18th January 2017 KVH Studios

Making The Greatest Radio Adverts of All time

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You know a great radio advert when you hear it. It stands out, you stop what you are doing, your mind focuses in and you listen. For those seconds, perhaps a minute the advertiser has you spellbound. You want what they are selling, you will do what they want you to do. So what are the secrets to this success?


Great sales people make it look (and sound) easy. You don’t even know you are being sold to – it becomes an adventure. You are lucky to even be given this opportunity… why have you never thought of this kind of washing machine, skin cream, or brand of sausages? But now they have told you, oh boy, are you going to buy them!

That is the art of the sell – harnessing the interest, gently pushing and persuading, all to stoke that desire to buy. Some people sell ideas, others things which are perhaps more mundane. The object, product or service doesn’t matter, the sell is the sell… and there is an art to it. All you need is the right medium to reach out to your audience…

That is where radio comes in.

With the first commercial radio broadcast in 1920 – instant mass marketing became a reality. The printing press may have allowed ideas and words to spread, but that was too slow. Radio kicked it all up a gear, and was the real game changer. Today, it continues to shape what people think, say, feel and do. That is powerful, and businesses are foolish to ignore or underestimate that power.


The radio has something unique that no other medium has – it is stealthy. The audience can be doing whatever else they may be getting on with, the radio is keeping them company, helping not hindering them. Their guard is down, as they do the dishes, wrestle with paperwork, browse the shop floor or drive their cars. They are in a wonderfully relaxed, mindless state – waiting for information, for golden words or wonderful sounds to fill their heads.

When the audience is receptive, the medium is effective – so all that remains is to make the message compelling, the words to be right, the voices to be attractive or interesting and the music to hit the spot. The cocktail of communication, when delivered right will both shake and stir the audience.

That is the art of the commercial – taking all the elements needed and getting them in the right order, the right context and delivery – and using radio is an incredibly persuasive and effective way of getting the message through.

America was ripe for radio, and radio was right for America. With vast distances, with newly growing cities and booming populations, radio was the perfect way of getting initially information and news spread. Then the penny, nickels and dimes dropped, it was also absolutely and utterly perfect for selling to people. Radio advertising was the answer that businesses wanted and needed – and when the airwaves opened up to commercialisation there was no looking back.


Having a perfect medium in radio and knowing what you want to do with it, sell. These are great starting points. They are only part of the answer though. It is not enough to simply go onto the radio and start trying to sell something. Oh no.

Audiences at the start of the radio adventure were wary, and now they are more sophisticated. So the sell has always needed to be handled well – there has never been a case of simply build it up and they will come.

So, there needed to become a new art form – that of the radio commercial, attention grabbing, reassuring and ultimately compelling. The commercial as “soap opera”, as jingles which get stuck into the consumer’s brains, or which make people laugh. Whatever the route taken, radio adverts can be incredibly effective.

This gave rise to the “Mad Men” era, the Madison Avenue, New York agencies which came to understand the power of propaganda, but who instead of wanting to change the world, wanted you to change your washing detergent.


Radio has the capacity to paint whatever picture you want in the head and heart of the listener. With words alone people can be moved, they can be drawn in. Through in some drama within the sound and anything can be created. Music can be added to lighten or darken, relax or excite – the options are endless. The palette available for advertisers is limited merely by imagination – and that is something which television, or film cannot match. Seems video didn’t ever actually kill the radio star.

So what are the key secrets of the best radio adverts? First there are two absolute basics…

Know your audience. Just because radio can seem like magic doesn’t mean that there isn’t still homework to be done. How old are they? What’s their gender? What are their income levels or spending habits? What is the person that’s most likely to hear your commercial? Are they who you want them to be?

Choose your weapon. Different radio stations have different demographics, so target the right audience via the right station or instore radio channel.
Ok, now what about the advert itself. Here are KVH Studios 9 top tips for amazing radio and instore adverts:

1. Start strong – If you can’t get the listeners attention, you’ve lost the battle. Don’t let them ignore you.

2. Focus – Don’t waste time with boring introductions or explanations. Make the advert simple yet clever. Think like Steve Jobs; cut the unnecessary and what you have left must be necessary.

3. Jingles work – That phone number you want them to call, or web address… sing it out and they’ll remember it. No really.

4. A standout voice – American adverts have a lot of English accents, while UK adverts often feature American voices. This isn’t by accident…

5. Tell a story – Dialogue keeps the audience listening along. Share your story and tell it well.

6. No shrinking violets – Get straight to the point with benefits – you don’t have long, make sure the audience knows what’s in it for them.

7. Make them feel – Without a visual medium, everything relies on the voice, tone, pace, variety, and emotion. The act needs to draw the audience and compel them to feel something.

8. Simple and strong call-to-action (CTA) – The audience have heard the jingle, they like the voice, the story is good, the benefits are compelling. Visit your website? Call a phone number? Visit your store? Whatever it is, make it crystal clear to your audience. Now tell them what they need to do and we can all go home.

9. KISS… Keep it Simple, Stupid. – If the audience has to think too much, you’ve lost. They want to like you, they want to listen, to laugh, to find things out and to act – so let them. Simple message, simple actions, and simply tell them what is in it for them.

So there we are, all you need to have the best radio advertising campaign ever. Tell us what you think makes radio so amazing.

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