Radio advertising: 4 radio ad examples to inspire yours

Unlock the power of radio advertising with our comprehensive guide. Learn tips and tricks to craft effective radio ads.
November 13, 2023
Elsier Otachi
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We may live in the internet age, but modern radio advertising still works. 

Radio commercials have consistently been proven an effective and efficient way to attract, engage, and sell to your target audience.

Compared to other formats, like TV advertising, online native ads, video ads, or full-page print glossies, radio is 10x more efficient and drives higher attentive seconds per thousand impressions.

Suppose you’re considering using radio ads—or adverts, as we heard a BBC announcer say one time—to promote your business. In that case, this guide shares the most common radio ad types, how to advertise on radio, and real-world radio ad examples to inspire your own.

What is radio advertising?

Radio advertising is the process of purchasing ad spots on traditional and internet radio stations to promote products or services.

Here’s how it works:

  • You identify radio stations to advertise on and contact them for airtime
  • The radio station shares the available ad formats and time slots
  • You book your radio spots, sign a contract, and submit your ad
  • The radio station broadcasts your commercial to its listeners

Radio ads can be effective thanks to the medium’s wide reach. Edison Research shows that 84% of daily radio listeners report listening exclusively over the air, 5% listen only on a digital device, while 11% (or about 7% of all Americans age 13+) listen on both.

Depending on your marketing strategy, radio ads can help you draw the most value from your initial investment with fewer overheads than social media or TV ads. 

But, which radio ad formats can you use to promote your products and services? Let’s look at them next.

Types of radio ads

In the early days of radio, companies would script radio ads, and the radio show hosts would read them out during a live broadcast. 

Like online ads, whose formats include PPC, mobile, video, display, influencer, and social media ads, there’s an array of radio advertising styles to choose from that will suit your business and target market. 

Here’s an overview of the most common, tried-and-tested radio ad formats.

Live reads

A live read radio ad, also known as an endorsement ad, is a simple format where the radio show host or personality—like Steve Harvey or Funkmaster Flex—reads an ad live on air. 

Live reads have an advantage over other formats because they:

  • Shine a spotlight on your message
  • Give your brand radio host exclusivity
  • Make your brand stand out from others
  • Don’t incur additional production fees

Your target audience would already be familiar with the radio personality’s voice. If they hear notable people talking highly about your brand, they may feel more favorably toward it because they trust their opinions. This increases the likelihood of better recall and engagement levels.

💡Tip: To enhance your live read ad’s effectiveness, provide the key messaging through bulleted talking points and give the radio host freedom to add their own creativity and personality to it.

Pre-recorded commercials

Many radio ads are pre-recorded, meaning they’re produced and provided by the advertiser, usually featuring a voiceover artist, like the McDonald’s “Driver” ad script. 

Sometimes, the advertising company will supply the script and pre-record the show host reading it. Then, the station plays the ad during commercial breaks.

Pre-recorded radio ads are highly polished and professional, with carefully crafted scripts, music, sound effects, and a call to action (CTA). The format gives the advertiser more control over their messaging and greater ad reach and performance transparency. However, they tend to be more disruptive and don’t offer a native listening experience.

Sponsored shows or segments

If you’re looking for a subtle approach, try sponsored radio ads. They work like conventional sponsorships, except someone sponsors a particular segment of the broadcast, like rush-hour traffic, news updates, weather, sports, travel, or giveaways. 

You can also sponsor an entire radio show. For example, you can approach a local radio station and purchase a sponsored ad spot for its “Big Money” show, running from 3 PM to 6 PM. The host can read your ad every hour, ensuring your message stands out and reaches your target audience. 

Sponsored radio ads are highly effective and affordable formats that:

  • Bring your brand to life
  • Engage your audience 
  • Reach more listeners
  • Drive brand awareness and brand affinity

Grocery retailer Kroger partnered with NPR to promote its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste campaign that seeks to improve food security, end hunger, and eliminate food waste. The campaign ran on NPR platforms with this message:

Image of snippet of NPR radio ad
Source: NPR

Kroger’s sponsorship ad showed strong results for memorability and listeners remembered the most essential details. The good news is you can get a variety of custom “brought to you by” sponsorship ad packages, including mentions, produced spots, live endorsements, or custom audio segments. 

Musical jingles or songs

Jingles are a memorable form of radio ad that leave an imprint in listeners’ minds.

