Radio advertising is an art unto its own, one that requires a special attention to detail.

Since advertisers are only dealing with a listening – and not a viewing – audience, there are ways to appeal to that sense and even heighten it while sparking listeners’ imagination.  By recognizing what radio can and cannot do, one can optimize it and reveal its potential.

One of the most important aspects of a great radio spot is its ability to impress the listener quickly. How are you grabbing attention? As we’ll see in a bit, it has to be simple and uncluttered. On the other hand, if an opening is so simple that it’s generic, listeners might ignore the entire ad or switch the station.

Effective radio advertising, like any effective advertising, tells a story. The story may be as ordinary as a man on the search for a good sandwich. However, there are a million ways to tell that story, in part because every product is different, as is every brand, region of the country and target demographic; moreover, copywriters also have time of year, holiday, current events, pop culture and world and U.S. history events and information at their disposal.

What’s more, the story can be uniquely told through sound effects, which are perhaps a copywriter’s and radio producer’s favorite tool. The balance between dialogue or voiceover in a commercial and sound effects is like a dance: In any particular radio spot, one may be the leader and the other the follower; regardless, they work together in a unique back and forth.

This spot, written and produced by Davis Advertising for the School of Business at Anna Maria College, tells a story through words and sound effects, comparing the business environment to a road race.

Speaking of balance, keeping radio spots uncluttered is critical. Yes, you probably only have 15, 30 or 60 seconds to work with, but too much information will overwhelm listeners. They may hear everything that comes through the airwaves, but if it’s cluttered, they may not remember a single word. Be quick – tell a story then direct listeners to a website, phone number or brick and mortal location.

In addition to dialogue and sound effects, a voiceover can be used, and that speaker should be chosen on the merits of his or her ability to enhance the believability of the ad and therefore the trustworthiness of the product, brand or company. Put another way, he or she should be someone that the audience can relate to or who simply sounds trustworthy.

The speaker chosen for this Davis-produced ad for SpencerBANK has a certain believability about him. He’s an everyman, but a smart, business-savvy everyman. (Also, notice how the ad, like the Anna Maria College spot, uses metaphor to tell a story.)

Finally, a radio commercial should include a call to action, and that should appear at least once – and almost always at the end of the spot. However, it can show up multiple times. Regardless, make sure that it’s easy to understand and that it follows logically from the overall story being told. (Notice the calls to action in both of the above commercials.)

For example, in our make-believe sandwich ad, in the opening we learn that a man is on the search for a sandwich; next, we find out that company XYZ offers freshly-made, nutritious and filling options; finally, we are called to action – stop by to see us today, we are told.

Of course, you’ll need a few story details to make this ad stand apart, and that’s where our expert copywriters come in; same goes for sound effects, which is where our crack radio producers can show their skills. In the end you’ll want something truly special, a spot that sings, much like the music that comes on before and after it.

Here’s a spot that sings – literally and metaphorically – as it urges listeners to choose fruit over sugary snacks.