The CEO: Your In-House DR Secret Weapon
After years A/B tests, Last Minute Media Deals continually proves its theory that having a company’s owner/CEO voicing its spots, out performs, on a cost per call and conversion basis, highly produced advertising agency spots every time.
At Last Minute Media Deals, we’ve built our success in direct-response radio by creating commercials that don’t sound like advertising. 95% of radio commercials are wallpaper; generic announcers reading paint-by-numbers copy, sandwiched between clichés and slickly-produced platitudes. This creative desert has opened up a truck-sized hole where anything that feels real and credible to an audience commands its attention.
Whenever possible we use passionate, non-professional voices in our radio spots. The best person to accept that challenge has always been our client’s CEO. CEOs are typically perfectionists and that’s why they’re masters at what they do, but our creative strategy can cause problems at the onset of a campaign. Whenever we approach one to read their own radio ads we’re always prepared to handle the same answer, “I can’t do it. I have a I terrible voice.” Our response is always the same, “That’s why we want your voice on the spot.” That’s usually the moment when they give us the “Why the hell did we hire you guys?” look. Every other agency would placate the skeptical CEO and try to produce something slick, but we work on performance and only make money if the ad succeeds. Slick doesn’t always mean successful. It usually means the opposite. That’s why we double down and ask the CEO once more to voice a spot and they’ll usually say, “Ok…As a test.”
The CEO is usually the most effective spokesperson for multiple reasons. First, in a world where most consumers never meet the people that own the businesses they frequent, feeling familiar with the person behind the company is powerful. Plus, a CEO brings a palpable passion that a typical ad could never muster. A perfect example is our client, Aaron Adrim, from California Deluxe Windows. He’s his company’s biggest cheerleader and comes off as 100% genuine in his spots. And the fact that he’s on radio with a thick Latvian accent shows that he’s opening himself up and being vulnerable is very endearing. In fact, vulnerability is one of Psychologist Pam Holloway’s seven components of likeability. “[People] who are able to admit mistakes or show a sensitivity, are seen as more likeable.”
Plus, another huge benefit to having CEOs record their own spots, is the opportunity to have them improvise and freestyle their ads. This has created many happy accidents and in most cases, we get a much more natural-sounding take. A generic announcer is never familiar enough with the product to do so. CEOs know their products soup to nuts and have an intimate, honed concept of which benefits connect with people.
People can smell authenticity a mile away. They begrudgingly tolerate hyperbole in advertising because they understand the price of doing business. That’s when something 100% authentic rings clear as a bell. Consumers have been trained to tune out selling since the age of three, so when they have a real person tell a compelling story about a product, and understand how that message benefits them, you’ve made a rare human-to-human connection. Nowhere is that more evident than with mortgage companies. According to Last Minute Media Deals’ Creative Director, Rich Kagan, “We’ve seen a 20% pop in calls with mortgage companies when the CEO voices the spot. It’s hard to make a mortgage spot sexy, because people want to work with a lender that’s serious. The only hope is that you can get a guy out there with some personality that people trust.” Blaine Parker, author of “Million Dollar Mortgage Radio,” agrees. “There’s a client who’s been on the air at one of our stations for what feels like a decade…but he’s one of the good guys and he voices his own ads. They sound incredibly rough. And you know what? It works. He sounds like a regular, friendly guy. His lack of veneer or polish gives him a certain charm. It makes him sound like somebody you can trust. His commercials work.”
Last Minute Media Deals had particular success with Verengo Solar by using its CEO, Randy Bishop in its ads. To let you in a on a little secret, when introducing a relatively new brand to a broadcast audience, we usually start with a celebrity endorsement then move on to the CEO. With Verengo, we started out with actor, environmentalist, and star of Disney’s “Up,” Ed Asner. After Ed’s cantankerous spots gave the brand some traction we introduced the CEO, Randy Bishop, in a radio commercial titled, “Five Minute Call.” Randy was reticent because he was a numbers guy and not exactly the most animated person to voice the ad. Last Minute Media Deals A/B tested the “Five Minute Call” ad with a generic announcer against and Bishop’s version and the CEO won out big time. In fact, the Randy Bishop creative had a 21% lower CPQD (cost per in-home appointment) than creative featuring a generic announcer. Proving, once again, that a dry-sounding CEO that exudes credibility will beat out a trained, expressive, voice actor just about every time.
Now, as with anything in DR, the CEO rule isn’t a magic bullet. CEOs that sound aloof or try to sell too hard can tank an ad. A common criticism for using CEOs in radio spots is that with an unprofessional spokesperson, it’s harder to create in an attention-grabbing opening line, one of the hallmarks of good DR. But Kagan thinks it’s still worth it. “We trade the attention-grabber for authenticity which is attention-grabbing in and of itself. Especially when our ad runs after a generic-sounding spot, just having a different-sounding voice really stands out.”