Maraca Media-John O'Mara

Freelance copywriter and blogger, shakin' and rockin' it

Tag: Dan O’Day

Wasted words in a radio ad: “Mention this ad and save…”


In a 30-second radio commercial, you only have 75 to 85 words to persuade listeners that your store is worth visiting, or merely to plant an idea in their heads for future reference.

Never, ever include what Dan O’Day calls a radio coupon.

“Mention this ad and save 10% off your purchase,” or “Say you heard this message on (radio station) and receive a free gift.”

Ooh. A free gift! Cancel that appointment, you’ve got a store to check out!

During my nearly three decades as a copywriter, I’ve had this horrible script idea sent my way many, many times. I cringed, pleaded and fought against it! No, don’t make me include that line!


Experienced writers and sales reps know why clients do this.

It’s a test.

That car dealer, hardware store owner or salon manager isn’t convinced radio ads work and hey, here’s a great way to see if anyone actually hears mine!

Roy Williams, the Wizard of Ads, suggests using a loss leader approach and wrote, “Don’t confuse the loss-leader strategy with couponing. Generally, coupons appeal only to the lowest quality of customer. If you’re going to offer a bargain, do it openly. Your best customers–the relational ones–will be offended by the idea that some customers pay a higher price than others.”

Randy “R.J.” Eldred is one of the top selling reps at Bayshore Broadcasting…has been for over 30 years…and R.J. has the ideal response to this all-too-frequent client request.

“Be one of the first 10 customers through the door and get $100 cash!”

The client is stunned. “I can’t do that!”

“Well,” R.J. says, “That’s the only way they’ll mention your ad.”


Customers are afraid they’ll encounter a teenager at the checkout who says, “What ad?”

It makes them feel cheap. It makes your business sound cheap, and desperate.

Consumers are bombarded with sales messages on radio, in print and online. Radio listeners don’t always tune in to the same station every day.

Your ad is an intrusion. They’re waiting for the weather, or the next song. Some fans are extremely loyal but many bounce along the dial from station to station (especially during those long commercial clusters).

Go back 30 years ago, just prior to my first radio job. I heard an ad that mentioned a tuneup special at the local Goodyear service centre.

I called them. Asked if their tuneup deal was still being offered. Sure, they said.


I found out later that the radio commercial had been for the Firestone dealer.

It all worked out, and I ended up writing ads for both businesses.


Well, the $100 cash idea would be pretty much guaranteed to get the desired response but you’d go broke.

Does your dog or cat hang out at the store? “Say hi to Rex the bulldog!” If a new customer asks about Rex, bingo!

“Ask Bob about the salmon he caught.”

“Ask Dagny (just met a very charming Dagny so that unusual name is fresh in my head) about her trip to Mexico.”

At least you’ll be suggesting something they can relate to or feel good about, and being a well-liked business goes a long way in getting repeat visits and turning newbies into loyal customers.


Forget any kind of “mention” or “ask” elements and focus on what does work. An opening line that intrigues the listener and addresses a problem or concern, followed by who you are, how you can solve their dilemma and why you’re their best option.

That takes repetition. Obviously I hadn’t heard the Firestone message often enough so all I remembered was the special.

Listeners recall bits and pieces and, according to the Wizard of Ads, need to hear a spot at least three times in a week for it to fully form in their minds.

Give your campaign time to do that!

Then, after a year, see if your sales figures went up compared to the previous year. Don’t put your writer or rep to a test that’s guaranteed to fail in the short term.

Be patient.

Mention this blog to a friend and you’ll receive…

my gratitude!!!!!!!!



Radio ads: Why they didn’t work for you (and what you can do about it)

Radio advertising works, when you do it right! So what went wrong and why didn’t you get the desired results?

It seems easy. The marketing rep convinces you to try radio because you’ll be reaching thousands of potential customers, and once those people hear YOUR message…get ready for a business boost!

Or not.

Why didn’t it work? You wonder if the station scheduled your ads in lousy time slots. Maybe they didn’t run them at all! Relax. They did. The problem, more often than not, is a poorly-crafted message, so read on for a list of campaign killers.


