"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - 'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning," advises Mr. Twain.
In other words, fill your commercials with lightning, not bugs!
Currently, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are 171,476 words in the English language. A handful of these words, Las Vegas small business owners can't use in their radio commercials. The Supreme Court of the United States says so.
Of all the words that can be used in broadcast advertising, however, there is one word that should be shunned: 'get' and all of its nasty derivative forms including 'got' and 'gotten'. Here's why.
The typical 60-second commercial on Las Vegas radio consists of 160 words. Depending on the station, each word in that ad could cost around $2.00. It is important, then, that each word is carefully selected to engage listeners and then compel them to action. This is especially crucial when using verbs.
"One of the best ways of grabbing and keeping an audience is to use strong, descriptive verbs," says the Writing Center at the University of Houston. 'Get' is not that kind of verb.
The OED lists 287 unique definitions of 'get'. These meanings include
- Retrieve (I'll get the book from my bag)
- Comprehend (I get what you're saying)
- Go (I have to get to the airport)
- Prepare (I'll get dinner ready)
- Hit (The ball will get him in the leg)
- Affect (Sad movies always get to me)
- Answer (Get the phone, please)
- Move (Get away from that stove)
Based on this diversity of meaning, writer and language consultant Nick Usborne insists that 'get' is a poor excuse for a word. "Get is passive, feeble, limp, flabby, and gutless. It hints at action, but communicates almost nothing."
To Mr. Usborne's point, if a word communicates nothing, then does it belong in a commercial on Las Vegas radio or any advertising for that matter? Some business owners must think so because 100% of the last ten commercials I just listened to used the word 'get' at least once. That's a lot of wasted words.
To make their radio commercials more effective, Las Vegas small business owners should examine their script and cross-out the word 'get' in all of its forms. Then, replace each occurrence with a more powerful, action-oriented verb.
For instance, an auto dealer commercial I just heard used the word 'get' three times in its commercial in three different ways.
- "Come in to get the lowest prices." This could be replaced with "Come in and drive-home the lowest price."
- "Get financing as low as 3.99% per month." This could be replaced with "Secure financing as low as 3.99% per month."
- "Get behind of the wheel of a brand-new...". This could be replaced. "You can slide behind the wheel of a brand-new..."
Each time the word 'get' is replaced with an action-verb, an advertisement becomes more effective. It's what Mr. Twain would call 'the lightning.'
Besides getting the 'get' out of its advertising, there are 11 more ways a business owners can enhance the potency of their radio commercials:
- Start strong… a listener’s attention needs to be engaged within the first three or four seconds of a commercial.
- Be concise… use only words and sounds that link to the marketing objective. Extraneous words or too many selling points will cause a listener to disengage.
- Be consistent… use the same voices, music, and sounds to establish an audio identity across commercial campaigns. This can trigger instant brand recall.
- Be repetitive… the name of the advertiser should be repeated often to allow for an ebb-and-flow of a listener’s attention.
- Add surprise… a listener’s attention is drawn to the unexpected. This can be achieved by using multiple voices, interesting word choices, avoiding clichés, and changing the speaker’s tones and volume.
- Tell a story… listeners are hardwired to emotionally respond to features and benefits when presented in story-form rather than as a list. The advertiser should be the hero of the story.
- Write for the ear… radio commercials should sound like the way we speak, not the way we write. Humans don’t apply the same set of rules to speech that they do to written communication. When speaking, we often use broken sentences, non-sequiturs, and awkward phrasing. A listener’s attention is more likely to be drawn to this type of natural speech.
- Talk… listeners prefer to be “talked with” not “announced at”. Stereotypical radio voices should be replaced with the same tones and manner used to talk with friends.
- Use humor cautiously… humor is a good way to command attention but can be difficult to execute well. Be certain that the humor in a radio commercial will resonate positively with the target consumer.
- Finish strong… not every listener will engage with a commercial at the same time. So, it is critical to finish by reinforcing the key points presented throughout. This includes restating the advertiser name and the key marketing message.
- Expand… there is no reason an advertising campaign can’t use multiple commercials. In fact, it is encouraged as long as the first ten guidelines on this list are adhered to…especially number three.
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