Luke Sullivan Deserves Praise For Praising Radio

Radio advertising. Just the mention of it makes many copywriters cringe and puts everyone else in advertising to sleep. It’s been bludgeoned by not only iPods, satellite radio and Pandora, but also DJ live reads and radio stations that produce them in-house as a freebie when advertisers buy time. The majority of it sucks: it’s formulaic, insulting, and crams way too much information into too little time.
So it’s refreshing to hear Luke Sullivan sing the praises of great radio advertising in his blog post entitled, Get Great At Writing Radio And You’ll Probably Always Have A Job.

As long as there are carpenters, lifeguards, and cars, there’s gonna be radio.
Even if the day comes when the internet gets wired directly into our brains, anybody who can write a great radio spot will probably have a job somewhere in this business.

Luke’s going to be featuring great radio campaigns on his blog, and I’m sure he’ll pick some great ones. As for the “you’ll always have a job” bit, well, I’m not so sure.
Personally, I think Luke’s right about how great radio can be. And I love writing radio spots. I happen to think I’m very good at it, and I’ve won a few awards for my radio spots, although I haven’t written a ton of them. Yet, when I track the page visits to my online portfolio, the radio page nearly always gets overlooked. No recruiters or Creative Directors I know are asking about radio or looking for it in books. Consequently, students and junior writers don’t learn to do it well, and it’s getting devalued in the media mix. It’s a self-perpetuating downward spiral.
Still, it’s a great medium for writers. I did the best radio spots for a client who would nitpick every detail of a 1/4 page newspaper ad, but didn’t care about the radio–so I had free reign to have some fun. It’s also the great leveler of writers: There’s no big-budget month-long TV shoots, no gorgeous layouts, no wacky Flash animation to hide behind. And while the production values of studio engineers and VO talents make a difference, you can walk in to nearly any studio with a limited budget and walk out with a great radio spot.
Radio isn’t dead, yet. But it needs good copywriters who can resuscitate it.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. A while back I wrote a set of commercials for featuring the late, great voice of Peter Graves. It was good radio and won prizes. That said I’ve always loathed the interruption of music or talk radio by advertising. Magazine ads don’t bother me. TV ads don’t bother me. Billboards don’t bother me. Radio ads, even the so-called good ones, have always bugged the crap out of me. Not sure why…

  2. Thx Dan. Will have fun posting fave radio spots. And even though I love Bud’s Real Men of Genius, I promise I wont be talking about those. There’s other good radio out there too.

  3. Though I don’t want to put words in Luke’s mouth, I *think* what he meant when he said you’ll always have a job if you can write good radio is that:
    a) The format is flexible. Even if “radio” dies, there’s always a place for great audio-driven ads. And as the music industry continues to evolve, I expect we’ll see more advertising efforts embedded in online radio and the like.
    b) If you can write great radio, you can probably write great anything. Even if those CDs aren’t looking at your radio scripts, focusing on radio makes all your other work better.
    (If that’s not what he meant, I apologize. Furthermore, I then take credit for stating the above opinion, because I think it’s a good one.)

  4. Mario, you might be right, particularly on point b. But I think where I diverge with Luke is because these days, hardly anyone pays attention to radio when evaluating creative talent (read: looking through books or CW websites).
    Certainly ad agencies these days aren’t looking for writers with “terrific radio.” They want interactive or TV, or some other specialty. So while someone may be, in fact, capable of writing great radio, which would make them a great candidate for some other writing gig, who would know? Who would care? But hey, it might be my personal experiences clouding my judgment.

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