You put your print ad or flyer on the radio and the script you approved was heavy on information and light on persuasion. Your name, location, hours, website, “Like us on Facebook” and (no, no, no!!!) your phone number.

Which opening line do you find more appealing?

A) “It’s the Spring Fling event at Susie’s Weight Loss Centre.”

And I should care because?????

B) “You can lose 20 pounds by Christmas.” (Followed by introducing Susie, how she can make that happen and why you should give her business a try).

Way better! Address a problem and solve it.


Further to my point above, as the great radio advertising guru Dan O’Day says, the opening line is the commercial for the commercial.

“Hi, it’s Steve Jones from Wasaga Beach Toyota.”


Listeners have much stronger bullshit detectors these days. It’s not the ’70s anymore with a limited choice of radio and TV stations. We all know Steve is going to spend the next 25 seconds bragging about his dealership and the best selection, best prices of the year, the lowest finance rates…


Steve will hit us with the usual cliches and “ad speak.” We expect those and have no interest in the rest of ad.

I’ve long had a theory that car dealers don’t speak to the radio audience, they advertise to each other. The guy down the street has the best (see list above)? We’ve got the best and if we yell like a Monster Truck ad, the customers will choose us!


Listen to this ’90s gem from the suburbs of Philly. Prepare to be amazed.

Told ya!

What a gloriously awful mix of hard sell and hype! Yes, that was real and from what I can gather, Gary Barbera’s #1 Dodgeland frequently tortured folks in beautiful Roxborough with messages like that. Oh, and they were charged with upping the monthly payments without telling those customers who had bad credit, went through a divorce or whatever else that didn’t matter at that crazy car dealership.

Those in Radioland don’t enjoy being yelled at in the raunchy, over-the-top manner of Dodgeland. They tune out because they’re waiting for the next song, or the weather forecast.


I’ve been in radio nearly 30 years and witnessed this routine many times. Rep makes the sale. Books it, schedules the spots. As for the copy?

“What do you want to say in your ad?”


“Here’s the email of our writer, send him some copy points.”

You don’t have time to come up with ideas so you recycle the same crap advertisers have used for decades. Maybe you suggest an opening line.

“How about, The leaves are falling and so are the prices at…”


Before we continue, how about some advertising fun from George Carlin?


It’s not your fault. Think about what sets your business apart. Tell the rep or writer what customers like about your business or services. Share your success stories.

You’re not selling flooring. You’re giving customers a more beautiful living room and allowing them to take greater pride in their home. Or increasing the resale value. Play that up!



  1. Talk directly to the listener. As Dan O’Day says, enter a conversation they’re already having. Heating bill too high? They need a more energy-efficient furnace.
  2. Spark their imagination. Radio is, after all, theatre of the mind. Roy Williams, The Wizard of Ads, has made clients (and himself) rich by painting pictures with his words. Sound effects, music and production tricks are fine but what you say, and how you say it, will make the difference.
  3. Avoid filling your spots with Yellow Pages info or social media links. No one is going to “Like” you on Facebook until they’ve had a good experience with your products and services.

The fact is, the creative departments at many radio stations are staffed with non writers. People who graduated from broadcasting programs to become radio personalities or producers. Sure, copywriting was likely part of their training but it wasn’t why they chose radio as a career.

They took a job in creative as an entry point in the business. Or the company went through the dreaded “restructuring” process and jobs were combined. Copywriting became an extra chore for that aspiring morning show host.

I am a writer. I don’t retype copy info, I analyze it. What would I, as the consumer, find appealing?

It sure isn’t their claim of being “conveniently located.” Again, what the heck does that mean? What if I’m at the other end of town, or in another town?


I’ve been to many seminars, including those of Dan O’Day and Roy Williams, and the result is a combination of my unique style with O’Day’s “make the cash register ring” philosophy and the imaginative, storytelling approach of The Wizard of Ads.

I can help your business, or become a freelance addition to your creative team. Feel free to send me an email:







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