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Rock the radio waves

October 11, 2010
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Picture it: A woman hops in her dirty, dusty car after work and tunes to her normal radio station. Following her favorite song an advertisement comes on explaining a special promotion a nearby carwash is having. The woman glances at her watch and decides she has just enough time to pop into the wash before she heads home to make dinner.

And that is how a good radio spot can help increase business at any carwash. Several factors increase the odds that a radio ad will turn a person who hadn't even thought about a wash into a person on his or her way to purchase a wash.

Get to the point

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when creating a radio spot is that no one enjoys listening to advertisements. They are the annoyances that interrupt the music and bore the listener.

Therefore, sometimes the best selling technique is to keep the ad short and simple. An ad that gets to the point quickly without irritating the listener has a better chance of selling a product than a long drawn out spot does.

Ron Slone, the vice president of Hoffman Carwashes in upstate New York told Professional Carwashing & Detailing® that generally his company does either a 10-second or 30-second spot, but tends to lean more heavily towards the shorter ads.

Slone said that it's wise to keep things simple and stick to one or two main points that the listener should take away. According to Slone, if a wash owner tries to say too much in an ad, they may actually end up saying nothing at all, or nothing that the listener will remember.

Stationing it right

If the location is everything for the carwash site then the station is everything for the carwash radio ad. If an owner doesn't place his ad with the right radio stations then the wrong listeners or no listeners at all will hear the spot.

Wade Welch, owner of Fast Break Express Car Wash in Mission, TX, recently won the Maxi Award for the best radio spot from the International Carwash Association (ICA) at the 2005 Car Care World Expo.

When Welch opened his site he said he wanted to hit the ground running hard, which to him meant placing his radio spot on four different stations, each chosen because of their market share and diversity. He chose to advertise on the top local stations including:

  • Country;
  • Talk;
  • Oldies; and
  • Sports radio.

After determining what stations have the best ratings and the largest listener demographics, owners must decide how many stations to run their ad on at one time.

Slone said that Hoffman Carwashes tend to run ads heavy on various stations for shorter periods of time. According to Slone, he feels that when the ad is run on fewer stations for a longer period of time it doesn't reach as many listeners.

Jack Anthony, owner of 7 Flags Car Wash, Vallejo, CA, suggests that owners first determine who their customers are before choosing what stations to run their spot on.

Carwash owners can find out who is visiting their site by handing out basic surveys that ask for the customer's:

  • Age;
  • Ethnicity;
  • Occupation;
  • City of residence, and so on.

Once an owner knows who is frequenting the wash he or she can better gear the advertisement toward those individuals and place the spot on an appropriate station.

Owners must also decide if they want to branch out to other stations to entice a new kind of customer to their wash.

Timing is everything

A wash owner can easily choose the best radio station in town, but if the spot isn't played when people are listening, the response rate will be poor.

Slone told PC&D that with an impulse business such as carwashing, it's important that people hear the spot when they're in their car, for instance on their way to work, on their lunch break or on their way home from work.

By focusing on mostly the a.m. and p.m. drive times, the radio spot targets people who are already moving and who have a greater chance of steering their vehicle toward the wash than a person sitting at home would have of getting off the couch and driving there.

Jingle jangle

Almost everyone has had a catchy jingle stick in their mind; they find themselves humming the memorable tune sometimes hours after hearing the original advertisement.

This is just one example of how having a jingle, a familiar catch phrase, or a theme song on a radio spot can help keep a specific carwash in a listener's mind.

Anthony had a jingle created over 10 years ago and said that he believes a well-done jingle can definitely enhance a carwash's radio spot. He said that it helps the listener remember that particular site and sets it apart from other competitors.

Anthony's radio spots vary in length from around 30-seconds to 60-seconds, and he said they sometimes doughnut the jingle by playing it at the beginning, silencing it so the voice-over can explain the important information, and then playing the jingle again at the end.

Slone said that Hoffman's doesn't use a jingle, however, they have tried to remain consistent with the sound of their spots by using the same voice talent and playing the same recognizable background music.

Humor me

Humor is a tricky thing; if it's not done correctly it can feel hoaky and forced. However, if a wash owner is careful about using humor in his or her radio spot it could be just the thing that makes the spot stand out and helps listeners remember the wash.

Welch used humor in his spot which won the ICA Maxi Award. His radio spot played off of a man's love of his car and a woman's inability to understand it. Not only was it humorous, but it also incorporated the ICA's National Car Love Campaign.

Welch used "Johnny and Marsha" as the two main characters in his spot and said that he will most likely follow this successful advertisement with others using the same characters.

Anthony agreed that humor can be a positive selling device, but owners have to be aware of how it comes across.

Remote access

Making a radio spot not only an advertisement, but a special event will immediately help draw listeners to a site. Both Anthony and Welch agreed that the remote broadcasts from their washes were great advertisements.

Welch had a remote broadcast during his wash's grand opening and said that it was very successful. Anthony told PC&D that having remote broadcasts for grand openings and special events is one of the best ways to draw new people to a wash site.

Anthony said that a live broadcast from a wash site generates excitement. People will also be more apt to stop at the site if there are free giveaways or promotions. People might come because they are looking for freebies, but at least it gets them to the site.

According to Slone, using radio advertising tactically, for instance, when the wash has a coupon book, a holiday special, a grand opening, or a new service, is the smartest way to capitalize on the media investment.

The return

Monitoring how much business is generated from a radio advertisement can be difficult. With print advertising, such as coupons, the customer needs to present the ad/coupon to receive the discount, enabling the wash owner to see the return on his or her investment.

Anthony warns owners not to expect a flood of customers following the first radio spots — it won't happen. What the spot will create is a name and a service that listeners will begin to recognize and equate with quality and professionalism.

According to Anthony, radio ads create top of the mind awareness, so that the next time a listener decides they need a carwash, the radio spot they heard last night or last week is the first thing that pops into their head, and the featured wash becomes the logical carwash of choice.