Saturday 15 June 2019

Radio ads need staying power

Miriam O’Callaghan in the Avonmore ad
Miriam O’Callaghan in the Avonmore ad

Media & Marketing with Michael Cullen

Advertisers often struggle to create visual pictures on radio with the wow! factor often proving more elusive than the Scarlet Pimpernel. Veteran British radio writer Paul Burke - with more credits to his name than 'Ben-Hur' - says that at the end of the day it all comes down to the standard of writing. Radio ads are a transaction and you need to give listeners something back.

Speaking at an Association of Advertisers in Ireland (AAI) breakfast talk in Core Media, radio expert Burke said advertisers are told by agencies that radio is good, cheap and quick - but you can't have all three. It's an assertion with which Burke strongly disagrees. To create radio ads that shoot in one ear and stay there, you must accept there are no visual short-cuts. Everything must be said with nothing left to chance.

Characters in radio ads should not be anonymous, they should have everyday names like John and Nora. Write down what you they think they would say at a given time. If you feel John and Nora are strong characters, they'll help write the script. Either way, four questions need to be asked: Who are these two people? Where are they? What are they doing? How do we know?

John and Nora must sound convincing. Yes, they're selling something, but it's not just enough to present facts in an ad. If Nora was trying to win John over in real life, she'd use emotion. The same applies to a radio script. If John thinks his Ford Focus has great road handling, he would say it outright rather than rambling on about its "class-leading road feedback".

Spontaneity can work well in radio ads, where humour is needed. Burke worked on an ad for McDonald's where former Ireland football manager Jack Charlton hadn't read the script and the idea paid off.

Casting counts for a lot. If the radio ad is for a regional brand like Dubliner Cheese, use someone with a Dublin accent.

The agency should pick a sound engineer as carefully as they'd pick a director of a TV commercial. Burke says the standard of writing radio ads in the UK has dropped a lot in recent years. "I feel sorry for clients," he said, "there's a lot of awful radio writing. The days of agencies are numbered," he added.


Fáilte Ireland has published travel market profiles for Britain, the US, France and Germany. The research shows the type of holiday overseas visitors are interested in when visiting Ireland. Americans have a strong cultural and ancestral link to Ireland and are drawn to Ireland's historic attractions. The also like walking holidays.

The French use their holiday in Ireland to reinvigorate themselves. They like the landscape, unspoilt nature and culture. The British largely see Ireland as a short break stop - 72pc stay less than five nights - so they appreciate experiences which set Ireland apart from the UK. The Germans are attracted to Ireland's coastal seascapes but are also looking to experience the country's culture.


Fulfil protein bars was one of this year's major successes. Fulfil Nutrition co-founder Niall McGrath was among the three finalists competing for Marketer of the Year. The brand's strategy is focused on four key pillars - distribution, visibility, trial and awareness.

With regards to distribution, the protein bars gained a foothold through 'on the go' multiple retailers, pharmacies and 'away from home' outlets like coffee shops, gyms and food service. Fulfil is the FAI's official snack for the Ireland football squad. Following on from this year's out of home ads, McGrath now hopes to roll out a cross-media campaign early in the new year, with ads created by Boys and Girls.


At the Institute of Creative Advertising & Design (ICAD) AGM two motions put by the board to members were passed. ICAD CEO Elaine McDevitt said a proposal to restructure the board to an executive board comprising senior people with at least 15 years' experience and significant board experience, each serving at least three years, to define strategy and manage finances was approved. They will work alongside a management board. Both groups will be voted in at an EGM in the new year and nominations are being sought. A motion to rejoin ADC*E was also passed.


As was pointed out in a recent AdLib, IAPI and the Irish Film Institute (IFI) are urging advertisers and agencies to dig deep for a campaign to restore classic Irish ads from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Among the ads the IFI has saved for future generations is for Avonmore Fresh Milk. One of those featuring in the ad's vox pop is none other than a young Miriam O'Callaghan. No doubt, the ad always went out at prime time.

  • Michael Cullen is editor of;

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