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I Love Ads...
Celebrating the bits in between...
It’s not something that people say often, in radio, or podcasting, or in real life, but I love ads.
I really do.
I guess one of my first proper jobs in radio was while I was still in college, I’d arrive into 98FM, in Dublin’s Mount Street, an old Georgian style building, with the studios in the basement.
Back in the day, the ads were on cart, for those too young to know, that’s like an industrial version of a cassette tape, you’d “cart” up the ads on to 30 second carts, add the tone, so the next ad would fire, label them and place them in the studio.
The actual ads came in on quarter inch tape from studios around Dublin and some of them would be made in house with station presenters.
So, each night, I’d have a stack of boxes and a stack of carts, head to the studio and I’d be quite happy.
A New World of Advertising
Most of the ads were for local shops, names that are gone now, Crazy Prices, H Williams, Superquinn, along with ads for Power City and maybe Coke or beer. This was back in 1992, I was 20 and had the hair of a man who was afraid of barbers.
One of the highlights of the job, apart from learning the skills of actually making ads, was when something remarkable would arrive in. We used to get Carlsberg ads that came from a US production house, the ads were always 60 seconds long and were unlike anything I’d ever heard before.
They came from these guys – Radio Ranch - https://radio-ranch.com/our-work/ and if you have any time to spare, indulge yourself and have a listen to some amazing storytelling in advertising.
Telling a Story in no time at all
I started to think about ads in a different way altogether.
I don’t know how much Carlsberg they sold in Dublin, but the whole idea of an ad that was almost a mini drama in itself, the notion that you could use 60 seconds to paint a picture or tell a story was mind blowing.
I think the Barry’s Tea ad for Christmas is probably the most iconic Irish version of it -
and I’m amazed at the longevity of that one.
Resilient Audio Advertising
I assume most people don’t particularly think about ads, they hear them on the radio and they do respond to them, in fact audio has really good numbers in terms of the amount of attention people pay to advertising.
TV advertising has been brutally affected by our own viewing habits, we fast forward through flashing images and offers, we click rapidly to get through online ads, or we’re haunted by 800 different versions of ads for that Royal Match game, including ones with Rylan and separately Simon Cowell.
Cinema advertising still has the power of the big screen and the un-fast-forwardable-ness that commands your attention.
But audio ads for me are still a delight. From years of working in radio and audio, I can probably tell you who most of the voiceovers are on local radio ads. I’m always listening for something that might surprise or delight me… sometimes really annoying ads work quite well too… I’m looking at you Heineken Zero.
Radio Vs Podcast
There’s a world of difference too between radio and podcast ads. Glossy, high speed reads with a music bed, all wrapped up in 30 seconds just sound weird in a podcast context.
I think it’s partly how we listen to podcasts, largely on headphones and in a more receptive state, so a buzzy radio ad can just be too much… Most of the American podcast reads are longer, more relaxed and really do paint a picture…
If you are so inclined, Conan O’Brien’s ad reads are a masterclass in how to do it… His podcast is called Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and they actually dedicated a full episode to ad reads
Writing for Podcast
I’ve written my fair share of ads and quite a lot of station imaging and promos over the years, but one of my favourite parts of having a podcast like The Smart 7 is the chance to create interesting and distinctive ad reads.
That’s the wonderful thing about podcast ads – if Acast get a booking for your podcast for a sponsored read, we get a detailed brief, but there’s almost complete creative freedom around how the ad should sound.
Jamie East and I take great pride in making ad reads that fit The Smart 7 style but also have character and a bit of audio magic in terms of atmosphere and theatre.
There’s a couple of examples below – one for BT Wifi
and one for Readly I quite liked
Pick those words wisely
The amazing thing is that it’s all down to words. The right choice, the careful writing and rewriting until exactly the right combination comes together.
Tiny phrases that stick in your head, or a creative idea that just makes sense and pulls you into thinking about a product in a different way.
Words have such tremendous power – and no matter how amazing AI becomes – I don’t think it’s ever going to be able to take one idea and bounce it into something else, then craft it into something that is somehow more than you started with.
It’s the words, it’s the performance, it’s the craft in production, the art of finding a moment, the delicate touch of a sound effect or a whisper of music. I love ads. I really do.
This has been the 10th official edition of the RAudio Newsletter
Just to recap, each week I’ll be taking a look at big stories in radio, podcasting and audio.
Any feedback, questions or potential topics are welcome – you can get me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/liamthompsonconsulting/ or on Twitter @Maxliam