Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Radio Listener is Unforgiving

About 6 weeks ago, I got a call from someone I hadn't seen for at least 8 years.

The last time we spoke was when we were both working for a commercial radio station. He was a Sales Manager, I was the Commercial Producer. His relationship with Airforce stretches back many many years and he is a huge fan of our work.

To cut a long story short, I got the call because this chap had been called in to turn an ailing radio station around and he wanted us to improve the station's commercial output.

This is a small station with a poor track record. So the challenge of clearing up the mess from the past is going to be hard one. But this guy WANTS to make it work, the station's owners want to make it work and so do all the staff. In a few weeks, the station has re-branded and reformatted. To attract more 'national' revenue it will be going into RAJAR soon. Already the signs are good. Staff Morale is good, average order values are up and the audience is responding favourably to the new sound. Having said that, the station is very aware it has a long way to go. But no problem, they are on the case.

My job is to focus on improving the sound of the commercials. I am in regular contact with the sales team and doing everything I can to assist them. Such as accompanying them on sales calls. Even on projects that just require 'everyday' commercial production, I am trying to make a point of being there. If other businesses hear half-decent ads on the station, chances are they will want a slice of the action.

We're calling the initiative 'A New Creative Attitude'. My deal with the station is that we will provide free creative training, instigate at our own cost an on air creative strategy to attract new advertisers and embed a better creative mind-set in the sales team. In return Airforce will get new business leads. We win, the station wins, the advertisers win and the audience wins.

And while all that is happening, I get emails from 2 community radio stations asking how much Airforce charge to make radio ads. I gave them an indication and BOTH responded by saying words to the effect of: 'Those costs are too high, we're only a community station'.

Look: Just because you're a Community radio station, it doesn't mean the audience is going to be happy with your naff commercial output. Remember what Advertising Guru David Ogilvy once said ? 'The consumer is not a Moron, she is your wife'. Imagine you are the marketing manager of Ford cars. You are instigating a poster campaign. One poster site is in a small village with a population of 500 people. Just because it's 'only' 500 people, does that mean Ford would be happy to put up a sub standard poster up in that village ? Of course not. They will do the job properly and ensure that the product is ALWAYS presented in the best possible light regardless of the size of audience. Whether you're a national radio station, a regional station, a local station or a community station: The audience is unforgiving. They will ALWAYS opt for someone that comes across better than someone who sounds tatty and amateurish.

If a radio station believes businesses will only pay tuppence for radio advert production, tuppence is all you will get. But if you're a station that believes that it's worth forking out a few more quid to get things right, then your clients will believe that too. Last week another Community station called and asked Airforce to help out. So far we've worked on 2 projects (One directly, one indirectly)and on both occasions, clients have invested significantly more money in their sound because we helped them understood the value of doing so.

And all that links back to the station we're helping to turn round. OK, the station we're helping is just a wee bit larger than the community stations, but the principal is the same....

It's all about mindset. We have 2 stations that don't believe and we have 2 stations that do.

...Which of these stations do you think will ultimately be most successful ?

John Calvert.
Whether you're a radio station or a radio advertiser, let us help to turn things round. Contact us here.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

What's wrong with radio advertising ?

A few weeks ago, I received a call asking if I would like to be nominated as a judge for the radio advertising panel at the Cannes Lions Awards held in Cannes.

I was flattered, but due to various commitments I was unable to take the project further.

Fast forward a few weeks and i read this article.

It is true, in recent years respect for radio advertising has gone through a rather iffy stage. There are a lot of reasons. Firstly, the recession hasn't helped. Thousands of advertisers are playing safe with their creative. A few days ago, I presented a new creative concept to a major client of mine. "We love it !" They said. "But it's just too much of a risk to change". And there lies the danger. By not moving with the times, your marketing blends in with everything else.

Another reason is...And for goodness sakes, I don't know how many times I've said this ! But on a local level, nmany radio stations are selling their medium wrongly. Far too much emphasis is being put on selling airtime rather than proper advertising. Airtime is a commodity. It is purely the portal for the message. Because of this, a creative strategy doesn't get a look in. If stations sold Advertising, then everything would be taken into consideration in equal measure.

Thirdly, the value of radio is being undermined. There are radio stations selling some airtime packages that are shockingly cheap. At face value, they appear to look fantastic. But dig deeper and you'll discover these packages will only work for a small amount of advertisers. I've had numerous station Sales Execs tell me they have to sell these packages and they hate doing it. They tell me they are time-consuming, high maintenance and because little-to-no money is allocated for creative, the majority of the ads sound crap. A few years ago, I published my views on some of these packages in an article for an industry magazine. A few days after publication, I was at a radio event and a station boss came over and gave me a complete bollocking. "You don't realise how much revenue these packages bring in for us !" he blurted. His rant lasted ten minutes, but during that time there was no mention of any benefit of these packages to the advertiser.

