Phone Numbers in Radio Commercials: The good, the bad and the unnecessary

This article gives some quick-fire reasons why relaying a phone number in a radio commercial is wasting valuable communication time.

By Geoff Esdaile | Content Creator

Phone Numbers in Radio Commercials: The good, the bad and the unnecessary

Recently we had this instruction on a Production Farm advertising brief.

Instructions from the Account Manager:

“The client is wanting to include their phone number in the creative… please!” 

 There’s long been a tug of war between client and account manager and then account manager and the creative team about the use and potency of phone numbers.

 The client wants customers to contact them, the account manager wants to make the sale process hassle free by following this reasonable request.

The creative team is blocking the sale with a ‘no’ to the phone number.


This article gives some quick-fire reasons why relaying a phone number in a radio commercial is wasting valuable communication time.


So here they are 8 reasons NOT to use phone numbers?

1.Let’s start with your own personal experience, when was the last time you stood beside the radio and wrote down a phone number?  My guess is you’ve never done it.

2.Using a phone number assumes the audience knows your advertising campaign so well and the times it’s going to air, they’re expecting the commercial at 10:46am or 3:22pm and therefore, are ready to pay attention to it and nothing else. Once again, highly unlikely.  

3. Following on from the previous 2 points, if you’re not ready for the phone number and you’re not writing the number down, it’s once again difficult to imagine you are committing a random, 8 digit or more number, read quickly to memory.

4. By putting your phone number in your message there’s an assumption by the advertiser, this is the only way to contact us – if you can’t remember this number you’ll miss the offer, the message or the benefits. We know today that’s not true.  From buying a car, a fridge, a home or researching a medical procedure people can browse the internet for your brand.

5. Rarely does the moment to buy and the phone number happen at exactly the same time.  Yes, advertisers do communicate in the morning or the afternoon to speak directly to the right target market, but don’t get them to work remembering a number, use that time together to sell benefits and buy when they’re ready. Build a relationship with your most valuable customer with a strong frequency campaign.

6. OK, let’s look at the other side, of ‘receiving’ the phone call …

Imagine for a moment you run a business, is it better to attend to customers in the store holding the product, listening to your sales pitch or stop that, stop the conversation and answer a phone call. Who can you service and sell to best?

7. If your customers call you, what is your sales process on the phone really like?

Do they talk to the right sales person immediately? Does the call have to be put through to someone else who can answer the question? Are they there or will they call you back later? Will you stop them several times to see if you have that size, shape and colour? A well constructed website could portray the professionalism, choice and develop a relationship better than a poor phone call.

8. Finally, as the sales person, how will your campaign for your client be judged? Website hits, walk throughs for an event or showroom or trying to answer the question from the client. “Why did I only get 3 phone calls” The campaign doesn’t work and radio doesn’t work.

There is an exception.

It’s when the phone number and the offer or the comparative advantage you have over your competitor – and it must be a hot one – are the only thing you are communicating… no mention of the address, no friendly staff,no parking, no talk about the wide range etc. Just the phone number and great offer.

Phone numbers are not dead!

After all that – let me say – phone numbers are not dead. Phone numbers are great on business cards, in press ads, in long form documentation, swapped between friends and on websites.

So who won this particular game of tug of war?  Strangely, I think we all did. I’ll leave that to your imagination.
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