Tag Archives: radio

The Power of Audio Triggers

This weekend, we drove past an auto repair place in Tucson, and as we passed by, I heard from an open bay the unmistakable sound of a pneumatic wrench taking the lug nuts off a tire:

Here’s what it sounded like…

In that brief instant, I was immediately ten years old again, hanging out in the original Slater’s Garage in Woodridge, NY, listening to my uncles work on giant mid-70’s model American-made cars while my brother and I dismantled old carburetors they gave us to keep us busy until it was time to go fishing. The memory was so strong, and so concentrated for that moment, it was quite remarkable, if not a little disconcerting.

Here’s another great example. One of my friends posted this on Facebook this week, and it immediately conjured some VERY strong childhood memories of getting ready to watch the Charlie Brown holiday specials CBS aired back in the 70’s.

It made me start thinking about how we use sound effects in radio ads. Just like a song can take you to a certain place or time in your life, ANY sound can act as a trigger in a listener’s mind, to effect, if you will, a desired emotion or response.

But the key is to make sure the sounds work WITH the copy, and not independently of it. Sounds (and background music) must work to strengthen the emotional connection your spot seeks to build. There has to be a cohesive reason for the sound to be there if you hope to not only get (and hold) a listener’s attention, but also evoke a strong enough emotional response to get the listener to act upon, or at the very least, remember the advertiser’s message. (Just as an aside, this is why I’m perpetually confused by explosion sound effects in car commercials: In addition to being cliché to the point of ridicule, is “kaboom” really a sound you want people to hear when you’re trying to sell ’em a car?)

Don’t underestimate the power of a sound effect, a jingle, musical hook, or some other audio cue in your advertising to help you make that emotional connection with your listener.  Of course, the other part of this equation is making sure you run an advertising schedule with enough FREQUENCY to make sure that trigger is repeated and remembered.


8 Voiceover Tips for Beginners

I spent some time this week recording some radio spots for my friends at Sephone Interactive Media.  They host my web site, and are my general go-to guys for all things web-related.  Incredible team.

The series of radio spots I’m producing for them have a small section recorded by each of the team members, followed by a common closing recorded by me.  As I packed up my gear after the session, they asked me, “What tips can you give us to help us improve?”  So I thought I’d post a few of them here.  Bear in mind, this post is gonna be strictly about technique.  We can cover WHAT to say in another post.

I’ve recorded LOTS of clients over the years, and many of them are new to voicing their own spots.  Whenever I meet a new client for a first-time recording session, this is what I tell ‘em.

1)  Be yourself.  You’re not an announcer, and it’s totally OK if you don’t have “that voice.”  You WANT to sound like you.  Authenticity is key in people believing your message.  It’s even OK to work with your engineer/director/producer to rewrite parts of your script on the fly, to make it fit better with the way you naturally speak.

2)  If possible, stand to read.   If not, at least sit up tall.  And hold your script at eye level, so you don’t have to look down to read it.  This will pinch your airway, and affect how you sound.

3)  Position yourself with your mouth about one fist’s width away from the microphone, and speak across the mic – with your head slightly off center — rather than directly into it.  This’ll eliminate popping P’s and B’s, and improve overall quality of the recording.

4)  Smile as you read.  People CAN hear smiles. (If your spot is a happy one, of course)

5)  Over-emote.  Now OVER-over-emote.  If you’d like to convey a mood of happiness, then read as if you’re crazy-happy.  If it’s a sad, or sincere piece, then furrow your brow, and really ooze that sincerity.  No matter how far over the top you may feel like you’re going, it never sounds as overboard on the air.

6)  Envision yourself talking TO someone.  Imagine your ideal customer, or potential customer, and speak to him or her.  And imagine ony ONE person.  While your message may be heard by many, the best impact is made when each person listening feels like you’re speaking only to him or her.

7)  Practice.  Most of the time, you’ll have your script in advance of the session, so practice it.   Try different deliveries, different inflections, and so on.  This will help you with pace, and timing, as well as help you feel less self-conscious about “performing” at the session.

8)  Relax, and have fun!  This is your chance to “play radio” for awhile, and break out of your comfort zone, so enjoy it!  I’m here to do one thing: Help you be clear in conveying your message, and we’ll stay until you’re happy with the result.

These tips don’t just apply to radio, either.  Podcasting and online video are also becoming viable media outlets for businesses to communicate with their customers.   If you’ve thought about starting a podcast or a YouTube channel to help market your business, these tips will assuredly help you there, too.

Got any other tips?  By all means, share ‘em in the comments section.   And thanks, as always, for reading.  Good luck!

Equipment: My Favorite Headphones

When I started in the radio business, I knew very little about the technical side of the equipment I used.  I knew what sounded good to me, and I knew what I could afford.  So when I bought my first set of headphones in 1993, I tried a couple different ones, read some reviews, and bought a pair of Sony MDR-7506‘s.  They cost me about a hundred bucks, they sounded great, and they were pretty durable.  Today, I still don’t know about impedance, frequency response, magnets or drivers.  But I’ve picked up roughly a half-dozen pairs of those Sony’s over the years since that initial purchase, and they still sound awesome to me.

Pros:  They’re affordable.  $130 on the Sony website, but I’ve never paid that much for ’em.  You’ll find a pair at B&H Photo and Video for $79.