The strong connection between music and memory in jingles or songs makes most people gravitate toward this type of radio ad, helping you:

  • Promote your products or services 
  • Increase brand recall 
  • Keep your brand at the top of listeners’ minds

An example is the Cuties’ jingle for Sun Pacific’s multichannel 100 Days of Sunshine campaign to promote its mandarin orange brand and appeal to its target audience. 

The campaign kicked off with an initial media blitz on iHeartRadio, which exceeded about 35 million impressions. Then, it aired every hour on flagship stations, including Ryan Seacrest, Mario Lopez, and Bobby Bones’ radio shows. These ad spots featured radio reads from Seacrest and Lopez, who encouraged listeners to spread sweetness by sharing small acts of kindness on social media.

When done well, musical jingles are highly memorable and can achieve timeless status. You know… the ones that burn into your conscience and never leave you, like “Riiiiiicolaaaaaaa,” or “Call J.G. Wentworth… 877-Cash-Now.”

When creating musical jingles for your radio ad, ensure they have the following components:

  • A clear, crisp voiceover: The singer or voice actor should enunciate each word easily, so listeners don’t struggle to hear.
  • Clear musical imagery: Create an earworm that ensures listeners can hear, visualize, or feel something more than the lyrics, like what Subway did with its “Five Dollar Footlong” jingle.
  • Simple and short: Keep your jingle short enough with a rhythmic refrain that instantly sticks in listeners’ minds. This also makes it more practical to add to all your commercials, like what McDonald’s does in this radio ad
  • Emotional resonance: Jingles should evoke emotions that drive listeners toward a certain action. 
  • Unique, repeatable tune: The jingle should be 100% original and stand out from anything else listeners know. 

Voiceover ads

Voiceover ads are a popular radio advertising format that involves using voice actors to create an audio picture of your product or service for your audience. 

Here’s how to make a voiceover ad:

  1. Create the ad script
  2. Identify a voiceover artist for your audio ad
  3. Present the ad script to the voiceover artist for review
  4. The voiceover artist will read your script and send a link to their recording
  5. You send the ad to the radio station to include in your desired ad slot

The performance of voiceover ads solely depends on the voiceover artist’s voice. Make sure the voiceover matches your brand identity. 

For example, Audi has a specific selection of voices, which contribute to identifying the brand. The company commissioned three German voiceover artists to carry its brand voice and articulate the “Vorsprung durch Technik” claim and act as the main voiceovers across all advertising mediums—like this sample of Christian Baumann—one of Audi’s voiceover artists.

If casting by yourself sounds difficult, you can hire a sonic branding or advertising agency to cast voice talent for your brand. 

Using voiceover artists with high-quality, trademark voices can:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Make your message clearer and more direct
  • Establish a level of trust in your brand
  • Make your brand irresistible
  • Build a sense of confidence and authority for your brand
  • Help you reach more people in your target audience
  • Boost sales and revenues

Some brands prefer to use celebrity voices to add sophistication and familiarity, like Antonio Banderas in Nasonex's Spring Mum campaign or Julia Roberts in Nationwide Insurance’s Brand New Belongings campaign. 

When choosing a voiceover artist, ensure they have:

  • Clear pronunciation
  • The right vocal tone
  • Proper vocal inflections
  • Good pacing

Now let‘s walk through how to advertise on radio. 

How to advertise on radio in 3 steps

A radio ad campaign requires some planning. Below are some tips and best practices to help you create a great radio spot.

1. Define your advertising objectives

Before you create your ad, determine the goals and objectives you want to achieve as a result of your radio campaign. 

Many radio ads are designed to raise brand awareness, introduce a new product/service, acquire new customers, or boost sales and produce direct profits or return on investment (ROI).

  • Brand awareness: If your goal is to raise brand awareness, you might focus on memorable jingles or catchy slogans that resonate with your target audience.
  • Product/service introduction: For introducing a new product or service, you might want to highlight its unique features, benefits, and the problem it solves in your ads.
  • Customer acquisition: If acquiring new customers is a priority, consider including special offers or discounts to entice people to try your product or service.
  • Sales boost and ROI: To boost sales and achieve a desirable ROI, your ads might need to have compelling calls to action and possibly, a sense of urgency (e.g., limited-time offers).

Whatever your goal is, be sure to quantify it, so it’s easier to measure your campaign’s performance.

2. Select a relevant radio station and time slot

Have your objectives ready? Great! The next step is to pick a radio station and ad slot.

When deciding what radio station to run your ad on, contact your local stations directly to get their radio ad rate cards and audience demographic. 

Here’s a sample rate card from Nashville Public Radio.

