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  • Frank Gussoni

Length Matters! Radio Spots: Designed for Success

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Until approximately 15 years ago, most radio ads were priced essentially the same, regardless of their length. It was an inventory-based system, so most advertisers chose to run 60 second spots for the money, which forced all of us to spend way too much time listening to radio ads. As that began to change, ads were priced according to the length of the spot, and advertisers were faced with a new, but very important, question: What ad length is going to generate the best result and best ROI? Still today, some 15 years later, some brands are still having a difficult time making this decision.

Some brands believe that shorter is better and that the brevity of a 15 second radio ad is all that is needed to get the audience’s attention. Others argue that 60 second spots are needed in order to be informative and engage the audience with their important message. I agree with both, but only under the proper circumstances. A radio ad should be no longer than is needed to complete its mission, which is to inform, convince and deliver.

The length of a radio ad should always be determined by what needs to be said and how long is needed to say it well. Businesses need to tailor the length of a radio ad to accommodate the message being conveyed. Don’t set your message based on the cost of the spot.

Here are some guidelines to think about before you develop your radio message.

60-second ads should be used when:

• If your message is complicated, then a 60 second commercial that clearly explains your message is better than a 30 that may leave doubt and questions.

• Use the 60 to tell your story. Set the picture and make sure to include specific details that help to engage, persuade and bring the story home.

• Specifics are always more believable than general statements. Answer the questions that listeners may have. Don’t put them to sleep by answering questions no one was asking.

• If you’re brand is new or in a new service category, make it clearly understood what you are selling. If you must create a need for the listener before you can sell your solution, it can easily take 60 seconds.

30-second ads should be used when:

• If your product or service is clearly understood and you’re making an easy-to-understand offer. State your message plain and simple. Rid your ads of everything possible but the most important adjectives and adverbs.

• Substitute common and predictable phrases with wording that is distinct and unpredictable. Focus on action words and use as many as possible. Make one very impactful point per spot.

Use 15-second ads when:

• If you have a very powerful and simple message, don’t try to fill it with babble just to run a 30, when you can say it more powerfully in 15 seconds. Many advertisers fall into the trap of buying 30’s because they appear more economical, since many stations aren’t eager to sell 15’s at a discounted rate. But it is difficult to write an effective spot that uncovers the crucial, core message and be powerful in only 15 seconds. However, when done correctly, short, powerful messages are worth the effort.

• If you’re in a business category where you are the only advertiser in a market and your competition has allowed you to become the dominant force in your market, then name recognition will likely be enough to make customers think of your name when they need want what you sell. Don’t overspend, buy 15-second ads and mentions.

Use mentions when:

• If your business is in a crowded marketplace and the strategy is to build name recognition and brand awareness and rise above the noise of your competition.

• You need to add more frequency to a full schedule of 30’s or 60’s. Personally, I believe that mentions should never be calculated into the R&F analysis of a full-length schedule.

The “true” schedule should deliver the desired reach and frequency on its own. Mentions are just the “gravy” for these schedules. Like gravy, they’re honestly not worth that much by themselves but in unison with the full course meal, they can certainly enhance the flavor of the dish!

The biggest mistake a radio advertiser can make is allowing the ad budget to dictate the length of the ad. Never try to get by with 15’s and mentions when you really need 30’s and 60’s.

Consider reducing the number of people you’re trying to reach rather than cutting the length of the ad. Otherwise, it’s just more people listening to an ad they won’t understand and that won’t compel them to want your product or service. Messages need to be constructed by the messaging needs, first and foremost.



President & Founder of A3 media.

We’re Type A. We transform media from an expense into a smart investment.

Frank’s Take provides uncommon sense media buying advice for regional and mid-market businesses.

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President & Founder of A3 media. We’re Type A. We transform media from an expense into a smart investment.

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