Tuning into effective radio

By Richard Rippon, Senior Copywriter

Radio advertising is often seen as the poor cousin of television, but when it comes to long-lasting brand effectiveness, studies show that it’s a worthy equal. And at Drummond Central, we know what makes an effective audio ad.

At the tail end of last year, we attended Radiocentre’s ‘Tuning In’, a conference covering the latest trends, innovations and learnings in audio. Whether it’s DAB, smart speakers or podcasts, the way people digest audio ads might be evolving, but the nuts and bolts that make them effective remain the same.

The conference showcased ‘Listen Up!’ – a report by System1 and Radiocentre – built upon over 10 years of ads and emotional data from over 50,000 people. To make sure we stay on our audio A-game, we relayed the findings in an all-agency ‘Eff Club Presents’ talk.


So how can audio advertising stir passions and drive business profit? There are six key take-outs:

1. Use your ‘right-brain’

Ads with more right-brain features are more likely to cause more long-lasting brand effects. What are right-brain features? They’re the things we’d associate with an entertaining story – a narrative, sense of place, contextual noises that set the scene, good dialogue between characters, wordplay and accents.

That’s as opposed to left-brain features – data and figures, claims and testimonials, terms and conditions or technical language. These might lead to some short-term effects, but they’re not going to do much to build a brand.

2. Keep the listener in mind

If it’s clear who the ad is aimed at, it increases people’s positive response. We need to make it relatable and include consumer goals – how’s this product or service going to help them solve a problem?

3. Don’t zig, zag like hell

There’s no point in sounding samey. If an ad stands out from a crowd of competitor ads, it creates more attention and listeners feel more emotional intensity.

Alexis Words Article

4. Embrace music

A good track drives feelings of happiness, amusement and uplift. We’re talking music with a melody rather than repetitive beats, something that increases emotion and attracts attention.

5. Straplines score

Straplines work. They trigger brand recognition, especially if they’re kept consistent with other media, and they don’t affect the listeners’ emotional connection to the ad either.

6. Brand it up

Get the brand in early, like two-seconds-in early and use it often. But it’s not enough just to repeat it – find creative ways to include it and use it with other fluent devices, like recognisable voices or sonic branding.

The findings of the report reinforce everything we’ve already come to understand and apply about effectiveness. It’s stuff that’s ingrained in our audio strategy – the importance of story and sense of place, good dialogue, music that stirs emotions, and well-branded scripts.

And above all, it needs to be entertaining with a few surprises along the way – no one wants to hear just another radio ad that’ll have them skipping channels, pausing podcasts or shouting at Alexa.