Example of public radio rate card. It includes pricing for specific times of day on certain radio stations, along with rotation plans that provide several ad slots over a full day.
Source: Nashville Public Radio

Radio stations split ad times into morning, midday, afternoon, evening, and late night/overnight. The most popular times are during morning and evening commutes, which offer the highest listenership, engagement, and reach for your ads. But they are also the most expensive. 

Ads range in length from 15, 30, and 60 seconds. To capture listeners’ attention, make sure your radio ad focuses on a central idea and specific CTA, but is still compelling enough for listeners to tune in. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all ad length, but generally, 30 seconds is the sweet spot. 

An Audacy survey, which sampled frequent radio listeners’ responses to 15-, 30-, and 60-second ads across different industries, found that the 30-second spot:

  • Outperformed other ads on engagement, brand effect, and recall
  • Were heard as more likable, relevant, and trustworthy
  • Made listeners think about how to use a product or service
  • Delivered the right information to consider buying a product or service

When deciding between a 30-second and 60-second spot, consider investing in two 30-second spots instead of one 60-second spot.

This is what Bosch did for its “Night Vision has Evolved” campaign. The brand used two 30-second radio ads to promote its Night Performance wiper blades and discuss how it keeps the listener safe in extreme weather conditions.

Tell a compelling story that keeps listeners’ attention all through, so you can increase recall, purchase intent, and the likelihood of listeners recommending your product or service.

Here’s a quick summary of radio ad lengths and their effectiveness:

Radio ad length No. of words Use cases Best for Suitable ad formats
5 or 10-second spot (mentions) 10-25 Generating top-of-mind awareness, quick reminders All types of brands Live read (host references your brand during a show or playlist)
15-second spot 25-50 For well-known brands looking to gain frequency Retail Sponsored ads, live reads, pre-recorded ads
30-second spot 60-80 To make a single point or easy-to-understand offer for a product/service that’s clearly understood Auto and financial services Sponsored ads, live reads, musical jingles/ songs
60-second spot 130-170 Complex messages that require specific details to persuade listeners Generic businesses and commodities Sponsored ads, jingles/songs, voiceover ads, testimonials

Depending on the ad format you pick, you can distribute your ads throughout the day or exclusively at a certain time of the day. Running the same radio ad at the same time every day is usually more effective as the same people get to hear it multiple times. 

If you’re on a tight budget, you can cut the length of your ad, advertise on a smaller radio station, or pick a more affordable time of day.

3. Craft a compelling radio ad

Your radio ad should be simple, unique, and memorable for listeners to remember and take the desired action. Make sure to include the following elements:

  • A short and simple message: Make your radio ad as short and simple as possible with a singular focus. Include only the most relevant information you want to convey and the important elements of the campaign, so listeners can easily follow along.
  • Unique selling point: Your competitors’ ads may sound great, but it doesn’t mean you should copy their concept or format. Make your ad memorable by including unique aspects that capture attention and touch your audience in a creative way.
  • Strong branding: Make sure listeners clearly understand your brand, what it does, and the message you’re trying to convey. The ad is, after all, meant to promote your business and product/service. 
  • Professional, well-pitched voiceover: There are no visual elements in radio ads, which means the narrator will do all the work. Go for professional, well-pitched, powerful voiceovers that match your brand voice, are memorable, and evoke the desired emotions and actions in listeners.
  • High-quality production value: Listeners will easily understand your radio ad if it’s well-produced, and that leaves a good impression of your brand in their minds. Use features like Studio Sound and AI Voices in Descript to create more impactful, professional ads. 
  • Consistent messaging: The best ads are the ones you can identify by voice and music even before hearing the message. Ensure consistency in the brand voice, messaging, and music, no matter the season or mood. 
  • Familiarity: Have a familiar structure listeners can identify in the first few seconds of hearing your ads. Use your jingle and preferred tagline regularly in your ads—like El-Jay Plumbing and Heating’s “Because excellence begins with E.” Use familiar elements the same way each time, whether it’s in the beginning, at the end, or in the background. 

A great script, high-quality voiceovers, and other elements are important for your ad, but it doesn’t mean you have to fork out lots of cash to hire a recording studio, expert copywriters, and professional voiceover artists or actors. 

If you have experience with scripting, copywriting, and voiceover acting, you can create a radio ad yourself. 

All you need to record your ad is a good microphone, the right environment, and Descript. Do a few test recordings, then improve the audio in a few clicks using Descript’s AI-powered features to produce high-quality, professional-sounding ads.

