“I really want my radio ad to stand out!”

Your message can stand out, even if it’s one of three, four or more in a cluster.

Let’s start with the wrong way to get attention.

I shall whisk you back to the early ’90s when young John was asked to write spots for a furniture warehouse. One with “the best prices…amazing deals,” and every week a new sale, blowout or clearance event.

This was before email. You phoned the client to get copy. This particular fellow (who later became a woman) proposed starting his ads with a police siren because, “THAT will get the listener’s attention.”

It did. In the wrong way.


The radio station received calls from angry listeners. The siren caused some to pull over and others to check their review mirrors for an ambulance or firetruck.

Initially,  I scoffed at the idea. Seriously, they thought it was a real emergency?


Imagine you’re behind the wheel, trying to focus on your fellow drivers, pedestrians and traffic lights. That friendly radio announcer promises to return after a short break and then…

It’s the police! Law enforcement, not the band that gave us Roxanne.

After a few seconds you realize it’s part of the commercial. You’re pissed! How dare they jolt you like that!


Here’s the worst part of that scenario, if you’re the advertiser. You’ve angered that potential customer to the point where they resent you for tricking them.

You mad them take notice, oh yes, but in a very annoying way and proceeded to hit them with mattress specials and deals on appliances.

So, am I saying you shouldn’t begin a spot with sound effects?


If they set the scene, go ahead. Bubbles for a hot tub. A sizzling steak for a restaurant. Children laughing for an indoor playground. They need to relate to the business and engage the audience.

Sound effects should enhance the message, not be the main feature.

Over the years, I’ve been handed or sent many requests from reps looking for “something that stands out. We really want to impress him/her.”

Translation? The client is new to radio and isn’t sure the ads will work so let’s blow them away with sound effects, maybe echoes or reverb, and a commercial that’s heavy on razzle dazzle.

By the way, I write to boost sales for all sizes of businesses. The store owner who can only afford $100 a month deserves great copy as well.


You know what really makes a spot stick out? An honest, solid beginning.

Saying something that matters to the listener.

“You can lose 20 pounds by Easter.”

“You can cut your energy costs by 20 percent.”

Openings like that get attention. The audience is intrigued and says, “tell me more.”

They listen to the next 25 seconds.

Instead of mentally tuning out until the next song or weather report. Or swearing at the radio, changing the station and vowing never to support the advertiser that got their attention by duping them.

Get John to write for you or add him to your staff on a freelance basis. Email: johnnymaraca@rogers.com



About johnnymaraca

sole proprietor of Maraca Media, former radio host (Johnny Maraca's Rock & Roll Riot), copywriter and producer and a print journalism grad.
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