WOULD YOU RATHER HEAR ABOUT IT--OR LIVE IT?
I'd heard it maybe a dozen times, and it was getting me
This radio spot for a local supermarket chain, where the air
personality keeps talking about how the advertiser is
"Focused on your shopping experience."
On a clinical level, that makes sense.
Selling the customer an experience is a valid sales
Here's the problem: one must actually DESCRIBE the
experience. SHOW it. The listener must LIVE IT in the
DON'T TELL ME I'LL HAVE AN EXPERIENCE--SHOW THE EXPERIENCE!
This commercial I'm hearing over and over never actually
says anything about
the experience they claim.
They just keep telling me I'm going to have it.
Let's say that (a) someone's trying to sell you a delicious
steak and (b) you're not a vegan.
All they ever tell you is you're going to have "an
incredible eating experience."
Who cares? There's no emotional charge in an "eating
Now, if they start telling you about how thick the steak is,
how juicy, how it's fork-tender USDA Prime Angus rib eye
that arrives at your table, sizzling on a cast iron skillet
spattering little golden dots of hot garlic butter all over
your fresh white shirt--well, they're probably on to
something, assuming you like steak more than groats and
But if all they tell you is, "This is one incredible steak."
STEAK IS A DEAD PIECE OF MEAT--SIZZLE IS EXPERIENCE
Contrast the "dead meat" approach to copywriting with a
commercial recently sent to me by the legendary Rod Schwartz
in The Palouse.
(I have no idea why that particular area of
Washing/Idaho/Oregon is called The Palouse. And judging from
cursory research, neither is anyone else. Just know that Rod
is in Spokane.)
Rod is selling homes in a 60 & over community.
By the model of the supermarket commercial mentioned
previously, Rod's commercial could have spent sixty seconds
claiming "the living here is easy--" while never showing HOW
the living was easy.
WHERE IS ROD'S CUSTOMER?
Rod knows. Instead of saying, "You'll have an easy living
experience" (which the supermarket copywriter would have
done), Rod opens with a vignette that could easily be
anathema to someone in their 60s: getting on a ladder to
clean the gutters on his house.
Then, his commercial describes the better experience: a
lovely new home that comes with a maintenance crew. They're
happy to get on that ladder and clean the gutters for you
(unless, of course, you really feel like doing it yourself).
Rod asked me to review this commercial for him as a
professional favor, and I agreed.
(He may be sorry that he asked, because I pull no
punches--including when I think a writer is committing an
error that might be deemed a matter of opinion. Even though
my opinion is right. I'm always right. And I never lie. Vote
What made the job of reviewing this commercial surprisingly
easy is that everything Rod had done was already 95%
correct. All that remained was to nail down a few details
and turn a few screws.
THIS, UNFORTUNATELY, IS NOW THE EXCEPTION RATHER THAN THE
RULE IN RADIO COPYWRITING
Increasingly, radio copywriting is becoming less instilled
with craft and more a product of blather. It is increasingly
the province of hacks.
That's why we get radio commercials that say, "your
experience is better" without even beginning to show the
That's why we end up with commercials that are a litany of
bullet points dashed off as if one were scribbling a grocery
That's why we get commercials that are creatively bankrupt,
stealing from TV and movies and popular music and even from
Seriously: there's a commercial airing locally for a
jeweler. The jeweler's name, for sake of this story, is
Their radio commercial says, "Contrary to popular belief,
every kiss begins with 'J.'"
If Kay Jewelers felt like suing John's ass, they'd be
perfectly right to do so. The person who wrote that
commercial is a hack and should be embarrassed.
(The station should also have known better than to air
it--but it seems that hacks are populating many positions of
authority in radio these days--though definitely none of
them are subscribers to this newsletter, oh gentle readers.)
DESCRIPTIVE COPY PRODUCES RESULTS--AND PROVEN PRODUCERS LAND
Yes, in a land where sales managers are pushing account reps
to produce more, the major product is not new clients but
frustrated account reps.
But in the few cases where a shift is made to provide more
effective and strategic writing--writing that SHOWS
listeners what's in it for them--it's virtually guaranteed
that advertiser results will improve, and more clients will
Radio stations are finding themselves without anyone to
generate competent copy, and they're turning to proven
producers in a quest to find as much.
Which is probably one reason I find myself turning away new
business at an alarming rate.
I CAN'T HANDLE IT
Besides already being up to my eyeballs in my own company's
business, these people can't (or, frankly, won't) pay the
Which means, once again, the door is wide open for anyone
who wants to learn how to write better copy.
I can't teach copywriting. I've learned as much. As I said,
I pull no punches. Most people don't want that kind of
But there are plenty of good resources out there to teach
actual, good, effective copywriting.
For the seekers who commit and go off in search of, it won't
happen quickly--but the rewards will be many.
Just ask the radio people who thrive in this economy. Just
ask the Rod Schwartzes of the world.
Let listeners live the experience, and you're on the road to