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Musical notes with headline "Creating pictures from sound"
How to write a radio commercial
A well-written radio script has great cut-through. That makes radio commercials a great tool for any business. You have a captive audience, usually stuck behind the wheel, with nothing better to do than listen to your commercial. Even if you don’t want to write your radio scripts yourself, it is useful to know how to write a radio commercial, so you can get the best result from your briefing.

This short video covers a lot of the content but there are examples of scripts in the post that are not in the video.

How long should your commercial be?

The radio stations sell airtime in five second segments but it is usual to buy 15 second segments – 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds or even a minute. Most companies buy a mixture of 15 and 30 second spots. The 30 seconds spots to are used to communicate your longer message and the more frequent 15 second spots to raise awareness. They write the 30 second commercial first and then cut that down to 15 seconds – these are aired more frequently to build up the reach of the commercial – so more people get the chance to hear it.

How many words are in a radio script?

A good rule of thumb – write 75-85 words per 30 seconds. This is based on an average pace of a voice. This will allow whoever reads the script to sound natural and not too hurried. The words are less likely to get lost and more likely to be understood. In a retail – “great news” type of radio script, the speed will be faster to convey excitement.

How to plan your radio script

Break it into chunks. A 30 second radio script is about 75 – 85 words, roughly eight sentences.

If you want to learn how to write a 30 second radio commercial, here is a good simple structure for your radio script: –

  • Present a problem that your listener is having.
  • Then offer a solution to that problem from your brand or company.
  • Follow that up with a proof point, to make the solution believable.
  • Then finish with a call to action, directing the listener to where they can find that solution – a phone number, a website or an address.

Note. A phone number or web address looks very short when written down but takes a long time to say. If it’s important give it room in your script.

Creating images with sound.

A radio commercial is like any other piece of marketing material – you want it to stand out. Getting it on air is one thing but getting people to actually hear what you have to say is another thing entirely. You have to make it worth listening to.

You don’t have a picture, you have music, sound effects and a voice-over to make an impact and create a picture in the mind of your listener.

If you have a great sales offer, a simple informational script will work for you. Retail stores will do this all the time with their sales. They give their promotion a good, catchy name, build up the excitement with the voice-over and tie it all together with a musical brand sting at the end of the commercial.

But if you want to be more engaging you have to introduce an idea to capture the listeners attention.

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Example. Retail radio script

This is a script I wrote for Burger King. A simple promotional radio spot to publicise a special offer. I could have gone with just a description of the burger and the offer but McDonalds and Wendy’s offer very similar products. The audience is young, to get their attention I need to have a bit more fun.


Sergeant Major:         

Quick march, left right left right…

Get down to Burger King on the double. See the size of the Beef and Bacon Double Melt.

Two juicy beef patties, a double helping of cheddar cheese, three slices of bacon and all topped off with a tangy barbecue sauce. 

For a limited time, it’s a double treat for a horrible little man like you.

MVO (Male Voice Over):  

Burger King. Have it your way


We got an actor to do the voice of a Sergeant Major to bring the script to life and make it entertaining to listen to.

Example. Brand radio script

Winstone Aggregates own quarries and make gravel that is turned into roads and motorways. Not a very sexy product.

They wanted to use radio to reach two prime audiences. They wanted to make the people on the councils who contracted them feel good about employing them and they wanted to make the drivers feel good about working for Winstone Aggregates.

An informational script would just send people to sleep. They needed an idea.

As the writer I knew my audience was truckers and people who worked with truckers. What would appeal to them? Well, there was a great song from the 70’s that every trucker liked – “Convoy” by W.C. McCall.

It was an old song, so the rights to use it were not expensive. I rewrote the lyrics of the song to talk about the brand and then re-recorded it.

The Script

Music throughout based on “Convoy”

TRUCKER VO: Got your ears on Big Buddy? C’mon.

I’m rolling along State Highway One

Hauling logs from dawn till dusk

For company I’ve got a cup of steaming Joe

A meat pie with a cardboard crust

But I can’t complain because I’m eating up miles

And those smokies are eating my dust

CHORUS: We’ve got to thank Winstone for making our roads so flat

If it weren’t for Winstone I’d have coffee all over my lap


TRUCKER VO: Winstone Aggregates, the stuff roads are made of

The result was a huge success for Winstone, a company that nobody really had any connection to now had people talking about them.


Radio commercials are a fantastic medium to get your brand message out to a wide audience. If you include Podcasts you can really target an audience.

Audio is a very personal medium. Either people are listening on their phone or traveling in a vehicle. It is almost a one-to-one experience between you and your customer.

Airtime and production costs are not high compared to video, so a well-written and well produced commercial sounds great to your customer.

Combine radio with another roadside medium like Superlite posters and you can have a very powerful campaign.

About the author

Steve Girdlestone is a freelance copywriter who has been writing radio commercials his whole career. 

“Radio commercials are a lot of fun to write. You have to use your imagination and think how words can create pictures in people’s minds.” Steve Girdlestone.