The fact is, many of these cheap airtime packages don't work sufficiently well for the advertiser to re-sign. The result ? Another business disillusioned with radio advertising. If they DO work, then the station faces another problem. You have a happy client, so you present to them an advertising package that's bigger and more expensive. The client responds by saying: "I'm not interested in that. I'll stick to the original cheap package I booked thank you."

And of course, there's another reason why radio advertising may not be as attractive as it used to be. Could it be because of the quality of output of some of the commercial radio stations ? Don't get me wrong, there are lots of stations that have some great output. But there are LOTS of radio stations who constantly pump out bland and unimaginative output. (Notice I don't say 'programming' ?) The presenters talk, but they have nothing to say. The music is repetitive, unbelievably safe and predictable. The 'localness' is pseudo-local. And where is the engagement ? How often does something amazing being broadcast on a commercial radio station put your life on hold until the item has finished ? When Chris Evans was doing the breakfast show on Virgin, there were countless times when I was late for work because I was still in the car listening his breakfast show.

Sure, many of these stations have good audiences, but the public deserve a lot better. I cannot accept that the only way to attract audiences is to just keep pumping out music with the presenter saying "That was...This is...Katie Price...Coming up next...Brought to you in association with...Lady Gaga's dress...More ways to win"

I am hoping with the embarrassing news that there were no UK finalists in this year's Radio Lions will be a wake up call. Not just for agencies, but the entire commercial radio industry.

John Calvert. Airforce.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Les Paul Guitars and Google

It won't be on for long, but Google have done a great thing with their logo to pay tribute to Les Paul guitars.

Check it out here.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Success for Airforce radio commercials at Vox 2011

For Vox 2011, productions created by Airforce were nominated in no less than 4 categories.

We're pleased to say 2 were won !

In 'Best Male Voiceover Performance', Guy Harris picked up the award for his performance in our radio commercial 'Mr Intoxico' produced for Dorset Police.

Guy was thrilled and we are thrilled for him too. Not only is he an all-round good egg, but he is hugely talented too.

And if that wasn't enough: In the 'Best Female Voiceover Performance', Laura Shavin picked up an award for her performance in our commercial 'The Message', produced for Lincoln Furniture Warehouse

Recognise Laura's name ? Listen to 'The Now Show' on BBC Radio 4 and you'll hear her regular contributions. A highly in-demand voice, Laura's tones regularly appear on our productions and it's terrific her talent has been recognised by industry professionals.

We are particularly pleased because this year, commercials by Airforce picked up more awards than anyone other entrant. In addition, Airforce commercials received more nominations than anyone else too !

You can hear Laura's ad here.

You can hear Guy's ad here.

If you're unfamiliar with 'Vox'...

It is a yearly gathering of voiceover professionals and producers from production companies and radio stations. Due to the 'down the line' technology that exists, many of us don't actually work with voices face to face in the studio. So Vox gives us the chance to put a face to the voice.

One of our favourite voices is Gina Mellotte. Gina's voice also featured in the 'Mr Intoxico' commercial. We've worked with her for ages, but Vox 2011 was the first time I actually met her in the flesh !

You will hear Gina's voice on many high-profile TV productions. ITV, BAFTA, Radio 2 and many more.

It was also a great opportunity to catch up with some people we haven't seen for an age. Many were discussing how the recession had effected their business. Many are doing well, some had seen revenues go down rapidly. Scary stuff. But it does teach me that marketing marketing marketing is the way to get new business. This year we're spending more on it than ever before.

A huge gathering of people who use their voices to earn a living is a deafening experience. But I am thankful to be working in an industry where everyone is an absolute delight.

There are some amazingly professional people out there, all willing to give their all to even the lower-budget work. All these people look like ordinary members of the public, but every day their voices and their productions guide us, inspire us and inform us in great creative ways. Amateurs are never cost-effective substitutes, they simply make your business sound...Amateurish ! Always employ professionals with a proven track record in their field. In the long run, it will be the best investment you'll ever make in your marketing.

Congratulations to everyone who won at Vox 2011. We're happy, but not contented. Next year, we'll enter more work and push you harder to vote for it all to win !

