Tuesday 9 February 2016

No more radio ads with talkback effects, please

No no no.

Why do so many ad copywriters and producers believe the tinny sound of talkback effects works in a radio ad campaign? 

I've said it before - but now this new contagion of ads bearing such effects is getting me very, very annoyed.    

I can think of no TV campaign which is similarly obsessed with the intricacies of TV cameras, scripts or acting -  nor a digital campaign obsessed with the intricacies of how the internet works or the font colour.

Why do we get this talkback theme repeated again and again, alongside juicy references  to 'voiceovers', 'voicing' and 'we've got thirty seconds'?

These radio ads are presumably hatched by producers who just don't get radio.  They don't get the relationship radio has with its listeners. They don't get that radio lives in the mind and hearts of its listeners. They don't get that radio excels in storytelling. They don't get that listeners don't see radio is a thing manufactured in a studio with panels and switches, but as a friend who shares their life.  

Listeners don't see a mixing panel, they see a face.

I presume these creative folk are good at working with other media, so may I suggest they just concentrate on that. Or talk to a few radio listeners about the place that radio enjoys in their lives.

The tinny talkback effect is familiar to those of us who spend our lives in a radio studio. It means very little to those who do not.  It is simply not part of their world. It relates to the life of copywriters and not to the listeners.

And, anyway, why on earth would you want to enhance the impression that the VO guy is absolutely nothing to do with the company advertising its wares  - and is being told what to say by someone else?

As for the verb 'to voice'. It is only ever used in the media world. Normal people do not talk about voicing or 'voicing'.

Radio is gifted with storytelling.  We remember the great TomTom 'quicker journeys' campaign (DDB Tribal Wordwide) with huge affection. A great simple theme of an uncomfortable car journey, illustrated with truly brilliant scripting and high quality acting. That's the way to do it.   

We think back to the forces recruitment campaigns with young recruits speaking of their motives and dreams. 

We recall the  hugely powerful Cancer Research UK (Anomaly/Mediacom) fly on the wall campaign in which people affected by the disease spoke honestly about their diagnosis and everyday life - in other words, the very conversations they'd be having with their closest friends.  The audio worked on TV - and probably even more powerfully - on radio.

"A yes (to a mortgage) can mean pencil marks on the wall as you watch your children grow ", says the current NatWest campaign. Visualisation and emotion in one great line. That works.

I quite like the recent Dreams radio campaign on the jolly theme of how long ago you last changed your mattress. How can any listener resist answering that dirty question in their mind?  There, you just did. But why does the campaign not feature punter voices responding to that very question? It's interesting to note that on their website, they've troubled to do a video showing, well, vox pops with people. The soundtrack to those would have worked on radio too.  Folk who do great video often cannot see the value of the pictures on the radio - and the power of real voices.

Dear radio campaign creatives, please, forget the studio, forget thirty seconds, forget voiceovers and talkback. Imagine a listener sat in a car in a world of their own and talk to them.  It's not difficult.
My book, 'How to Make Great Radio', has lots of stuff on this theme. It's out now!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Whenever these types of adverts come on in the car I turn the volume down and vow never to buy their products


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