Good radio ads? What’s the point? No one listens to the radio anymore, right? Not at all. Despite the advent of the internet, Nana and Pop Pop’s old school radio thing is still going strong. And, the best thing about it is that often when people tune-in, they are a captive audience. During the morning and evening commutes, for instance. Therefore, good radio ads can make a significant difference in your marketing campaign. Although, during non-commute radio listening, your radio ads are competing for attention. 

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This post has been updated in October 2021.

Radio Reach

Before convincing you that those good radio ads are a worthy investment, it helps if you believe in radio’s reach. According to the Radio Advertising Bureau, the industry’s leading advocacy group, radio still reaches 228.5 million adults every week. Even 85% of teens aged 12 – 17 are tuning in at least once every week. Harnessing some of that attention with good radio ads us a challenge you should accept. 

Targeting with Radio Ads

Advertisers that stuck with radio, and those jumping back on the bandwagon, are benefitting from the targeting flexibility. Radio stations, national, regional, and local, allow for very narrow targeting. Advertisers, using precise geographic targets, can better curate a good radio ad. 

Radio also allows advertisers to zero in on precise demographics. Undeniably, commercial radio, AM/FM, is made up of a vast array of content and musical style choices. Organizations like the RAB(U.S.) and RadioCentre(U.K.), collect data on listenership. The information helps advertisers decide precisely where and how to advertise on the radio.

Additionally, radio delivers precise targeting for a time of day, day of the week, and consumer context. This data allows advertisers to adjust strategy. Depending on the time of listening and activities engaged in while listening, good radio ads can adapt.

Timing of Good Radio Ads

Once you’ve found stations representing your target market, you can buy increments of 15, 30, or 60 seconds. More important than the length of time is the day-part which you choose to use for your advertising. Since radio station programming changes throughout the day, audiences grow and shrink proportionally. Day-parts with a broader audience share, therefore, are the more expensive times to place your good radio ads. Also, more effective.

Good Radio Ads for audio ads

Now we understand the where and the when of a good radio ad. What about, the what?

What Makes a Good Radio Ad?

Successful advertising campaigns using radio commercials all have common elements. Before getting into the planning and production, consider how your radio commercial will address the following:

  1. Who is your audience, and what are they engaged in while listening to the radio? 
  2. What can you offer as the hook? We already know that your radio listening audience is engaged in another activity. You have five seconds to grab their attention. 
  3. KISS Method – Keep it simple. At most, you have 60 seconds, and you need to use it wisely. Get to the point because people want to know what is in it for them immediately. 
  4. High-quality production. Live reads with on-air talent are notoriously successful; otherwise, hire professional voice actors. Choose appropriate music or hire a music consultant. Remember, the voice, script, and music all need to speak to your brand identity
  5. Last but definitely not least, a compelling call to action. Something that will drive the listener to act, visit your website, call your office, or visit your brick and mortar. 

No-Good Radio Ads

Before we delve into an examination of some good radio ads, let’s take a listen to some no-good radio ads. Let’s look at ‘what not to do’ examples. They’re easier to learn from, and let’s be honest; there’s a better chance they’ll give us a laugh. I spent time listening to radio ads from across the globe. These are my favs (for all the wrong reasons):

Noise and Bad Music

  1.  To be fair, this car tent company is Australian, so it’s not intended for a global audience. Cultural norms may make it difficult for people outside of the local area to appreciate whatever is being said. However, there is no justification for the music/noise in the background, regardless of your origin English.
  2. Ok, again, this radio ad for an injury lawyer in the U.K. may not translate well for people in other countries. But, there are a couple of things wrong with what they have going on here. First, the original version of this song was, for people with good taste in music, not a good song. Of course, that is subjective. What is not subjective is the fact that a law firm’s brand voice shouldn’t be that of a lyrical gangsta.

Robot Invasion, Fake Applause, and 1877Kars4Kids

  1. C.A. Marketplace in central Ohio nailed the KISS method, but that is about all. I kinda wish they went the lyrical gangsta route, to be honest. Nothing about this ad makes me want to go holiday shopping. In fact, I want to forgo holiday planning and secure my home against the impending A.I. takeover of earth.
  2. The Pizza Shack took the “Everything is homemade, even our ads” approach. If your target market is college kids, a cute young girl doing the voiceover isn’t a terrible idea. The fake applause? That time is paid for, but useless.
  3. On the website,, the 1877Kars4Kids radio ad, through all of its incarnations since 1999, has drawn a significant amount of hate. Pure hate. If you’re not from the U.S. and hadn’t heard this radio ad, I am deeply sorry. However, some fans of Commercials I admitted to donating a car to the charity. Despite the radio ad making them want to throw their radio through a window. This ad is one of a rare breed that is awful in every way, yet successful none the less.

Good Radio Ads

Simple, with a great hook, high-quality production, and a clear call to action. That’s what we are looking for here.

Good Radio Ads for radio advertising

Well-known Favorites

  1. Tom Bodett. We all know who this is, right? Not only is this a brilliant Motel 6 radio ad, but the concept only works because we already know Tom. When the floundering hotel chain began using Tom Bodett for their voiceovers in the 80s, it was a marriage made in heaven. Tom’s folksy no-frills approach and the dry humor laden scripts were just what the no-frills chain needed. Also, this is a good radio ad because we know that spellcheck is the devil. Also, we’ve been listening to Tom extol the virtues of Motel 6 for as long as we can remember.
  2. Insurance companies typically do very well with radio ads (Link when published: Radio Ads for Insurance Companies – An Essential Guide). Geico’s good radio ads, like this one from their roommate series, tell an ongoing tale, use real-life examples that we can all relate to, and do it funnily and entertainingly. They address a problem that we have and tell us how they can help us solve the problem. Unfortunately, they can’t help up avoid the bad roommates in the first place!

Lesser-known Ads That Nail It

  1. Dexcom Inc. is a California-based company that provides glucose monitoring for people with diabetes. Not something that you might automatically think, “this could make a pretty funny radio ad.” Regardless, they did it. the narrator offers an extensive list of “pricks.” The wrap up includes a CTA and information for potential customers of Dexcom. 
  2. In the same vein of putting funny where funny shouldn’t be, this radio ad for the U.K.’s The Prostate Cancer Charity features the tremendous British comedy team of Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and Karl Pilkington. Using a renowned voiceover to attract attention, entertain, and provide useful information in a simple format. 
  3. In this radio ad, Northern Tool and Equipment, a retail outlet based in Minnesota, hits all the marks. Audience? Tool guys (and tool gals with a sense of humor). The hook? Ringing phone. They kept it simple with the perfect casting of voice actors.

Getting and holding listeners’ attention on the radio is a challenge. Somewhere around 228million people tune into AM/FM radio weekly, but often they’re otherwise engaged. To get their attention, you have to know the audience and grab them with a great hook. Once you have them, keep them entertained or interested, tell them precisely what they need to know, and finish with a strong CTA.

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