Award Winning Radio 6 Case Studies Unpacked – Creativity Versus Effectiveness

What makes an ad effective is the never-ending question. Let’s assume that this a result of cognition (learning), affect (feeling) and behaviour (doing). What it is that drives each of these core conditions is of real interest when we are conceptualising and producing content we want to be effective. There are a number of story-telling, neuro-linguistic and psychological principles that can be applied to create these conditions for change. Here are a bunch of recently awarded radio ads with some unpacking of what makes them creative, but what will likely make them effective… or ineffective.

Most of these ads below were not awarded on effectiveness, but judged by a peer panel based on their own criteria for creativity. The actual performance results for these commercials is unknown at this point, but the unknown potential is how much better they could have performed with further consideration to the criteria unpacked here. For this discussion, it would be fair to say that all commercials are deemed ‘creative’ and therefore this is not the focus of this discussion. This does not water down the importance of great creative, but will merely point out the factors that will help a creative execution perform well.

The two elements of effectiveness and creativity working together is where the ‘magic’ is in producing great content, because effectiveness can be executed in creative ways and creativity is a fundamental principal behind effective outcomes, but when done right. I trust that this unpacking helps us all produce work that achieves both.


Case Study 1: Dove ‘Tongue’


Ironically the script delivers on a key psychological principal that we only find what we look for by activating the Reticular Activating System (RTS) in our brains. We can only ever filter a range of 7+/- pieces of any information at one time (except when expertise is involved) and by having a focus and constant reminder this keeps the thoughts top of mind. Much like a Google search the home page can only display a similar amount of content at any one time, and our brains are exactly the same and selects what is top of mind by relevance. Like when we first buy a new car, we seem to see cars the same everywhere we go. The truth is there has been no change in car sales that quickly, it is just our Reticular Activating System in action. Like, if I said to you ‘Don’t think of the blue boat’ you can do nothing but think of a blue boat. The ad for Dove delivers this effect in an engaging way using a powerful metaphor and by the nonsensical nature of it. This really proves the point that young women have body issues, only because we continually expose them to this topic every day. There is a very insightful strategic foundation behind all of this delivered well.

First executional success with this campaign is the use a low frequency female voice talent. Given the studies (detailed below) it is now proven that a low pitched female voice over is the most effective at enabling behaviour change and to create positive impressions of a brand. More on this in detail here.

This commercial does a great job at creating an ‘Open Loop’ where we tap into the story, and want to hear it out for the final reveal to see what happens with a good level of intrigue and anticipation. This is a principal of persuasion and is highly successful in all channels.  The risk with this ad is that the brand is tagged on at the end rather than integrated through the story, and there is a risk that the psychological loop is closed before announcing the brand name and therefore making it hard to remember. This execution makes the topic memorable, but making the brand itself less memorable.

Using the ‘Law of Contrast’ as outlined by Dr. Robert Cialdini, Professor of Psychology and Marketing, is an important factor for persuasion to elicit a behaviour change. The stark sound track, quietly spoken and measured voice will certainly be contrasting in a busy retail radio environment, which is excellent for disruption in this channel.

We all process information in different ways using different senses to help us form our opinions and to help drive us to act from decisions. Some of us lead with our auditory senses, and others visual. Some learn by using the feelings that are evoked, or the sensation of a texture or an experience. Others use a combination of all of these and rely on numbers and data. We can use our sense of smell at times or our sense of taste. The most immersive experiences for us involve using a number of senses. This radio commercial does well to get us to participate in an activity that creates a visual, gets us to feel something, and we process information making it very full-sensory. This is one of the greatest factors in a potential success for this spot.

Given more of us do more to ‘Move away’ from a problem than towards a goal, building the need through the emphasis on the problem is effective here. “Moving away” thinking or “Moving Towards” thinking are one set of around 64 different metaprograms in neuro-linguistics.