Descript does more than create radio ads—it’s also a great tool for creating videos, podcasts, social media ads, GIFs, and more. Or use it to add a pre-recorded commercial to a podcast. Cut filler words, long pauses, or any ad-libbed lines that sound stilted. Then, save, export, or publish your clips to YouTube or your preferred podcast hosting platform—all in one app. 

Whether you’re crafting the ad yourself or collaborating with others, Descript is an ideal choice for producing clear, slick radio commercials that captivate listeners.

If you still need help making quality, consistent, and memorable ads that deliver great marketing results, try the following options:

  • Have the station do it for you: Some radio stations offer to craft radio ads for free while others charge an extra fee depending on who’s working on the ad. 
  • Hire an agency: Working with a professional production company ensures you get high-quality, effective radio ads. Such agencies offer services ranging from copywriting to voiceovers, and more, but it’s a costlier option.
  • Hire a freelance producer: If you need a radio ad in the shortest time possible, find talented freelance writers or copywriters with advertising or marketing backgrounds and experience to craft it for you at a small fee.

4 best radio advertising examples

It’s one thing to discuss the theory and practice of creating great radio ads. But it’s something else entirely to see real businesses put it into practice. Here are a few we admire:

Geico’s "Gecko" campaign

Insurance is a peculiar, intangible, and hard-to-sell product because it won’t benefit the buyer until sometime in the future. 

Historically, insurance companies usually advertised the same way using a somber voice and warnings about life’s hazards to instill a sense of fear about the future.  

GEICO took a new approach with its memorable, humorous radio ad campaigns—and a gecko—completely disrupting insurance advertising and putting the company on the map.

Why it works:

  • Simple ad scripts with compelling storylines
  • Includes novel, creative, and lovable characters
  • Cleverly applies humor to portray the main theme
  • Ends with simple one-liner
  • Prioritizes quality production value 

Budweiser’s "Wassup" campaign

Budweiser shouted its way into listeners’ minds with its simple but infectious “Wassup” campaign about friends greeting each other. 

Inspired by True, a short film directed by Charles Stone III, the award-winning campaign helped usher in a new age of viral hits and urban culture in advertising.

The company needed a good old-fashioned catchphrase to replace its long-running “This Bud’s for you” ad. And they found one from the short film, which featured a group of Black men phoning each other while watching sport on TV with gleeful yells of “wassup?”

“Wassup” became an instant pop culture phenomenon, helping Budweiser sell more beer and snag multiple advertising awards—including the Cannes Grand Prix and a Grand Clio. Countless other iterations of the ad have appeared since it originally aired, including Budweiser’s partnership with Uber. 

Why it works:

  • Simple ad idea around the universal principle of friendship
  • Natural, relatable, everyday moment of four “bros”
  • Short catchphrase that resonates with listeners

McDonald's "I'm Lovin' It" jingle

Out of all the earworms you’ve hummed, it’s hard to deny the appeal of McDonald's “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle. 

The company needed a winning idea at a time when its chain stock was plummeting owing to attacks on its unhealthy food and legal suits about obesity.

McDonald’s challenged 14 ad agencies to pitch a new, unified global campaign that works in every language and connects with people of every culture. 

Soon, the “I’m’ lovin’ it” earworm burrowed its way into listeners’ minds, living on beyond its originally scheduled two years. It remains one of the most popular and recognizable commercial jingles worldwide.

Why it works: 

  • Simple, flexible, easy to understand idea
  • Simple, catchy melody
  • Reaches different audiences in the target market
  • Translatable and effective in different languages and cultures

KitKat’s "Give Me a Break" jingle

KitKat’s “Give me a break” jingle has repeatedly been recognized among the most memorable advertising jingles of all time. It’s even been remixed in various genres, including New Wave, 90’s Hip Hop, Country, Metal, and Latin beats.

What was supposed to be a throwaway song ended up becoming a smash hit for KitKat that led to Hersheys building a new factory to keep up with demand for the product. 

The jingle has been synonymous with KitKat and its iconic “breakable” bars, and continually reminds consumers of the delicious wafer-filled chocolate candy. 

Why it works:

  • Simple, catchy and easy to remember song
  • Relatable and relevant as it associates taking a break with delicious chocolate bar
  • Humor and clever wordplay makes the ad stand out

Want to make unforgettable radio ads? Edit and mix your ad with Descript’s audio editing software. Take a free product tour today

Elsier Otachi
Elsier is a freelance SaaS and eCommerce writer. When she’s not hard at work, she's reading, listening to music, or spending time with family.
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Radio advertising: 4 radio ad examples to inspire yours

radio ads

We may live in the internet age, but modern radio advertising still works. 

