Sunday, 30 August 2009

Put some 'Joy' in your radio advertising !

For as long as I can remember BMW, the makers of ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ have presented us with superbly art-directed images of the cars. Every past TV commercial showed us a beautifully lit car. The announcer’s words were short, sharp and compelling. It’s was all highly-aspirational stuff and has obviously sold shed-loads of cars.

But have you seen the new ad for BMW ? We’re outdoors ! The commercials feature people ! They are happy folk smiling and laughing ! The music sounds like ‘Sense’ by the Lightning Seeds ! And the wall-to wall copy from the announcer (Patrick Stewart) says “At BMW, we don’t just make cars...We make joy !”. See the ad here.

This is a big creative turnaround by BMW. For the first time in ages, they’ve put emotion into their marketing. It could be argued that the slick moody ads of the past were ‘emotive’, but the new approach is a darn-site more blatant.

It is said that only 5% of all purchases are only made on logic. The remaining 95% is made on emotion. Be it clothes or anything else, thoughts such as “I’ll look good wearing this”... “It’s my colour”... “I look the part”... “It’ll make me happy”... “It’s a treat”... all make major contributions in the buying process.

So although there are lots of radio ads out there that make us laugh or make us think (IE Road safety), how many are there that actually tap into our minds and take advantage of our emotional vulnerability ?

We need to start thinking more about the stuff that makes people tick. In BMW’s case, associating ‘Joy’ with their cars is in my opinion, a great move. Compare ‘We don’t just make cars...We make joy ’ with Toyota’s ‘Today Tomorrow Toyota’ and you begin to realise that BMW is now miles ahead on the emotive stakes.

I think many local advertisers think certain aspects of advertising are out of bounds for them simply because they ARE local. The reality is, clever emotive advertising isn’t just for the big brands everyone can have a piece of the action. My next task after writing this article is to take a brief from an advertiser who sells cookers. Each one costs in the region of £32,000! I am astounded at the cost, but in an initial conversation with the client, he tells me you just have to look at one of his cookers and you’ll A) Fall in love with it and then B) Want to buy one. “The mind always find a way to buy what it wants” the client added. The job of the radio advertising will be to start that process and effect an introduction between the cooker and the listener.

I am really looking forward to working on this project. And today, I hope radio sales people will not only encourage their advertisers to play the emotion card in their radio adverts; but also use emotion to sell more radio airtime !

Put some joy in your radio advertising. Get in touch with Airforce now !

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Who's best to produce your Radio Adverts ?

I spent a day with the sales team at a radio station this week. It’s something I have done for a number of stations who don’t have their own in-house radio commercial production department. Basically, I am theirs for a whole day either taking briefs, presenting concepts, advising advertisers on how they can improve their creative or imparting thoughts and guidance to members of the sales team.

Throughout one such meeting, the Sales Team told me they ‘are obliged to use selected production companies for their commercial production needs’.

Do I have a problem with that ? No actually. Providing each specially selected company has something different to offer. However, from the feedback I am getting is that the companies some stations contract their com prod to have pretty much the same offering. The only perceptible difference is the sound of their showreels !

There has always been a debate on whether radio stations who don’t have in-house commercial production should only work with one production company or a number of them.

But I’ve never been a supporter of radio stations having just one contract Commercial Production and Music provider. “You would say that wouldn’t you ?” You may say. “You’re the owner of a production company and you want some of the work !” Too right I do, but from the radio station’s and advertiser’s point of view, production companies are going to work a little bit harder when they know a gig could go to somebody else. In addition, if an advertiser knows he has lots of people working for him, then he’s likely to put more faith in the station who is recommending all these companies.

The reality is, many stations have a roster of production companies working for them. There is no doubt that having a choice of providers helps a radio station have an interesting spectrum of commercial output. This is one of the reasons why I like radio advertising so much. You never hear of a local newspaper putting one of their client’s creative out to tender. “The person who comes up with the best visual gets the gig.” In radio, pitching is alive and well and my opinion should happen (with firm rules set down) more often. Stations and advertisers get better work and it keeps Production Companies on their toes.

But how far should creative pitches go ? Demo’s have always been a bit of a grey area. In my view, no client should demand a recorded demo unless they are prepared to pay a fee set by the production company for it. The reality is that providing you explain the script and the concept clearly to a client, you generally don’t need to record a demo. If the idea is good, it will leap off the paper with little to no effort at all.

Not only that, too many good creative ideas have stopped at the first hurdle because someone has written at the bottom of the brief: “All commercials must be 30 seconds in length”. I touched on this in a recent article.

But there’s a proviso to being a roster commercial production to a radio station. If radio stations ask you to pitch on price, then you have to question in who’s best interests is ‘the best price wins’ pitch is for. So many good ideas have been ruined or never got off the ground because someone ‘wants a deal’. Perhaps if people focussed on ‘wanting radio advertising that works’, I think everyone would reap the benefits a lot more. I know of companies who make radio ads for stations for £75 each, £50 each even £40 each ! How anyone can produce a half-decent radio ad AND pay for good writing talent, voiceovers, recording kit, running costs etc for £40 really is beyond me. A station exec told me yesterday “It’s all about bulk, if they have lots of jobs then they can make it work. ” That’s fine until the station or group decides for whatever reason to not renew the contract. This kind of thing happens and it makes me think: How many companies that rely hugely on Contract Commercial Production actually have a Plan B ?

Myself and many other proddies have been in the business long enough to see that the debate on contracting out versus in-house commercial production raises it’s head every so many years. Commercial Radio is currently going through ‘one of those phases’ where things are once again being shaken up. One station exec recently told me that management are now encouraging their sales team to get radio ads written and made by the station’s Promo Producer. I have also heard stories of stations asking Jocks to make commercials when they are not on air. I also know of station MD’s making radio ads !