For award-winning radio commercials and radio advert production featuring award winning voices, call us now ! Click here to contact Airforce.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Airforce is in the finals of the Vox Awards

The finalists have been announced for the 2011 Vox Awards and we're delighted to see that productions by Airforce feature in 4 of the 7 main categories.

'Cabinet' in the 'Best Retail' category, produced for Lincoln Furniture Warehouse.
'The Dream' in the 'Best Services' category, produced for Tanbridge House School.
'Mr Intoxixo' featuring Guy Harris in the 'Best Male Voiceover performance' category, produced for Dorset Police.
'The Message' featuring Laura Shavin in the 'Best Female Voiceover performance' category, produced for Lincoln Furniture Warehouse.

We're naturally delighted to have so many commercials featured in the finals. The winners will be decided by votes so we need
your help !

To hear all the finalist commercials and cast your vote, visit the Vox Awards website here and follow the instructions.

You have until May 19th to vote, so vote NOW !

Many thanks.


Monday, 18 April 2011

How Powerful are Your Words ?

I am grateful to my Facebook friend Clive Dickens for posting this wonderful short film.

Whatever kind of advertising medium you favour, this film reminds us that that it is always possible to add powerful meaning to even the most ordinary of propositions.

That doesn't mean you need to spend squillions on your advertising campaign. For local and regional radio advertisers, all it takes is a little bit of extra thought.

...Which for some reason, only a small amount of local and regional radio advertisers tend to do !

Let it be known that constantly spending your advertising money on telling listeners you've cut your prices is flawed strategy. In this day an age, it is essential that radio advertisers invest in attracting new believers. And to do that, you have to 'frame' your proposition in a completely different way to your competitors. The film Clive posted is a perfect example of that.

Come on. Challenge Airforce to take your proposition and present it from a completely different angle.

You can listen to examples of our radio commercials, radio adverts & jingles here.

John Calvert

Monday, 28 March 2011

Can Wills and Kate endorse your product ?

A lot of advertisers will be wanting to jump on the Royal Wedding bandwagon.

But what can or can't you get away with in your radio advert ?

An agency client forwarded us a note from Global Radio which we thought you may find useful.

The recent announcement from Clarence House that Prince William and Kate Middleton are to marry next year poses many questions: will there be a national holiday? Who will design the dress? Is hat-wearing going to be mandatory across the British Isles? And most importantly as far as advertisers are concerned: can we refer to this happy event in our advertising?

Broadly speaking, advertising should not claim or imply that a particular product is endorsed by the Royal Family or imply that a product is affiliated to royal events when it is not. This is line with the general provisions on misleading advertising and the fact that the CAP Code urges marketers to obtain written permission before implying any personal approval of the advertised product and reminds marketers that those who do not want to be associated with the product could have a legal claim (rule 6.1).

Specifically, members of the Royal Family should not normally be shown or mentioned in a marketing communication without their prior permission (rule 6.2) and the Royal Arms or Emblems must not be used without prior permission from the Lord Chamberlain’s office. References to a Royal Warrant should be checked with the Royal Warrant Holders’ Association (rule 3.52). For information regarding the sale of souvenir products please see the guidance issued by Clarence House.

The ASA has in the past upheld complaints about advertising that implied Royal Endorsement. However, the Code states that an incidental references unconnected with the advertised product, or references to material such as a book, article or film about a member of the Royal Family, may be acceptable.

We would expect that advertising products with references to the Royal Wedding which do not feature the prospective bride and groom such as 'invite everyone round to watch the wedding and enjoy X', are likely to be acceptable in the same way as marketing referencing sporting events would be.

Get your radio commercials made in advance of the royal wedding. Contact Airforce now on 01249 821679. Initial script ideas are free.

Monday, 21 February 2011

When scheduling of your radio advert fails....

If you're paying good money for your radio commercial to be broadcast, make sure the next commercial in the break doesn't ruin things for you.

Listen here

John Calvert

Monday, 14 February 2011

When people have their heads firmly implanted up their back-sides, this is what can happen...

What WERE Groupon and their agency thinking when they thought this ad would be great for business ?

Read the article here.

John Calvert

Monday, 31 January 2011

Changes to the small print. Do your radio commercials comply ?

The rules in financial advertising are having a bit of a shake up.

The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) have forwarded us the following note:

The Consumer Credit (Advertisements) Regulations 2010 (CCAR) replace the 2004 Regulations on 1st February 2011.

Certain credit ads are exempt (e.g. if the ad makes clear that credit is only available for business purposes).

Ads must include the name of the advertiser (the advertiser’s address is exempt for radio ads).