Radio commercials have consistently been proven an effective and efficient way to attract, engage, and sell to your target audience.

Compared to other formats, like TV advertising, online native ads, video ads, or full-page print glossies, radio is 10x more efficient and drives higher attentive seconds per thousand impressions.

Suppose you’re considering using radio ads—or adverts, as we heard a BBC announcer say one time—to promote your business. In that case, this guide shares the most common radio ad types, how to advertise on radio, and real-world radio ad examples to inspire your own.

Remove all your “ums” and “uhs” with a click, correct your voiceover by typing, and get studio-quality sound wherever you record. Check out our
Tools that work for creators.

What is radio advertising?

Radio advertising is the process of purchasing ad spots on traditional and internet radio stations to promote products or services.

Here’s how it works:

  • You identify radio stations to advertise on and contact them for airtime
  • The radio station shares the available ad formats and time slots
  • You book your radio spots, sign a contract, and submit your ad
  • The radio station broadcasts your commercial to its listeners

Radio ads can be effective thanks to the medium’s wide reach. Edison Research shows that 84% of daily radio listeners report listening exclusively over the air, 5% listen only on a digital device, while 11% (or about 7% of all Americans age 13+) listen on both.

Depending on your marketing strategy, radio ads can help you draw the most value from your initial investment with fewer overheads than social media or TV ads. 

But, which radio ad formats can you use to promote your products and services? Let’s look at them next.

Types of radio ads

In the early days of radio, companies would script radio ads, and the radio show hosts would read them out during a live broadcast. 

Like online ads, whose formats include PPC, mobile, video, display, influencer, and social media ads, there’s an array of radio advertising styles to choose from that will suit your business and target market. 

Here’s an overview of the most common, tried-and-tested radio ad formats.

Live reads

A live read radio ad, also known as an endorsement ad, is a simple format where the radio show host or personality—like Steve Harvey or Funkmaster Flex—reads an ad live on air. 

Live reads have an advantage over other formats because they:

  • Shine a spotlight on your message
  • Give your brand radio host exclusivity
  • Make your brand stand out from others
  • Don’t incur additional production fees

Your target audience would already be familiar with the radio personality’s voice. If they hear notable people talking highly about your brand, they may feel more favorably toward it because they trust their opinions. This increases the likelihood of better recall and engagement levels.

💡Tip: To enhance your live read ad’s effectiveness, provide the key messaging through bulleted talking points and give the radio host freedom to add their own creativity and personality to it.

Pre-recorded commercials

Many radio ads are pre-recorded, meaning they’re produced and provided by the advertiser, usually featuring a voiceover artist, like the McDonald’s “Driver” ad script. 

Sometimes, the advertising company will supply the script and pre-record the show host reading it. Then, the station plays the ad during commercial breaks.

Pre-recorded radio ads are highly polished and professional, with carefully crafted scripts, music, sound effects, and a call to action (CTA). The format gives the advertiser more control over their messaging and greater ad reach and performance transparency. However, they tend to be more disruptive and don’t offer a native listening experience.

Sponsored shows or segments

If you’re looking for a subtle approach, try sponsored radio ads. They work like conventional sponsorships, except someone sponsors a particular segment of the broadcast, like rush-hour traffic, news updates, weather, sports, travel, or giveaways. 

You can also sponsor an entire radio show. For example, you can approach a local radio station and purchase a sponsored ad spot for its “Big Money” show, running from 3 PM to 6 PM. The host can read your ad every hour, ensuring your message stands out and reaches your target audience. 

Sponsored radio ads are highly effective and affordable formats that:

  • Bring your brand to life
  • Engage your audience 
  • Reach more listeners
  • Drive brand awareness and brand affinity

Grocery retailer Kroger partnered with NPR to promote its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste campaign that seeks to improve food security, end hunger, and eliminate food waste. The campaign ran on NPR platforms with this message:

Image of snippet of NPR radio ad
Source: NPR

Kroger’s sponsorship ad showed strong results for memorability and listeners remembered the most essential details. The good news is you can get a variety of custom “brought to you by” sponsorship ad packages, including mentions, produced spots, live endorsements, or custom audio segments. 

Musical jingles or songs

Jingles are a memorable form of radio ad that leave an imprint in listeners’ minds.

