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(Time) Sensitivity Training

Posted on July 31, 2003 and read 8,235 times

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A recent Radio campaign gave me a nasty headache. It broke so many basic rules that I had to bang my head on the desk repeatedly just to make sure I wasn’t having some dreadful nightmare. Sadly, it was all too real. Since misery loves company, I’d like to share with you what I heard and nominate this ad for the “Wall of Shame”.

The tactic used in this offending campaign was one commercial run in high rotation. The first broken rule: It began with a sound effect. A sound off the top is out of context and could easily be attributed to the end of the previous commercial. The second broken rule: Sound effect was a loud bell. Startling sounds should be used sparingly, or better yet, avoided completely. “Noise” is the quickest way to make fingers jab preset buttons.

To make matters worse, that bell was used over and over and over. It went like this: BONG!…“This Thursday!” BONG! “This Friday!” BONG!… “This Saturday!” BONG!…“This Sunday!”. You’ve just endured seven excruciating seconds of this ad and you still have no idea what it’s about. Even the most patient listener would be growing irritated by now. There’s no intriguing headline. You’re not given the slightest reason to be interested in this ad aside from just wanting it to stop. Next broken rule: the shopping list. The announcer barked out a list of products that were on sale. There was nothing about how these items would improve your life or solve your problems. The ad was simply a list of the client’s inventory with no persuaders to interest the listener.

As bad as this commercial started out, it got worse. The spot was in very high rotation and yet, they only ran the one spot. They could have had two or three in rotation to break up the monotony. And before you say, “Repetition is a good thing”, I probably heard that commercial 100 times and yet, I can honestly say that I have no idea who the advertiser was. It was forced tune-out, right from the start.

Even at this point, it would be have been sufficiently heinous but there was still one fundamental rule yet to be broken: It ran unaltered with no updates. “This Thursday, This Friday, This Saturday and This Sunday” ran right through Sunday. As a result, for four of its seven-day run it was outdated. They missed a perfect opportunity to add some urgency by saying, “Sale ends tomorrow” and “Sale ends tonight!” Instead, on Sunday, it was still promoting “This Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday”, when the sale would be over.

Every copywriter has written scripts they’d rather forget. We can’t always write the ad the way we know we should. Clients often insist on, and therefore get, mediocrity. Rarely though do so many rules go out the window in the same piece of copy! This may have been a one-time thing with the writer forced to do the client’s bidding, but it can serve as a reminder for the rest of us. For selfish reasons, I hope so. If we can avoid breaking these rules in the future, my bruised forehead, tingling extremities and this constant smell of burning toast will have been worth it…to some extent, anyway.


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






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