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Remember The “Thank You” Wave

Posted on July 31, 2003 and read 7,578 times

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You’re sitting in traffic. Up ahead, a driver is trying to merge into your lane but no one seems willing to give this person a break. Feeling compassionate, you stop and allow them in ahead of you. After all it’s the neighbourly thing to do, right? But what do you get in return for this courtesy? They pull in like you don’t even exist. There’s no friendly “Thank you” wave, nor even the slightest nod. They go merrily on their way and selfishly ignore the complete stranger who just put their needs first. (Road rage alert!) A little farther down the road, you see another driver wanting in. Will you offer them the same thoughtfulness? Or will you decide that it’s getting late and this is probably just one more ungrateful so-and-so who doesn’t deserve your time? If you’re like me, and I know I am, once bitten twice miffed.

Well, listening to the Radio is kind of like being in traffic. (It’s a stretch, I know, but work with me here.) You’re cruising along on your Radio station of choice and a commercial merges into your “attention lane”. Feeling generous, you listen. At the end of it, are you given a little “Thanks for listening” in return for your courtesy? Or, does it bark out noise until its last, arrogant second – like you don’t even exist? Probably. It’s the eternal struggle. The client wants too much in the script, your boss wants to keep the client happy, you want your script to work…and the listener just wants to feel that their attention is appreciated. How do you keep everybody happy? By remembering The “Thank You” Wave.

First things first: Let’s assume you’ve had that chat with your client about how itemizing his entire stockroom won’t make a good script. Nor will listing every possible way for listeners to get in touch with them. That potholed bridge crossed, you can now write a script that focuses on one, key selling point. Your goal is to hold the attention of your listener for as long as possible. Skilled announcers do it through the use of the Tease. “Up next…”; “Coming up,”; or, “Shania’s latest – right after this.” They’re always trying to keep listeners just a little longer by promising a reward…soon. It’s all designed to build ratings. Announcers do their part to hold listeners through your commercial break so don’t let them down with boring or annoying commercials. Use the Tease, but indirectly, with… “The Payoff.”

Simply put, a payoff is the reward that listeners can look forward to. Entertaining. Enjoyable. Surprising. These are all traits of an effective payoff. Anticipation is the key here so keep them listening for as long as possible. Always load the payoff into the very end of your commercial.

A payoff could be a punch line but jokes have a very limited shelf life, as do one-liners and funny quips. A better idea is a musical hook, the sing-out jingle or that newest kid on the block, a mnemonic brand logo. These wear much better over time – if they’re good.

Mock Disclaimers have been popping up in spots lately. They’re usually nonsense and go by quicker than real disclaimers so listeners need to hear the spot several times to pick out what’s being said.

A pay-off could be the point when your commercial copy delivers “the answer”. If you’ve kept them in the dark about what the commercial is advertising, the payoff is when they find out if their guess was right. The trouble with this commercial is, you run the risk of confusing people and that’s not good.

A payoff could simply be the way your client delivers his or her slogan in an unusual, but genuine way. In this case, the pay-off isn’t in the script; it’s in the performance. A good example of this is Frank Buckley for Buckley’s Cough Syrup. “It tastes awful…and it works”. An announcer could deliver that line with more professionalism, but when voiced by this actual client, it positively drips conviction.

Like it or not, listeners feel they’re held hostage during commercials. They’re tempted to twiddle with the dial and we don’t want that! As the writer, give them something entertaining or informative to listen to. Then as a reward, include a little “Thanks for listening” at the very end to make them feel that it was worth their time. Listeners will sit through your entire commercial just to hear that final, entertaining payoff. They’ll also be more open to allowing your next client into their attention lane. And what more could you (or the client, or your boss) want?

Remember, in commercials and on the road, don’t forget the “Thank You” Wave. Happy motoring.


Wray Ellis is Director of Creative Services at the Radio Marketing Bureau.






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