The strong connection between music and memory in jingles or songs makes most people gravitate toward this type of radio ad, helping you:

  • Promote your products or services 
  • Increase brand recall 
  • Keep your brand at the top of listeners’ minds

An example is the Cuties’ jingle for Sun Pacific’s multichannel 100 Days of Sunshine campaign to promote its mandarin orange brand and appeal to its target audience. 

The campaign kicked off with an initial media blitz on iHeartRadio, which exceeded about 35 million impressions. Then, it aired every hour on flagship stations, including Ryan Seacrest, Mario Lopez, and Bobby Bones’ radio shows. These ad spots featured radio reads from Seacrest and Lopez, who encouraged listeners to spread sweetness by sharing small acts of kindness on social media.

When done well, musical jingles are highly memorable and can achieve timeless status. You know… the ones that burn into your conscience and never leave you, like “Riiiiiicolaaaaaaa,” or “Call J.G. Wentworth… 877-Cash-Now.”

When creating musical jingles for your radio ad, ensure they have the following components:

  • A clear, crisp voiceover: The singer or voice actor should enunciate each word easily, so listeners don’t struggle to hear.
  • Clear musical imagery: Create an earworm that ensures listeners can hear, visualize, or feel something more than the lyrics, like what Subway did with its “Five Dollar Footlong” jingle.
  • Simple and short: Keep your jingle short enough with a rhythmic refrain that instantly sticks in listeners’ minds. This also makes it more practical to add to all your commercials, like what McDonald’s does in this radio ad
  • Emotional resonance: Jingles should evoke emotions that drive listeners toward a certain action. 
  • Unique, repeatable tune: The jingle should be 100% original and stand out from anything else listeners know. 

Voiceover ads

Voiceover ads are a popular radio advertising format that involves using voice actors to create an audio picture of your product or service for your audience. 

Here’s how to make a voiceover ad:

  1. Create the ad script
  2. Identify a voiceover artist for your audio ad
  3. Present the ad script to the voiceover artist for review
  4. The voiceover artist will read your script and send a link to their recording
  5. You send the ad to the radio station to include in your desired ad slot

The performance of voiceover ads solely depends on the voiceover artist’s voice. Make sure the voiceover matches your brand identity. 

For example, Audi has a specific selection of voices, which contribute to identifying the brand. The company commissioned three German voiceover artists to carry its brand voice and articulate the “Vorsprung durch Technik” claim and act as the main voiceovers across all advertising mediums—like this sample of Christian Baumann—one of Audi’s voiceover artists.

If casting by yourself sounds difficult, you can hire a sonic branding or advertising agency to cast voice talent for your brand. 

Using voiceover artists with high-quality, trademark voices can:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Make your message clearer and more direct
  • Establish a level of trust in your brand
  • Make your brand irresistible
  • Build a sense of confidence and authority for your brand
  • Help you reach more people in your target audience
  • Boost sales and revenues

Some brands prefer to use celebrity voices to add sophistication and familiarity, like Antonio Banderas in Nasonex's Spring Mum campaign or Julia Roberts in Nationwide Insurance’s Brand New Belongings campaign. 

When choosing a voiceover artist, ensure they have:

  • Clear pronunciation
  • The right vocal tone
  • Proper vocal inflections
  • Good pacing

Now let‘s walk through how to advertise on radio. 

How to advertise on radio in 3 steps

A radio ad campaign requires some planning. Below are some tips and best practices to help you create a great radio spot.

1. Define your advertising objectives

Before you create your ad, determine the goals and objectives you want to achieve as a result of your radio campaign. 

Many radio ads are designed to raise brand awareness, introduce a new product/service, acquire new customers, or boost sales and produce direct profits or return on investment (ROI).

  • Brand awareness: If your goal is to raise brand awareness, you might focus on memorable jingles or catchy slogans that resonate with your target audience.
  • Product/service introduction: For introducing a new product or service, you might want to highlight its unique features, benefits, and the problem it solves in your ads.
  • Customer acquisition: If acquiring new customers is a priority, consider including special offers or discounts to entice people to try your product or service.
  • Sales boost and ROI: To boost sales and achieve a desirable ROI, your ads might need to have compelling calls to action and possibly, a sense of urgency (e.g., limited-time offers).

Whatever your goal is, be sure to quantify it, so it’s easier to measure your campaign’s performance.

2. Select a relevant radio station and time slot

Have your objectives ready? Great! The next step is to pick a radio station and ad slot.

When deciding what radio station to run your ad on, contact your local stations directly to get their radio ad rate cards and audience demographic. 

