The Highlander Secret to GREAT RADIO ADS by Ryan Ghidoni





Ryan Ghidoni

By Ryan Ghidoni
PSR Contributor


Thursday July 6th, 2016



Audio Active Advertising – Episode 9: The Highlander Secret to GREAT RADIO ADS



Sorry…is my 80’s childhood showing?

This scene from the Highlander flashes in my head every time I ask a client:

“What is your core message…the one thing that you want to be known for?”

And their answer is:

Lowest Price,

Best Selection,

Superior Service,

Factory Trained Technicians,

Fresh ingredients,

Wi-Fi in the waiting room,

Free toy with every kid’s meal,

Fastest provider but we still take the time to care,

Oh and a wonderful salad bar.




Your CORE MESSAGE is not a stacked up shopping list of FEATURES.

Your CORE MESSAGE is the one key point that you want the listener to hear, understand and remember.

You should be able to boil it down to one statement:

“Tires you can trust with your family’s safety.”

“The cheapest place to get a good computer.”

Your CORE MESSAGE is your value proposition, your competitive advantage, the reason why people should buy from you instead of all the other options available.

The First Rule of Radio Advertising, the one that most radio creatives understand, is that you need to start with a core message in order to have an effective radio ad.

The Second Rule of Radio Advertising, the fork in the road where most ads go wrong, is that including a core message will not guarantee success unless everything else in the ad aligns to support the core.

Here are some examples:

“Tires you can trust with your family’s safety” WILL NOT BE heard, understood and remembered if it is merely a five second statement made after twenty-five seconds of tire price points.


“Tires you can trust with your family’s safety” WILL BEheard, understood and remembered if it is the final statement made after a story of a father’s close call with a deer while driving the family to the cottage. – This ad will create an itch that won’t be soothed by the competitor’s lowest price.

“The cheapest place to get a good computer” WILL NOTBE heard, understood and remembered if it is merely a five second statement made after a twenty-five second announcement about how the new monitors are in and available in multiple screen sizes.



“The cheapest place to get a good computer” WILL BE heard, understood and remembered if it is the final statement made after a story of a mother whose child showed great promise in school but needed a computer to keep up with her class. “With the prices we’ve seen at most stores…it didn’t look like it was going to be possible.” – Mom’s don’t care about monitor sizes. This ad will cast the business as a hero in an unfair world.


Want to be sure the CORE MESSAGE is being communicated?

Step 1: Play the ad for five people who have not been involved in the creation of the ad.

Step 2: Ask each of them “What is the one overriding message that you get from the commercial”

Step 3: If at least four of the five people don’t get the same answer and if that answer isn’t the intended core message, then you’ve got to redo the commercial with a stronger focus on the core.



So why do so many businesses take the shopping list approach to advertising?

They believe that listing off a bunch of features will widen the appeal of the ad by having something for everyone. Gib’s is selling trailers, buying trailers and hiring RV technicians. This has more of a chance of working in print where the reader can selectively choose what to focus on. Print is where most businesses start advertising so they carry their approach and expectations over to radio.


Radio is a linear experience where the message unfolds in a set order. It’s a medium that demands storytelling and should be used to apply meaning to your message.

Shopping list ads zip through an inventory of features and items but apply no meaning to any of the individual items on the list. Do any of the small pictures in the Gib’s ad create the image of being in an RV and having breakfast with your kids or telling ghost stories around a fire just outside of one? How successful would a salesman at Gib’s be if he greeted customers by reading an inventory list to them?(Don’t run away…I only have 15 more to share!) Shopping list ads make passable print ads. They make miserable radio ads.

In an attempt to appeal to everybody…they connect with nobody.

Adding additional messages to your ad will only decrease the impact. To get the most out your radio advertising, you need to focus on maximizing the impact of your CORE MESSAGE, instead of maximizing the number of items from your list.

Next week we’ll continue to talk about “The Power of One” by focusing on the importance of One Core Emotion. Surprisingly…it’s not always the emotion of the product experience.

Ryan Ghidoni is an 18-year veteran of radio advertising and has worked with some of the most creative sales reps, writers, producers and voice talent in the business.

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