March 15, 2011
The average production budget for a national television commercial is hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some cost much more than a million. The average production cost for a national radio commercial is less than one-tenth the cost of television production.
The effectiveness of a television spot is very often dependent on the dollars that go into producing it. Television is a more passive medium. They're not just telling you the story, they're showing you the visuals and those visuals cost a fortune to produce. It's much less expensive (and often more effective) to let the listeners create their own visuals on radio.
With radio, the listeners' imaginations do the work and have the fun ... if it's well crafted. On radio the best storytellers win. It's definitely a writer's medium. The concept in a radio spot has much more power than the concept in a television spot.
A television commercial with a great concept without the production dollars to pull it off will often fall flat. Viewers accustomed to high production values don't distinguish between a local commercial and a national commercial. They just know that they paid attention to one and ignored the other.
On radio, a great concept doesn't need a huge budget to make it work. For pennies, a few well-crafted words presented by a single well-chosen voice can out-pull the most lavishly expensive radio commercial in the world. Writing radio is not easy, but it's the place where the idea can rise above production value and can triumph.
I may be preaching to the choir here, but it's a good reminder that radio's playing field is much more level. You and your clients should rejoice. Please, promise me you'll use this power only for good.