Here’s a sample rate card from Nashville Public Radio.

Example of public radio rate card. It includes pricing for specific times of day on certain radio stations, along with rotation plans that provide several ad slots over a full day.
Source: Nashville Public Radio

Radio stations split ad times into morning, midday, afternoon, evening, and late night/overnight. The most popular times are during morning and evening commutes, which offer the highest listenership, engagement, and reach for your ads. But they are also the most expensive. 

Ads range in length from 15, 30, and 60 seconds. To capture listeners’ attention, make sure your radio ad focuses on a central idea and specific CTA, but is still compelling enough for listeners to tune in. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all ad length, but generally, 30 seconds is the sweet spot. 

An Audacy survey, which sampled frequent radio listeners’ responses to 15-, 30-, and 60-second ads across different industries, found that the 30-second spot:

  • Outperformed other ads on engagement, brand effect, and recall
  • Were heard as more likable, relevant, and trustworthy
  • Made listeners think about how to use a product or service
  • Delivered the right information to consider buying a product or service

When deciding between a 30-second and 60-second spot, consider investing in two 30-second spots instead of one 60-second spot.

This is what Bosch did for its “Night Vision has Evolved” campaign. The brand used two 30-second radio ads to promote its Night Performance wiper blades and discuss how it keeps the listener safe in extreme weather conditions.

Tell a compelling story that keeps listeners’ attention all through, so you can increase recall, purchase intent, and the likelihood of listeners recommending your product or service.

Here’s a quick summary of radio ad lengths and their effectiveness:

Radio ad length No. of words Use cases Best for Suitable ad formats
5 or 10-second spot (mentions) 10-25 Generating top-of-mind awareness, quick reminders All types of brands Live read (host references your brand during a show or playlist)
15-second spot 25-50 For well-known brands looking to gain frequency Retail Sponsored ads, live reads, pre-recorded ads
30-second spot 60-80 To make a single point or easy-to-understand offer for a product/service that’s clearly understood Auto and financial services Sponsored ads, live reads, musical jingles/ songs
60-second spot 130-170 Complex messages that require specific details to persuade listeners Generic businesses and commodities Sponsored ads, jingles/songs, voiceover ads, testimonials

Depending on the ad format you pick, you can distribute your ads throughout the day or exclusively at a certain time of the day. Running the same radio ad at the same time every day is usually more effective as the same people get to hear it multiple times. 

If you’re on a tight budget, you can cut the length of your ad, advertise on a smaller radio station, or pick a more affordable time of day.

3. Craft a compelling radio ad

Your radio ad should be simple, unique, and memorable for listeners to remember and take the desired action. Make sure to include the following elements:

  • A short and simple message: Make your radio ad as short and simple as possible with a singular focus. Include only the most relevant information you want to convey and the important elements of the campaign, so listeners can easily follow along.
  • Unique selling point: Your competitors’ ads may sound great, but it doesn’t mean you should copy their concept or format. Make your ad memorable by including unique aspects that capture attention and touch your audience in a creative way.
  • Strong branding: Make sure listeners clearly understand your brand, what it does, and the message you’re trying to convey. The ad is, after all, meant to promote your business and product/service. 
  • Professional, well-pitched voiceover: There are no visual elements in radio ads, which means the narrator will do all the work. Go for professional, well-pitched, powerful voiceovers that match your brand voice, are memorable, and evoke the desired emotions and actions in listeners.
  • High-quality production value: Listeners will easily understand your radio ad if it’s well-produced, and that leaves a good impression of your brand in their minds. Use features like Studio Sound and AI Voices in Descript to create more impactful, professional ads. 
  • Consistent messaging: The best ads are the ones you can identify by voice and music even before hearing the message. Ensure consistency in the brand voice, messaging, and music, no matter the season or mood. 
  • Familiarity: Have a familiar structure listeners can identify in the first few seconds of hearing your ads. Use your jingle and preferred tagline regularly in your ads—like El-Jay Plumbing and Heating’s “Because excellence begins with E.” Use familiar elements the same way each time, whether it’s in the beginning, at the end, or in the background. 

A great script, high-quality voiceovers, and other elements are important for your ad, but it doesn’t mean you have to fork out lots of cash to hire a recording studio, expert copywriters, and professional voiceover artists or actors. 

If you have experience with scripting, copywriting, and voiceover acting, you can create a radio ad yourself. 

