Radio break down: what’s wrong with your ads?

ralph van dijkThe most awarded radio creative in the world Ralph van Dijk listened to a real ad break on Nova – here’s what he thought.

With Cannes behind us for another year, it’s time we all had a reality check.

What I’m about to ask may seem a little radical, yet it’s something 18m Australian non media-types do each week.

I’d like you to listen to an adbreak.

Remember them? It’s where all the real ads for our real clients that spend real media dollars end up.

This adbreak was taken from a Sydney radio station, but it’s comparable to the quality of work you’ll see in a TV break. Too much information, clichéd voice-overs that make big brands sound small and desperate, and most ads lack anything resembling a concept let alone a big idea.

Annoyingly, especially for someone who has spent his working life trying to raise the bar in radio creativity, they’ll still work. To an extent. Listeners hear every ad, so the brands in this break will generate a short-term effect from the exposure alone. Just as a 30 second pack shot will have some limited success on TV.

But with just a little more investment, expertise and understanding of how listeners listen, each advertiser in this break could have also generated a long-term brand response, without spending a cent more on media.

There are so many shiny new audio platforms available, yet the number of listeners tuning into radio has not only held but is increasing in some demographics. They are listening for shorter periods though, so rather than relying on repetition, it’s never been more important for your ad to pack a creative punch and be memorable after one listen.

Radio works, but only as well as your creative allows it to.

And now to that adbreak. If you’re an advertiser, I hope this encourages you to demand more from those making your radio ads, or find someone who’ll do a better job. If you’re a creative you’ll hear just how much clutter your ad needs to cut through, and start defending your ideas more vehemently. If you’re a planner, media buyer or radio sales exec, you’ll be reminded that you’re not selling space; you’re selling communication. And that means taking more ownership of the message.

Hit play and continue reading (after all radio specialises in giving us something to do while we’re doing something else). I’ve tried to be constructive and improve what’s there rather than reinvent. It wasn’t always easy.

Ad 1. Volvo … something … something

Volvo logoDriveways, parenting, XE 60, rear cameras and a finance offer. Oh and a website. Zero to six separate messages in 10 seconds. If you have more than one message, make more than one ad. This could be one of them.

SFX Kids playing

“The Volvo XE60 is one of the safest cars on the road. Now with a rear-parking camera as standard, it’s the safest car on your driveway too. For a great finance offer, go to volvocars.com.au and never look back.”

Ad 2. Tough Mudder

tough mudderFans will already be well aware of this event, so this ad needs to intrigue and challenge potential first time competitors.

However this bland shopping list with a cliché voice will do neither. The appeal of the event is the imaginative and extreme challenges. So why not record the same script while doing one of the challenges.

Live Read: Bunnings Warehouse

Fitzy and Wippa did the live read

Fitzy and Wippa did the live read

Live reads come at a premium. But there’s no value in using a personality unless you actually use their personality.

Simplify the message to promote just the DIY and kids’ craft workshops and get Fitzy to ask Wippa what was the first thing they ever built as a kid. They’ll take off from there.

Ad 3. Coles

The Coles woman always sounds a little unhinged but at least her voice is distinctive.

Good cameo from Curtis but the autumn fruits message is lost. Stop penny pinching and buy a 30 seconder.

Ad 4. MYOB

Finally an ad that takes its time, intrigues and communicates one single-minded message. The writer understands radio and that’s why this ad stands out in the break.

The background scene is unclear but they get away with it – just.

tigerair planeAd 5. Tiger Air

A case of crouching Tiger hidden offer with way too much information packed into a 15 seconder. A simpler message would pack so much more punch.


SFX: Tranquil setting: “For the next four hours, TigerAir.com are selling 1,000 seats to great holiday destinations for just $10. Go on, hurry up and relax! TigerAir.com.”

myplatesAd 6. MyPlates:

“Ever started an ad with a complicated question?” Well don’t, because nobody cares enough about your product to answer it.

An intriguing intro will at least draw them in. Maybe a two hander where one person does the message and the other reacts in number plate sentences. E.G “2-EZ!”, 0-IC!” “0-So-6E!”

Ad 7. Renault:

renault logo“Nothing to say? THEN JUST TALK LOUDER!!”

Car dealers have to work hard to differentiate themselves. Find something unique and hang your brand’s hat on it.

In this case they could play on the fact that an Italian sounding dealership is selling French cars. Maybe the Godfather is in town next week, so they need to get rid of the French stock quick.

And now, back to the music.

  • Ralph van Dijk is the founder of Eardrum

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