Turbo-charge your Christmas radio campaigns

Here are some simple tips, all based on good programming practices, to apply to your radio advertising to improve your chances of cutting through this time of year.

Traditionally, Christmas-time advertising fills up radio spot logs to breaking point. It’s make-or-break season for every retailer, car dealership, ISP, cellphone network, gym chain, fast-food outlet and so on. From January to mid-October, most radio shows run three 3-minute spot breaks. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, these stretch to around five minutes each — meaning your 30” generic ad is now competing for attention with up to nine other spots, fighting for a listener who barely pays attention at the best of times.

What’s in it for the listener?

Ask yourself this before you turn on the mic. As appealing/clever/interesting you think your message is, why should listeners care? How do they benefit from what you’re saying? Then lead with this.

Keep it simple

I saw some Nielsen research which found, on average, that listeners are aware of less than 1 second of 30 seconds of airtime — and that doesn’t even mean they’ve taken in what you’re saying. This insight strengthens the argument for frequency of spots but also makes you aware of how concise your ad should be.


Not just in how often you play the spot, but how often you enforce your simple message.

What is your one instruction and how do you say it simply, over and over in the same on-air moment? I often get clients sending me feedback that the copy we’ve supplied them is too repetitive and that we’re saying the same thing in different ways. That’s very intentional — it’s frequency of a simple message packed into one on-air moment.

Speak like people speak

My major bugbear with spots I hear is that people just don’t talk like that. A standard spot break is going to be preceded by natural conversation between presenters with great chemistry, who make the audience feel like part of the team. To then follow with over-scripted, hard-selling, over-dramatic voices in the ad breaks that connection instantly.

I know there is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing when writing scripts and recording sessions sometimes need a court stenographer, but, you know what, it hurts no one if you just let the voice artist be real and “unscripted”.

Avoid audio overload

When I was at the stations, this time of year we tended to under-produce our promos and recorded spots. Fewer whizzes and bangs, lighter music (if any music at all), toned-down sound and voice effects etc. It’s December, there’s a lot going on, people are tired and don’t need to be bombarded because you think you’re being creative.

I’ve found that this time of year standing out might simply mean standing down.


by Paulo Dias