The above examples are by no means widespread, but never the less, still worrying. The fact is, a radio advert can make or break an advertiser’s commitment to a radio station. As one of my agency clients always says to his clients: “If you’re going to advertise on the radio...Try to advertise brilliantly !” He’s absolutely right. So if your station has in-house or contract Commercial Producers, give them the right environment to make as many of their commercials absolute crackers. Above and beyond everything else: If the advertising sounds good and works, a station will flourish.

Want your radio adverts to sound good ? Visit our website at

Thursday, 13 August 2009

This 'Airforce' makes radio commercials !

With a company name like 'Airforce', you can't blame folks to think that we're something to do with the military. We're definitely not, but if you're here thinking we are, best click here.

Over the years, we've had shedloads of emails, letters and phone calls from people asking us how they can become a fighter pilot. In addition, we're often asked for recordings of military music. Recently a lady emailed us and asked if we could forward her some military tunes so they could be played at her late husband's funeral. We sent a nice email back saying that we couldn't personally help and included a link to a brilliant web site that would be able to help her.

3 years ago, Airforce HQ re-located to Wiltshire. We are a few minutes drive away from RAF Lyneham and the town of Wootton Bassett. You will have heard these names on the news. When a British solidier is killed in Afganistan, they are flown into RAF Lyneham. From there, they are taken through the small town of Wootton Bassett where literally the whole town stops to pay it's respects.

On returning from client meetings, I have passed through Wootton Bassett just before or after a repatriation ceremony. On one occasion, I witnessed about 8 hearses coming out of the town. It was hugely moving.

Although we just make radio adverts and have nothing to do with the military, it doesn't mean we're not interested in the military. In the last 7 days, I have been a guest of The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

An officer of HMS St Albans invited me, a colleague and some friends to spend a day on board a proper war ship. We went to Portsmouth, boarded HMS St Albans and went out to sea. We pretty much had complete freedom of the ship. We went to the bridge, met the captain, saw an amazing helicopter flypast and even went into the Ops Room. (Where they launch the missiles !)

Few folks get to see and experience what we did and on so many levels, it was a huge eye opener. See the pics below. They show Yours Truly with mates, colleagues & our host, the Missile Silo and life on the Bridge.

From there, we went to Lyneham as guests of the RAF. The Red Arrows made an appearance and we toured huge Hercules planes and helicopters. Again, a real eye opener.

My thanks to Duncan and Gaz for giving us 2 amazing days. Much respect to you and everyone who defends our country and our freedom.

John Calvert

PS: If you're here to find out how to get great radio adverts made, visit

Friday, 7 August 2009

Don't think all radio adverts should just be 30 seconds...

This week, my company was involved in a client pitch.

The presentation of radio commercials went well and after taking the potential new client through the document, I asked if there was anything that needed clarifying.

“The ads are longer than 30 seconds”, the client observed. I explained that the brief didn’t specify any preference for any specific length.

“We ONLY have 30 second ads” the client replied.

In my years of making radio adverts, I have always been concerned by this obsession with radio ads having to be 30 seconds ! It is a dreadful duration, namely because the length allows little-to-no time to set a good scene for the brand/product/service, promote the benefit and then close off with the call to action.

I know I am not the only Commercial Producer who has problems with this. In my capacity as a Voice Over, I am often sent 30 second scripts that struggle to be engaging in any way. There is an idea in there, but often it is undercooked because of the limitations of the duration.

I often wonder what life would be like if the ‘standard’ length of a radio advert was established as a 40 seconder ? Of course, there would be advertisers who would exploit this and broadcast ads that were packed to the rafters with easy-to-forget twaddle; but hunch tells me that many script writers would breathe a sigh of relief and create ads that would be far more engaging and so, more effective.

I know some stations are struggling with selling 100% of their airtime inventory, so I am wondering if they have nothing to lose by offering new and existing clients 40” commercials at the 30” rate on the understanding that their creative is given a thorough overhaul ?

Changing the subject a little, I am keen to hear what everyone thinks of Global Radio’s new initiative called ‘Radio Runner’. Recently publicised on the Radio Today website, Radio Runner is an application that allows advertisers to buy and create their radio advertising online. Currently, it’s only available in East Anglia but the objective is likely to be rolled out across the UK.

At the time of writing this article, my PC was unable to connect to But in an earlier visit I discovered that ‘buy and create’ are the two main buzzwords. You log in to a website, choose the station(s) you want to advertise on, select the advertising package and then pick from a selection of pre-written radio scripts the ad that most appeals or is most relevant to you. From there, you then fill in the gaps with your company name etc.

This initiative from Global is in more ways than one a real-eye opener and I would really love to know if whether you are for or against this kind of approach.

No doubt we’ll be returning to the subject of Radio Runner in the weeks and months to come.

John Calvert
Visit the Airforce website here.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Did you see Top Gear ?

Last night Top gear excelled itself.

Clarkson & May were set a task to make a Volkswagen ad. Of course there was a lot of jolliness along the way, but if you like creating radio or TV ads, VW's agency (DDB) dispensed some great pearls of wisdom. The main one being "At the heart of all good Volkswagen advertising, there is always a product truth."

Hear hear.

"Truth" isn't what you believe. Because what you believe isn't necessarily truth. It's just what you believe ! So the 'truth' you promote has to be an undeniable fact and nothing less.

It's something I completely support and if you'd like your radio ads to contain truths that the audience will embrace with open arms, contact us.

In the meantime, here is what I believe to be one of the best VW ads ever made. It's years old, but I adore it's simplicity and compelling proposition. See it here.