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Knowing When to Kill a Commercial

After 30 years of selling, writing, and placing commercials on radio and TV, there is one important lesson I have learned that has saved my clients and me a ton of money. If you’ve written a successful radio or TV ad, you’ll know it the first time it airs. If it doesn’t drive calls or web hits immediately, no amount of frequency will improve its performance.

Years ago when I was a new radio sales rep, my manager sat me down and gave me an extensive sales training where he handed me The Yellow Pages and told me to start “smiling and dialing.” Then he revealed the three most important words in radio sales, “Frequency. Frequency. Frequency!” You see, it was common in those days to get a client on the air and after a week of 40 run-of-schedule spots, you would call them to see how they worked. After an uncomfortable silence, they would say, “Were we running this week? We haven’t received any phone calls.” When I would ask my sales manager why the spots were not working, he would undoubtedly say, “Your client didn’t run enough. They need more frequency!”

Well, as you can imagine, it never goes over well when you call your client back and tell them their radio schedule is tanking because they aren’t running enough spots. It gets even worse when you suggest they double what they are spending and keep running the failing spot for at least 13 more weeks for any chance of making back their investment. Usually, they hung up on me, threatened to call a lawyer or both. I relived this nightmare scenario many times in my first few years in radio sales and the rule has never changed. If my spot doesn’t work immediately, I’m dead.

Yes, quality always trumps quantity when it comes to successful ads. That lesson has saved my clients and I more money than one could imagine.