Where the ad includes a rate of interest or any amount relating to the cost of credit (whether a sum of money or a proportion of a specified amount), the ad needs “a representative example”.

A “Representative Example” consists of the following minimum information:
• the words "Representative Example"
• total amount of credit
• an APR, worded thus: “Representative X% APR” (the APR available on 51%+ of deals arising from the advert)
• cash price
• amount of any advanced payments and any other fees (if relevant)
• duration of the agreement
• total amount payable
• amount of each repayment of credit (if relevant)

Please note that…
The phrase/tag/qualification “Representative X% APR” can be used on its own where the ad:
• is for “bad” credit risks (e.g. “can’t get credit?”)
• contains a ‘comparative indication’ (e.g.“low cost loans”, “our lowest rates”, “save money”, “low monthly payments”)
• includes an ‘incentive’ to take out credit (e.g. “nothing to pay for a year”, “get cash fast”, “2% off our usual rates”, “low deposit”)

Please don't curse the RACC for this. These aren't their rules. They are simply here to ensure the new law is adhered to in radio advertising.

The small print in financial advertising is at the best of times, pretty confusing. But this new rule in my opinion will not benefit the listener in any shape or form. Come on Law Makers, are you really in the belief the audience understands what 'Representative APR' actually means ? And if they do, do they actually care ?

I think cramming T's & C's in a radio ad doesn't do anyone any favours. It's a well-known fact the human brain can't absorb large amounts of information in one go. Therefore a radio advert with a monotonic voiceover rattling off technical prattle that only has meaning to those in the financial sector doesn't really give the consumer any protection at all.

I am completely up for protecting the consumer. So how about just saying 'conditions apply' ? It tells the listener they won't be getting something for nothing and that there is more to the offer than meets the eye.

Job done in a clear, understandable and consise manner. But let's face it. Many of those who enforce the laws don't actually think like us mere mortals. So the chances of things changing for the better are unlikely !

For advice on how Airforce can make the small print in your radio advert legal, yet as unobtrusive as possible, get in touch here.

John Calvert

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Music to Picture...

We did the music for this film recently.

Enjoy !

Friday, 21 January 2011

It's all about 'Desire' and not about 'Price'

It's something we've been harking on about for years.

Price is not the be-all and end-all.

If you'd like to know more about what makes people buy, read this article.

In radio advertising, there is too much emphasis on telling folks something is cheaper. Sure price is important, but no one will buy anything unless they want or need it.

Remember the old Monty Python 'Piston' sketch ? The excerpt below perfectly sums it up....

Mrs Non-Smoker: Oohh hello, Mrs Smoker.

Mrs Smoker: Hello Mrs Non-Smoker.

Mrs Non-Smoker: What, you been shopping then?

Mrs Smoker: Nope ... I've been shopping!

Mrs Non-Smoker: What d'you buy?

Mrs Smoker: A piston engine!

Mrs Non-Smoker: What d'you buy that for?

Mrs Smoker: It was a bargain!

Mrs Non-Smoker: How much d'you want for it?

Mrs Smoker: Three quid!

Mrs Non-Smoker: Done. (she hands over the money)

Mrs Smoker: Right. Thank you.

Mrs Non-Smoker: How d'you cook it?

Mrs Smoker: You don't cook it.

Mrs Non-Smoker: You can't eat that raw!

Mrs Smoker: Ooooh ... never thought of that.

Radio commercials, radio adverts and advertising jingles must do more than sell a price reduction. If you want to advertise on the radio, we can show you how. Contact Airforce here.

John Calvert

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Want to become a Voiceover Artist ?

Every year, we get countless requests from people asking us to help them to become a Voiceover Artist. It takes an age explaining the pro's and cons, so I am extremely grateful to the good people from for publishing a book that explains everything you need to know. You can buy it here.

Airforce uses some of the finest voiceover artists in the business. But if you're considering using your own voice in your radio advert, here's a one-word suggestion.


With the greatest of respect, 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 and/or staff. The result will usually be a production that conveys a company as amateurish and at worst: An absolute joke.

It's not just radio commercials either. I find it amazing how many companies still use their staff members to voice their telephone 'on hold' systems. The voice often sounds nervous, winey and hesitant. Worse still, the voice is recorded in an echoey room. It all comes together to create something that massively lets the brand down. A customer's first approach is often on the telephone. Ensure you sound as good as your product or service !

To hear a great example of how it should be done, give American Express a call on this number: 0870 600 10 30.

To hear how it shouldn't be done, listen to this recorded message on 0904 2562193. Not only does the voice sound hellishly depressing, but you're being charged £1.50 for the experience of it !

