A lot happens in the thirty-second duration of a radio advert. The scene is set, the challenge laid out and the resolution delivered, all while clearly communicating the brand, the call to action, a website URL and possibly a phone number too. And all of this without any visuals or graphics to help! Yet, despite the challenges, radio is an excellent way to reach audiences and connect with them in their homes, offices, cars and on their smart devices. According to recent JNLR figures, 81% of the Irish population listens to the radio every day. So if you want to communicate with audiences around Ireland, radio advertising is an excellent way to get people’s attention.
When we’re producing radio adverts for our clients at Piquant, we want to create audio experiences that maximise each on-air second. We deliver radio adverts that really connect with and resonate with audiences. We use the four key building blocks of concept, scripting, sound layering and voice, to construct radio adverts that deliver for our clients and engage, entertain and inform audiences.
Radio adverts are often part of a larger campaign that may also include Out Of Home advertising, print adverts, a digital and social campaign, cinema, TV spots etc. It is important that the radio advert clearly connects into the wider campaign, even though it doesn’t have the central element of most campaigns: the visuals.
Campaign Concept Example: We Are LIT, Limerick Institute of Technology
We worked with the Marketing and Communications team at Limerick Institute of Technology on their 2019-2020 CAO undergraduate recruitment campaign. The ‘We Are LIT’ concept developed for the campaign celebrates the students, faculty and the entire LIT family. This concept facilitated the expression of LIT’s 5 key USP’s: active learning, small class sizes, access to lecturers, employability, and affordability. The visual concept combined live action shots of students, with strong empowering graphics connected by a 3D yellow line. The campaign was rolled out across Out Of Home, cinema, social and digital, and print and also included a radio campaign.
In applying the concept to the radio advert production, we had to work without the empowering graphics or the campaign concept’s central element of the 3D yellow line. However, the ‘We Are LIT’ concept provided us with strong scripting opportunities and a narrative spine to craft a radio advert that integrated really well into the overall campaign. The final advert was broadcast on local and regional stations and successfully communicated LIT’s messaging and the campaign call to action.
Radio Advert produced for Limerick Institute of Technology
Campaign: ‘We Are’ Undergraduate Recruitment Campaign
Broadcast: Local & regional
A well-paced and perfectly timed script is essential for a successful radio advert production. While the temptation may be to include as many words as possible, spoken at speed, a successful radio advert will leave space and time for the audience to connect with the content. We strive to create radio adverts that audiences will listen to, not just hear.
Script Example: Recycling List, Regional Waste Management Offices
We worked with Ireland’s three Regional Waste Management Offices on the development of a national campaign that would inform citizens about a new national recycling list. Up until this, there had been variance around the country on what could be included in recycling bins which had led to a lot of confusion. The campaign needed to dispel this confusion and inform citizens that the new list was relevant to all of Ireland. We developed a campaign that was informative and encouraging and was applied to Out Of Home Advertising, a social and digital campaign, television adverts as well as radio.
We produced three different radio scripts for this campaign, which played simultaneously on several national stations. The scripts conjured up domestic scenes and featured three voices; two people having a conversation about what can be recycled, and a third ‘official’ voice introducing the recycling list and presenting the solution to recycling confusion. As this was a very new approach to recycling in Ireland, the pacing and tone of the script was important. Space was left for sound effects, which mirrored the sound effects featured on the digital and television animated adverts. While official and informative, the overall tone of the advert was light, upbeat and encouraging.
Radio Advert produced for the Regional Waste Management Offices
Campaign: Ireland’s new recycling list
Building a visual with sound
Radio offers a wonderful platform for a playful exploration of sound to tell a story and generate a reaction. We can use layers of sound to build a scene inside the listener’s head that facilitates the understanding and engagement of the key messaging to be communicated. We use diegetic sound captured on location as well as sound effects, voices and bespoke music compositions as tools to create scenes and tell stories that will set the advert apart in a radio advert break and invite listeners to really stop and listen and connect with the narrative.
Sound example: Shannon Heritage – Release The History, King John’s Castle
The ‘Release The History’ campaign that we developed with Shannon Heritage aimed to inspire local audiences to explore Limerick city’s main tourist attraction, King John’s Castle. The ‘Release The History’ campaign actively encourages audiences ‘to step inside the castle’ and discover the ancient history of Limerick city’s iconic landmark. The visuals for the campaign celebrated local families exploring the castle and discovering the city’s history and heritage.
The radio platform created a space for further developing the ‘Release The History’ narrative by conjuring up a visual scene of the action that would have taken place inside the castle hundreds of years ago. An evocative storytelling combination of voice, music and sound effects is used to generate curiosity about what happened behind the castle’s walls, while also relaying the key information and call to action (book online).
Radio Advert produced for Shannon Heritage
Campaign: King John’s Castle, Release The History
Broadcast: Local & regional
Finding the right voice
Finding and recording the right voice is a vital part of a successful radio advert production. We work with voice over artists, actors and presenters from around the country but sometimes the right voice is not a professional in this area at all. Sometimes it can be someone from the organisation, or the brand ambassador, or a particular personality associated with the campaign that will really connect with audiences. Once the right voice has been found it’s important to record the voice in a professional sound studio. Piquant has an in-house recording booth but we also travel to wherever the voice is based and often record in radio stations, or external recording studios. Ambience and atmosphere can be added through layers of diegetic sound, sound effects and music, but the voice itself needs to be professionally recorded and perfectly clean.
Voice example: Novas: Christmas Sleep Out Campaign
The Novas Christmas Sleep Out is an annual fundraising event to support front line homeless services in the Mid-West. Piquant managed the ‘Team Novas’ campaign across social and digital platforms, Out Of Home and radio, promoting the event and successfully increasing donations by over 100% compared to the previous year. The ‘Team Novas’ campaign featured Novas ambassadors, and hurling champions from three different counties in the Mid-West region, Will O’Donoghue (Limerick), Podge Collins (Clare) and Seamus Callanan (Tipperary), who all donned the Novas jersey and encouraged their supporters to get behind Team Novas.
Radio advert produced for Novas
Campaign: Christmas Sleep Out Fundraising Appeal
Broadcast: Local & regional
The scripting of the radio advert focussed on the voices and identities of the ambassadors, with unobtrusive music and minimal sound effects. For this advert the voices were the campaign concept; the authenticity and unity that the hurlers, from three different county teams, brought to the ‘Team Novas’ fundraising campaign was a central message of the radio advert. In this situation the voices of the Novas ambassadors was a far more appropriate and effective choice than a professional voice over artist, actor or presenter.