself ?"
Answer: "I can't afford it".

Phrases like "Why Not", "Why go anywhere else ?" and "What's stopping you ?" simply bring to mind all the things that remind folks why they shouldn't be buying a particular product or service. The result ? Businesses spending a ton of money inadvertently inviting listeners to think of a reason for why they shouldn't buy their products or services.

Oh, and what about this cracker of a line: "You'd be mad to miss these special offers". The 'You'd be mad....' phrase is such a commonly-used line in advertising. Yet telling your audience they are one wave short of a shipwreck is not a good way of winning their hearts.


I am noticing a trend where many advertisers want to talk about 'recession-busting offers and deals' in their commercials. Again, care should be taken here. Reminding your audience about recessions and the like only re-enforces their belief that perhaps they should not be spending their money. If listeners are reminded of that fact, they'll be more reluctant to spend their money with you and you've wasted a few more thousand pounds.

By all means be topical, but convey the current economic climate in a softer way.


Some business-owners love to voice their own radio commercial. Just because you own the company does not mean your voice should be the ambassador for it. Some of the most embarrassing radio commercials ever recorded are the ones that are voiced by the company's owners. The result will be a production that conveys a company as highly amateurish and on some occasions: An absolute joke. We all judge people on their appearance and radio is no exception. Remember, you're not saving money by using your own voice, you're actually spending more.


Saying you offer the best service, products, quality etc is incredibly arrogant and presumptive. At the end of the day, the only people who can say you are the best are your customers. What listeners want are benefits, not boasts. Tell your listeners what they want to hear. Don't waste money on broadcasting an ego trip.


Thousands of local radio advertisers admit their commercials and jingles are irritating, yet they remain happy to continue broadcasting their ads. If you know your commercial gets on people's nerves pull it off air, NOW ! For all the people who somehow manage to tolerate your sound believe me, there'll be thousands more who won't give you business because they simply can't stand you. Good quality jingles cost more, but you'll get a significantly higher return on your investment.


In this day and age, it's tempting to ensure the listener knows as much as possible about your offering. If you're doing this, much of your money is going down the toilet. If you're paying to broadcast ads rammed full of facts, figures and information, give the money to charity instead. It'll be better spent that way. The human brain can only take in limited amounts of information in one go, so stick to the 'one commercial - one thought' policy. A single, clear message will work much much better.


It is highly common-place to put phone numbers in radio ads. But hang on, how many do we actually remember ? Try this. Write down the phone numbers that were broadcast in the last three radio ads you heard.

Can't remember them ? So what's the difference with your phone number ? You may know it off the back of your hand, but it's unlikely anyone else will. Don't waste valuable airtime promoting something most folks won't remember.

There are very few radio-friendly phone numbers. So don't waste money promoting them. Instead, promote an easier to remember point of contact, like a web address.

But hang on, even web addresses can cause problems !

Web addresses such as '' are a no-no in radio ads. On air, it sounds like 'jonesFORcars'. And if you don't have the 'jonesforcars' domain name, you're wasting your airtime because fewer people will get through to your site.

In addition, avoid domains that have hyphens in them like ''. To make sense of it on air, the voice will have to say 'jones hypen cars' or 'jones dash cars'. There's more for the listener to remember and some people will (amazingly) type the word 'hyphen' or 'dash' when searching for you on the web.

In addition, examine your business name carefully. If it is in anyway odd or could be spelt in a number of ways, register as many domain names with these differences and direct them all to your main website. If your company name is really hard to spell, use a domain name that is relevant to your business like '' or something similar.


As a business owner, you wouldn't dream of shouting at any of your customers on your business premises. It is regarded as insulting and at worst, threatening. So there is no excuse to do it on the radio. Shouting more than your competitors on air won't mean your offering is anymore better or exciting than anyone else's. To the listener it simply means you're an irritant and therefore they will turn your ad down to a level so low they won't be able to hear it. Well done, you've just thrown away another few thousand pounds.


How many times have you heard radio ads that give directions to the business ? IE: "We're on the second turning after the railway bridge, west of Hardwick Street". Giving directions not only wastes airtime, but by giving directions you're suggesting that your business is hard to find.


I've never understood why radio advertisers constantly spend millions of pounds telling listeners they have cut their prices. If a business does nothing but tell people their prices have been reduced by 50% or more, the audience will eventually begin to not believe you. Yes, price is important. But so is your brand and all the wonderful things that people love you for. People will only buy if they A) Like and trust you and B) Have a desire for your product or service. If you're promoting just prices, you're wasting money on just preaching to the converted. To get more business, broadcast commercials that attract new believers.


Yes, having a commercial that's engaging is vital. But when 'Creativity' clouds the main message, you're wasting a pile of cash.

Ever listened to a funny radio ad and then say to someone "Have you heard that advert for...Whatsisname?" Being creative is good, but the point of you paying lots of money for a radio advertising campaign is for you to do more business and get richer. Things like humour, clever writing, scenarios and the like are welcome, but they should not be more important than your core message. Get it the other way round and you're paying to make people to laugh and not remember you.

For a free, no-obligation consultation about your radio commercials, call John Calvert at Airforce on 01249 821679 or visit

Welcome to the Airforce Blog

July 2009.

Hi, and welcome to the brand new Airforce blog. The aim of this section is for you to catch up on the latest news from Airforce along with opinions, the odd rant and some past Radio Magazine articles.

Keep coming back. More and more stuff will appear as the weeks and months go on.


John Calvert