The Big 5 for Radio Success: Part 5

(Show a Little Emotion)

By Published on .

Note: A HUGE thank you to everyone at Advertising Week. I was part of WADV Radio, the online radio station from the Radio Advertising Bureau that served the week. We covered a bunch of events and did a slew of interviews including Martha Stewart and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges. The highlight, however, was Andrew Hampp from Advertising Age: two interviews that were complete comedy. There were also some very valuable interviews with Radio Mercury Award winners. If you'd like to take a listen, go to and go to the podcast/archive section. We will be doing a similar thing in Phoenix for the ANA conference next week and I will give a more comprehensive look into all of this in a couple weeks.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
In my experience, there seems to be a fairly large gap between the idea of emotion and commerce in radio advertising. There is a small group of advertisers and/or spots that are able to harness the power of emotion and a much larger group that isn't even close. The most disquieting aspect of this observation is that the number of emotional "haves" continually erodes to the point that, as I have alluded to in the past, a vast majority of radio advertising has devolved into a mass of thirty- and sixty-second press releases. I don't want to come across as sanctimonious or holier-than-thou because I have certainly done my part, over the years, to add to the malaise.

That said, the idea of emotion might be one of the most important aspects of radio advertising. Emotion is that thing that allows the listener to make his own assumptions by creating his own, unique visual through sound. That's one of the great things about sound: It is subjective and it's always up for interpretation. Take music, for example. Every song that is played by every station in the world means something to somebody. REM makes me wax nostalgic about the college days, 2Pac gives me a warm fuzzy about Jammin 95.5, and Steely Dan always makes me happy. Conversely, "I Don't Know Much," by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville makes me cringe. Two opposite emotions, but emotions nonetheless.

Emotion in effective radio advertising usually falls into two distinct reactions: laughter or crying (both sad and uplifting). Bud Light's Real Men of Genius makes people laugh. On-air promos for, say, The Hunt for the Cure, benefiting a children's hospital in Portland on 99.5 The Wolf make people cry. These two reactions clearly make radio advertising stand out. In fact, pretty much every Radio Mercury Award-winning spot has one or the other. I don't recall any winners that included "one at this price." There are two other emotions that tend to rise to the surface as well: anger and ambivalence. Screaming car ads make people angry and they change the station. Bad radio spots also end up in the ether and the listener becomes neither interested nor disinterested in you. This approach is bad for business and terrible for the medium.

So how do you get some emotion into your spots? The best way is to strip down the current script to see where the emotion might live. It may be challenging at first, but you can eventually find the seed that will grow your idea and radio campaign. Then, you just need to figure out which emotional direction to take. Once you do that, people may start paying closer attention to you.
Most Popular
In this article: