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Advice to a Radio Copywriter

A reader sent me this note recently:

Dear Mark: As a radio copywriter, one of the largest frustrations I’ve had is never knowing how our campaigns do. We get the “great job”, “I love it!” from clients and reps alike but we rarely hear how much interaction it garnered with the listening audience. Did it bring in more customers? Increase sales of the specific product? We never know and are adamantly dissueded by sales departments who don’t want to open the door allowing clients to comment on how uneffective their campaign/buy was. Radio couponing” as we call it, whereby an advertiser says “mention this ad for a discount” is near Kryptonite to a Sales Manager. While I understand that if the discount/promotion is lackluster it’s not going to get listening consumers pouring in, but it would be nice to be able to track the clients R.O.I. and ultimately the campaigns effectiveness from a personal achievement standpoint. Might you have any suggestions how a radio copywriter might track their campaigns effectiveness so that we could personally hold ourselves accountable that won’t set their sales managers hair aflame?


First, sales managers need more flame retardant in their hair gel.  If we don’t get into the R.O.I. business we will be left with clients who are fools.

Understand that we are not competing against other radio stations anymore. We are competing against other ways for marketers to move products and services to consumers.  And, more often than not, those pathways are accountable and results-oriented.

Look, the essential ingredient to improvement is feedback. The same mechanism that makes your thermostat work can make your advertising work.  To stick our heads in the sand, hope or pray for the best, and wish away our responsibility as custodians of our clients’ dollars – that’s the kind of “best practice” that will throw open the gates to digital opportunities for clients who rush towards them and the providers who sell them and all their scary accountability.

We should be partners with our clients, not tap dancers or magicians with this or that card up our sleeve.  The consumer is not a pea in the advertising shell game.  As David Ogilvy used to say, “she is your wife.”

In my view the copywriter cannot be in the results business without the seller and the client being in the same business.  Your personal achievement is irrelevant unless the company you work for values it as much as you do.  I don’t know about you, but I find it distressing that the copywriter values the effectiveness of his work more than the radio station that sells it, but certainly not more than the client who buys it.

We need to grow up.

What are your goals, Mr. Advertiser?  How can we create measurable metrics towards achieving those goals no matter how big or small our ratings may be? What are the tactics we use to get to those goals based on our experience and best practices (because gathering feedback means we’re always learning)?  How can we modify our campaign in order to improve our results? How much extra are you going to pay us for this enhanced degree of accountability, Mr. Advertiser?

These are the kinds of questions broadcasters must consider.

Otherwise we’re fooling ourselves and our clients.

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