Freelance Irish copywriter Nick Kelly has a recommendation for the number of words that should be squished into a 30 second radio spot. In a seminar rebroadcast on The Persuaders Marketing Podcast (Web Link / iTunes Link), Kelly recommends limiting a radio spot to 80 words. Further limit the spot to 70 words and you’ll have the breathing room needed to really make an impact, especially compared to the hectic pace of ads that contain as many as 120 words.
Keeping the word count low is a function of the principle that you should only say one thing in an ad. “What ads are really good at doing is saying one thing spectacularly – not saying four things or five things,” Kelly says. The frame of reference that marketers should understand as they develop radio ads is that:
- 98% of ads are completely ignored
- 1% are misunderstood
- Only 1% are remembered
Thus, both the creative brief and the copy must strive to ensure that the radio ad focuses on transmitting just a solitary message to the audience. Forcing more than one point in an ad dooms it, Kelly says. Personally, I’ve called this the “double headed dragon” problem; the two points fight with each other and are a distraction to getting the job done.
Kelly goes on to provide another tip, “Don’t put in details the consumer will never remember.” Although I don’t entirely agree, he puts phone numbers in this category as well. A phone number contains some 15 words – twice that if you repeat the number as you should. “That’s 30 of your 80 words,” Kelly says. “Has anyone ever written down a phone number off a radio ad? I never have and yet clients insist on it.” The same goes the ‘www’ in web addresses. Everyone that uses the Internet knows addresses start with www and so the phrase is just clutter, he says.
Clutter is the enemy of both clear thinking and good strategy – keeping your radio spots to 80 words or less will force you toward a strong, clear and impactful radio message.