Should Radio Commercials Always Offer a Toll-Free 800 number?
By Robert W. Bly
For decades, the go-to call-to-action (CTA) for radio commercials has been an 800 number, usually repeated 3 times.
Today 800-numbers still remain the preferred CTA for radio. However, an increasing number of radio spots today omit the 800 number -- and offer response by web URL or text only.
But is doing away with the 800 number really a good idea? My Facebook friend JL says that not having an 800 number is bad.
The reason, JL says, is that a CTA that requires a URL or text -- while omitting the 800 number -- ignores a significant swath of the market—and the richest: baby boomers. According to CNBC, boomers have 10X more wealth than millennials.
JC comments: "A phone number is hard to remember, while a long website name is impossible to remember." But AM disagrees: "A URL is fine if it's easy to remember; Chicagoblinds.com is going to be easier to retain than 800-532-1275."
MS says: "I think it's a terrible idea to do away with the 800 number. Multiple
mechanisms win over singular ways."
DM: "Driving in a car listening to radio, it's kind of hard to write down a web or Facebook address, especially if it's a long one. It also profiles what to expect in terms of getting a live voice for help."
Copywriter KK opines: “Having a phone number is a helpful asset as a lot of people find a phone number easier to remember than a website. Also, a website that is pitched in an ad sometimes has too many upsells, demands to much, and people get skeptical.”
He continues: “It seems like having a simple squeeze page that is solely set up for the radio ads -- and a dedicated phone line, with a person who actually answers the call and also replies to texts -- would help convert prospects into leads into customers.”
Business owner CB weights in: “Radio is not dead as a medium for advertising. The ROI for my companies is fantastic. Those driving can more easily, using Bluetooth, voice-direct their phone to call a number—making engaging so much easier than using a URL.”
Digital marketing agency owner SA suggest: “Perhaps the company name repeated 3 times is even easier to remember than a phone number. That way, all the listener has to do is a quick Google search when they get home to find the website URL, phone number, email address, or contact page.”
"Restricting the CTA to web savvy responders excludes everyone else," says marketing consultant Bob Martel. "If that's the advertiser's intent, they should advertise on the Web."
Bob also says:
1. Most people can recall an 800 number repeated 3 times; not so much a URL.
2. Why text instead of a call? No stand-by operators? Are they screening responses? No dedicated phone line? What text message do they want? What happens after that?
3. The URL is probably a landing page with a longer pitch and another CTA.
BTW, decades ago, when I was a kid, Sheraton ran TV and radio commercials with their 800 number integrated into their jingle... and I still remember that phone number today!
Oh, and please don't email me saying YOU never listen to radio, or that nobody listens to radio anymore: According to MediaTracks.com, 92% of Americans age 18 and older listen to the radio every week.
About the author:
Robert W. Bly is a freelance copywriter with 40 years of experience. He has written copy for over 100 clients including General Electric, AT&T, Forbes, IBM, and CoreStates Bank. His website is www.bly.com.