We all judge people on their appearance and radio is no exception. Remember, you're not saving money by using your voice or the voice of a staff member, you're actually spending more.

For a free voice casting service, contact Airforce here.

John Calvert

Monday, 10 January 2011

Capital FM.

Global's Capital FM hits the network. Supporting the launch is a great TV ad. You can see it and find out more about the campaign by clicking here.

If you're thinking of advertising on Capital FM, Airforce can write and produce your radio commercials. We have access to some great voices and your music can be composed by our composer (and co-founder of Airforce) Roger Dexter. Roger regularly composes imaging music for BBC Radio 1 and has worked on a ton of tracks for a host of youth-oriented radio stations and production music libraries.

Contact us for details

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

IFA's: Win free radio commercial production !

Airforce has teamed up for an exciting promotion with IFA Life. The Social Network for IFA's and Financial Planners.

If you're an Independent Financial Advisor, enter the competition to win hundreds of pounds worth of radio commercial production for free.

For details, click here.

Monday, 3 January 2011

The best and worst of 2010.

One of my agency clients gave me a call last week, asking that we have a get-together.

“Where do you want us to meet ?” I asked.

“Let’s meet in Germany. Berlin to be precise”, said my client.

“Berlin ? ? Normally we meet in boring hotel receptions !”

“Nahh. I fancy Berlin. We’ll stay a couple of nights, have a few beers and see the sights. I’ll pay”.

And so he did. We met at Heathrow, checked in and then all Hell broke out. Snow came down, all flights cancelled and Heathrow wanted us out of the building immediately. So, with suitcases in hand we headed to London for 2 nights of merriment.

At about 1 o’clock in the morning in a hotel in the West End, the client and myself reflected on where radio is now and what it was like when it started. We both agreed that radio advertising is a lot more scientific – and we like that. But over the years, a few things have crept in that, in our view, don’t really help some of the advertisers.

We discussed those packages that help radio stations to sell off any left-over inventory. To many stations, this has been a vital way of earning extra revenue, but from some advertiser’s point of view, it hasn’t been of great benefit. Yes, it’s an easy sell. Yes, it makes radio affordable to more businesses and yes, it helps stations earn more dosh. But conversely, I hear too many stories of it being sold to the wrong kind of businesses. I hear stories of the campaigns not working and so putting the advertisers off radio for a long long time. I hear from radio people who say they wish their station never started selling these packages because they have discovered it sometimes has the tendency to undermine the value of radio. And I know many Sales Execs dread having to sell these packages because they don’t believe in them. Our opinion is that they do work for some small advertisers, but for a lot of other advertisers, he/I would only recommend this kind of package if it was a support to a proper, structured and planned advertising campaign - a bolt-on if you like.

Our thoughts then turned to the ‘Creative Sell’. It’s going on and there have been many spectacular results achieved. But, it could be a lot, lot better. Too many radio stations are missing out on bigger revenue streams by not embracing the Creative Sell. Airtime proposals are dull, soulless items. Creative proposals set client’s minds alight with excitement. They are sexy, influential and very hard to resist. Creative proposals give radio advertising scale and helps to put brands into a context that airtime proposals could never do. In all the years I have been working with my agency client, I have never seen him compile an airtime proposal prior to establishing the creative strategy. For any medium to long-term advertiser, this is the way it should always be.

We spoke about sponsorship. We both like it, providing it’s a support to a structured radio advertising campaign. Creatively, many radio sponsor credits are dull. Let’s take another look at how TV advertisers handle their sponsor credits. Generally, they comprise clever scenarios and off the wall idents that give both the TV station and the advertiser an attractive on-air presence. Radio tends to stick with a standard format of wizzes, bangs, whooshes and a strapline that really doesn’t do anyone any favours.

And finally, we discussed what radio advert, in our opinion should be taken off air. That was an easy one: The 'Go Outdoors' campaign. If you haven't heard the ads yet, they basically consist of a hyperactive voiceover reading a 40 second script condensed into 30 seconds. It is bad radio and in the long term, will not do the brand any favours at all. Shouting is regarded as insulting and at worst, threatening. So why do Go Outdoors do it on the radio ? Being louder than your competitors on air won't mean your offering is better or exciting than anyone else's. Shouting simply means the listener will turn the ad down to a level that's so low they won't be able to hear it, so defeating the whole objective of being on the radio in the first place. Go Outdoors spend a lot on radio, imagine how much more effective their advertising would be if they talked TO people, rather than AT them ?

Happy new year !