All you need to record your ad is a good microphone, the right environment, and Descript. Do a few test recordings, then improve the audio in a few clicks using Descript’s AI-powered features to produce high-quality, professional-sounding ads.

Descript does more than create radio ads—it’s also a great tool for creating videos, podcasts, social media ads, GIFs, and more. Or use it to add a pre-recorded commercial to a podcast. Cut filler words, long pauses, or any ad-libbed lines that sound stilted. Then, save, export, or publish your clips to YouTube or your preferred podcast hosting platform—all in one app. 

Whether you’re crafting the ad yourself or collaborating with others, Descript is an ideal choice for producing clear, slick radio commercials that captivate listeners.

If you still need help making quality, consistent, and memorable ads that deliver great marketing results, try the following options:

  • Have the station do it for you: Some radio stations offer to craft radio ads for free while others charge an extra fee depending on who’s working on the ad. 
  • Hire an agency: Working with a professional production company ensures you get high-quality, effective radio ads. Such agencies offer services ranging from copywriting to voiceovers, and more, but it’s a costlier option.
  • Hire a freelance producer: If you need a radio ad in the shortest time possible, find talented freelance writers or copywriters with advertising or marketing backgrounds and experience to craft it for you at a small fee.

4 best radio advertising examples

It’s one thing to discuss the theory and practice of creating great radio ads. But it’s something else entirely to see real businesses put it into practice. Here are a few we admire:

Geico’s "Gecko" campaign

Insurance is a peculiar, intangible, and hard-to-sell product because it won’t benefit the buyer until sometime in the future. 

Historically, insurance companies usually advertised the same way using a somber voice and warnings about life’s hazards to instill a sense of fear about the future.  

GEICO took a new approach with its memorable, humorous radio ad campaigns—and a gecko—completely disrupting insurance advertising and putting the company on the map.

Why it works:

  • Simple ad scripts with compelling storylines
  • Includes novel, creative, and lovable characters
  • Cleverly applies humor to portray the main theme
  • Ends with simple one-liner
  • Prioritizes quality production value 

Budweiser’s "Wassup" campaign

Budweiser shouted its way into listeners’ minds with its simple but infectious “Wassup” campaign about friends greeting each other. 

Inspired by True, a short film directed by Charles Stone III, the award-winning campaign helped usher in a new age of viral hits and urban culture in advertising.

The company needed a good old-fashioned catchphrase to replace its long-running “This Bud’s for you” ad. And they found one from the short film, which featured a group of Black men phoning each other while watching sport on TV with gleeful yells of “wassup?”

“Wassup” became an instant pop culture phenomenon, helping Budweiser sell more beer and snag multiple advertising awards—including the Cannes Grand Prix and a Grand Clio. Countless other iterations of the ad have appeared since it originally aired, including Budweiser’s partnership with Uber. 

Why it works:

  • Simple ad idea around the universal principle of friendship
  • Natural, relatable, everyday moment of four “bros”
  • Short catchphrase that resonates with listeners

McDonald's "I'm Lovin' It" jingle

Out of all the earworms you’ve hummed, it’s hard to deny the appeal of McDonald's “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle. 

The company needed a winning idea at a time when its chain stock was plummeting owing to attacks on its unhealthy food and legal suits about obesity.

McDonald’s challenged 14 ad agencies to pitch a new, unified global campaign that works in every language and connects with people of every culture. 

Soon, the “I’m’ lovin’ it” earworm burrowed its way into listeners’ minds, living on beyond its originally scheduled two years. It remains one of the most popular and recognizable commercial jingles worldwide.

Why it works: 

  • Simple, flexible, easy to understand idea
  • Simple, catchy melody
  • Reaches different audiences in the target market
  • Translatable and effective in different languages and cultures

KitKat’s "Give Me a Break" jingle

KitKat’s “Give me a break” jingle has repeatedly been recognized among the most memorable advertising jingles of all time. It’s even been remixed in various genres, including New Wave, 90’s Hip Hop, Country, Metal, and Latin beats.

What was supposed to be a throwaway song ended up becoming a smash hit for KitKat that led to Hersheys building a new factory to keep up with demand for the product. 

The jingle has been synonymous with KitKat and its iconic “breakable” bars, and continually reminds consumers of the delicious wafer-filled chocolate candy. 

Why it works:

  • Simple, catchy and easy to remember song
  • Relatable and relevant as it associates taking a break with delicious chocolate bar
  • Humor and clever wordplay makes the ad stand out

Want to make unforgettable radio ads? Edit and mix your ad with Descript’s audio editing software. Take a free product tour today

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