Our latest topic is sure to endear me to production directors and copywriters all over America: 'blah' commercial copy. I'll beg advance mercy because I'm keenly aware of the pressure production departments are experiencing these days. As with jocks voice-tracking, however, I'm not sure it excuses us from the trap of overusing already over-used radio-speak terms and crutch phrases seemingly straight out of the RAB style book from 1975 (if our goal is to connect with listeners and speak their language).
Here are some faves (and, please forgive a bit of the 'Andy Rooney irony' in some of my comments):
- SUCCULENT: why does only seafood get the 'succulent' description in commercials? It's really unfair for beef, pork and chicken. A better question might be, "do real people ever use the term 'succulent' to describe their meats?
- CONVENIENTLY LOCATED: just once, I'd love to hear a commercial say, "we're not very conveniently located but we have a really great service!".
- DOUBLE-U DOUBLE-U DOUBLE-U (or, dubya dubya dubya, depending on your locale): it's been at least the mid-90s since using "www" was needed to use in browsers. If you say, "find us at abcdefg.com", I'm pretty sure they'll know it's on the world wide web thingy.
- PURCHASE/RECEIVE: the last time I heard somebody say, "I'm going to the store to purchase some groceries"? Never, ever. "Purchase xxx and you will receive..." is in countless commercials. Most of my friends and colleagues would say 'buy' and 'get'.
- YOU'LL BE GLAD YOU DID: who are they, Ms. Cleo, knowing I'll be glad in advance? I'm guessing if I'll be glad I did, it won't because that line was in their commercial.
- IT'LL CHANGE YOUR LIFE: a cure for cancer or eliminating poverty are life-changing. Calling your 800 number for new catheters won't.
- LOCATED (AT): one of my top pet-peeve/totally useless phrases. When you give the address, you're implying location. Not to mention 'located at' is in seemingly half of the radio commercials out there.
- PLAY-ACTING SPOTS: you know, the two supposedly 'real' people having a conversation about a product or service and we just happened to sneak a mic into the room to record them for 59 seconds (nod nod, wink wink). They're either two uber-familiar production voices (in other words, wallpaper) or a couple of untrained, bogus sounding interns. I mean, really...these are supposed to be believable? Unless it's a brilliantly-written, very funny concept, these are just noise and, Mr. Advertiser/Mr. Copywriter, nobody's buying it.
- BEST SELECTION/LOWEST PRICES: since most car dealer ads make this claim, can there be one ounce of truth in it? In the age of being real, genuine and engaging, biggest/best/most just isn't believable. If yours really is the best selection, please tell me why, don't just make an empty claim.
- HEY GATOR FANS, HEY BUCKEYE FANS, HEY SALUKIS FANS: I guess I missed the memo that said every commercial on sports stations (and, this is especially true during game broadcasts) have to begin with the "hey, whatever fans!". If they're listening, they already know they're fans of their favorite team- we don't need to club them upside the head with non-stop reminders.
There are more and I'd be grateful if you'd share some of the fingernails-on-the-chalkboard crutch phrases that drive you nuts. We could also get into infomercials ("but, wait!") but that's an entirely new topic.
The take-away here is that just a little more time and a tiny bit of thought would go miles in our radio commercials not being like every other and would speak to our audience in their terms. Taking stock copy and replacing the business and tag-line every time is cheating your clients, boring your listeners and turning your commercials into wallpaper. Banging it all out assembly-line style is just as bad writing and producing spots as it is doing your radio show like that.
Ordinary is out, fresh, different and authentic are in.
Thanks and KEEP ROCKIN'!