They’re “over-the-ear” as opposed to “on-ear” or “in-ear.”  They do a great job of eliminating outside noise, and prohibiting “headphone bleed” while your mic is on.

They comfortable, they’re light, and they’re durable.  The pair I use today (and that I use every day) I got back in 2004.  When I was working in radio day-to-day, my headphones got a LOT of use.  Between air shift and production studio, I probably took them on and off about fifty times a day.  Yeah, they wore out, but this was beyond normal wear-and-tear.  And the sound never faltered.  It was usually the foam around the earpieces that wore out.  I compare it to the thin spots your favorite jeans get around the knees over time.

They come with a screw-in adapter, so the jack will fit both 1/4″ and 1/8″ inch ports.  They fold up, and come with a leather pouch for storage when not in use.

Most importantly, they sound terrific.  Basses are bass-y (but not overly so), and sound reproduction is as accurate as my ears can discern.  DJ’s, audio engineers, videographers, even amateur audiophiles will get hundreds of hours out of these headphones with great results.

Cons:  Honestly, I don’t have any.  I’ve been a satisfied customer for years.

There are a lot of really expensive headphones available, some upwards of $2700 (which also gets you Ethiopian sheepskin leather earpads), but c’mon.  Really?  For functionality, durability, sound and price, the Sony MDR-7506’s beat the pants off of Ethiopian sheepskin anytime.

Bob’s Music Cafe: Some Tasty Production Music

Whether you need music for audio or video production, the hunt for a good music library can take you to some interesting places.  And depending on what you find, it’s not always easy to tell what the licensing rights are for many of the songs and libraries that show up in your search.

I found Bob’s Music Cafe awhile back.   They’re modern,high-quality beds that offer a variety of formats, including Rock, Country, Jazz, Top 40, and Classical, plus some specialty stuff like holiday beds and Imaging Effects.

Best of all, they’re affordable, and they’re 100% buyout, which means that one price gets you the non-exclusive license to use that music however you like: audio or video production, commercial or non- .

If you’re in the market to freshen your library a bit, but may not have a huge budget to do so, give these guys a try.

A Vacation from “Staycation”

That’s the term advertisers and the media use to describe a vacation where you don’t actually travel. You stay home, or stay close to home.

But you already knew that, because it’s everywhere. Every swimming pool dealer’s commercial invites you to “take a Staycation.” The big-box stores remind you that “it’s Staycation season.” Every news story about high gas prices remind you that “the new trend nowadays is the ‘Staycation.'”

If you’re a business who’s tempted to join the “Staycation” clamor to advertise your services, may I invite you to… umm… how can I say this delicately… use another word? Be the stand-alone voice among seasonal advertisers. Be different. Be memorable. Don’t conform. If everyone else’s ads say, “Staycation,” let yours say something unique. So, what’s another word for “Staycation?” Let’s see if we can invent a few. How ’bout:

Home-roam. Nest-rest. Trip-skip. Holi-stay. Non-voyage (rhymes with “bon voyage”).

I’m sure with a little more thought, we could think of other (and probably better) examples, but the idea is to come up with something no one else is using, so that your ads, your message, and your business don’t blend in with the din of advertising that so often passes unnoticed through the senses of the people you’re trying to reach.

In these days of economic belt-tightening and economizing, you gotta make sure you’re getting your money’s worth from every ad you run. Make sure you’re saying something unique. Make sure your ads are remembered.

Direct Mail Likes Radio

You know Val-Pak?  That’s the thick blue envelope you get in your mailbox every couple months that’s just chock FULL of UNBELIEVABLE savings, with coupons for area businesses, and even for a few businesses that aren’t anywhere near where you live.  Dunno about you, but I throw mine away without even opening the envelope.

Anyhoo, today, I heard an ad for Val-Pak on the RADIO.  Think about that for a second:  The direct mail advertisers are using radio to tell you to check your mailbox for all these great coupons.  Funny, since they just signed up a whole bunch of clients by telling them how great and how effective direct mail is.

Back on the Blogwagon

I had kept a blog for awhile several months back, but kind of abandoned it. I tried to return to it a few days ago, but I forgot all my usernames and passwords and couldn’t get back in, so I guess my old blog has found its way to the internet equivalent of the dead letter office. Ah, well, I’m hoping this will be a better experience for you and me both.

A little background. I’m an advertising developer whose forte is in radio. I worked for several years as a DJ and Production guy, writing, producing and voicing radio spots. In 2005, I started my own production company, Slater’s Garage Ads & Audio. The name is an homage to a garage my family owns in upstate New York. They repair cars, I repair advertising. I still predominantly do radio ads and other audio production. But this year, I discovered video — particularly online video sites like YouTube — and am gradually learning the power these sites have to bring Brands and Consumers together.

I think there’s something happening online, and I think Brands need to be aware of it. Other marketing gurus have blogged about it before, but it bears repeating. People are talking about you. Good stories (hopefully), bad stories, sharing experiences with your product, or your store… Don’t believe me? Google yourself. I bet you’ll be surprised at what you find. And due to the nature of blogs and the internet, more people than ever are paying attention to the stories being told. It’s exciting, dontcha think?

As I move forward in this new blog adventure, I hope to share some of my own experiences exploring this new medium (well, new to me, anyway), and document my learning as I go. It really is a lot of fun, and I’d love to bring you along.