This is a wibbly wobbly timey whinny post about writing radio commercials to time.
For the unitiated... The TARDIS is the Doctor's vehicle for getting around in time and space (TARDIS stands for TIME AND RELATIVE DIMENSION IN SPACE).
Now, from the outside it is the size of an old UK police box, inside it’s a massive maze of rooms, some of which have never been visited by it's owner. The TARDIS can materialise around a person or object, but only if it fits, and then transport it somewhere else.
So... What has this got to do with radio advertising?
Well, while a thirty second radio spot is definatly not a TARDIS. It is also not infinte in size, and you can't physically fit everything you want into it.
Now stay with me on this...
Recently I asked a client to read their new script back to me over the phone (at the pace they wanted it read too) and then, I timed them. It turns out that this packed, hard sell and wordy commercial written to 30 seconds, had now changed to a soft read, soft sell 45 second commercial.
But, and this was the bit that puzzled me, the client assured me it was still a 30 second commercial the way they read it.?!?? WHAT?
This is because to their perspective time was relative to what they wanted to achieve, not what was reality.
NOW... when I write a script (and I am sure when any copywriter writes a script specific to radio):
1. We time our scripts by reading them out loud, and, leave time for sound effects.
2. We use a word count on the computer is often the fall back to make sure we are correct with our read… but really, it’s just a guide until you time it properly by reading it out loud (longer words make the read longer, shorter words shorter, numbers can go either way).
3. Often I have even picked a piece of music that I want it read to, allowing for a couple of seconds at the top to set the scene, etc.
Now, there are times when an 87 words, hard sell read commercial script is timed out to 40 seconds when I have read it out loud. Other times, it’s 35 seconds… then, I cut, trim and edit it to make it a 30…
When I send it off to be approved by the client, sometimes they add words here and there, revise it, which leads to more edits.
Now, before you ask the inevitable question….YES we can speed up the Voice Over to go a tiny bit quicker. But you do notice the difference, and sometimes computer software that speeds up audio will make it glitch, but that's not the major issue. Really, it's not - the fact is your message will be lost, no one will understand what it is you are trying to convey when we speed it up.
I recommend that everyone, from sales representatives to office managers, and even myself, have a stopwatch (or at least a stopwatch app). They are lifesavers.
Remember that radio ad's do not all come in one size, your branding ads are there to remind people of who you are and what you do - as such they should not be jammed packed with every single service or product you sell, have multiple commercials talking about different aspects of your business, that way they can target different people listening at different times during different shows.
And, alternativly, your call to action limited sales ads can be jammed packed, but think about the impact on your prospective customers, will they remember anything at all from your commercial - or will they just turn it off?
If you want to say more, then look at more spots, rather than jamming into one commercial, it's easy, just ask for another script to put in rotation with the first one.
Remember: Read your script out loud. Allow for sound effects, music cues, etc. AND... Time it!
Until next time... keep on selling!