Speaking directly to a single person in this concept is another successful practice. The more we connect with an individual the more that individual will be moved to act. It is harder to say ‘no’ to a person. This is explored in the concept of ‘Social Proof’ where people can fall into line with what everyone else does more easily than make their own decisions and judgements, unless the individual is addressed. A horrific murder in the USA formed part of a study on figuring out why a large group of bystanders watched a woman being brutally murdered in broad daylight and no one did anything to help her. It was because of ‘Social Proof’ where everyone was simply doing what everyone else did. If that woman connected with one person in that group and called to them individually to help her she may have had a chance of survival by starting a cycle of action. In this environment, speaking to an individual will do well to get that one person to act.

This radio ad teaches us something, and gets us to feel something very well. The last question is whether the call to action is strong enough and memorable, after one only repetition and after closing off the story. Currently the sign off says ‘See how you can help with the Dove Self Esteem project at’, but luckily in this case the story and topic can be searched and the brand will be discovered indirectly even if forgotten. To be even more effective it could be more powerful to end on stacking the problem to reinforce our ‘Moving Away’ tendencies by saying ‘To see how you can stop our children’s growing self esteem issues visit the Dove Self Esteem Project at” instead. Connecting the wider problem to the individual’s situation would be even more powerful.

Creative Agency: Ogilvy & Mather UK


Case Study 2:


Using the medium of radio is surprisingly useful to create a vivid picture despite being audio only. In this radio spot we can clearly visualise someone struggling to stay afloat, and perhaps even recall the experience if we’ve been through this before. This full sensory story is captivating and catches our attention. The ‘Law of Contrast’ is working well here too, with an execution that is different to the clutter in media placement.

Using a male voice over in this script may well have some strategic purpose, although typically in advertising we default to a male voice over because we believe (incorrectly) that a male creates a sense of authority and credibility, and because past studies showed us that a deeper voice was more effective on radio. Taking note of the studies mentioned earlier this isn’t the case in fact, and the use of male voices is over-rated and unproven. A female lower range voice is the most effective of all across both male and female audiences. It would be good to check in and be sure that there is a good strategic reason for using a male here. Given that over 60-67% of household decisions are made by females then it is questionable that household finances is actually a male-centric task. It is most likely subconscious bias at play here.

However, since a male voice has been selected the fact that this voice is higher pitched than some voices makes him more approachable and more effective in general than those super deep and dramatic male voice overs that have historically dominated categories that many associate as masculine.

This concept plays well on the ‘Moving away’ concept throughout by ‘Stacking the pain’ in order to create emotion enough to elicit action. Whilst the call to action at the end wraps up in ‘Moving Towards’ language which is less likely to elicit an action, the word debt is used in a way that suggests a positive outcome but isn’t overly positive and disconnected from the problem.

The fact that the topic of debt is threaded through the story here it is likely that the brand name as a URL is more memorable. Overall this does seem to be both a creative execution and an effective one. To really perform, a female voice over would be the only major recommendation to improve effectiveness.

Creative Agency: Unknown at release TBC


Case Study 3: Ice Break Extra Shot Ice Coffee


This ad certainly grabs our attention with the voice over of an auctioneer in full swing and hyping it up to be even faster and faster to the point of indiscernible at one point. The concept of having an extra shot of coffee to pump up the day is congruent with the concept and delivering well across many aspects of strategy here. There are not that many psychology principles involved here other than, perhaps, the fear of missing out and the need to be good enough. We all have 4 core needs – to be good enough, to be loved, to be connected and to fit in (the fear of missing out could be considered linked to the fear of fitting in). This ad plays on the need to be good enough very well, making it potentially very effective because there is an emotional driver underlying the story which will propel us to action.

Humour is one of the most effective styles of advertising and this is doing a great job at entertaining us. Entertainment when it is relevant and on strategy is highly effective.

The brand is woven throughout the story, repeated several times, making it relevant and also making it memorable. This gets my vote as a highly effective ad.

Creative Agency: The Monkeys


Case Study 4: Hunt for Red October Lifeline Book Fest


The play on the genre of epic film trailers is evident in this spot, however there is enough science now to say that these super deep male voice overs are less effective than a woman’s voice nowdays, and if you are to use a male voice one with a higher pitch is more engaging and does more to build a positive impact on a brand.

This ad is a little confusing on first listen. The link between the drama that the listener first thinks is about a big film release, and later revealed it is about a book festival is hard to grasp on one listen.

There are not enough cues in this script to activate multiple senses, keeping the content at a very conscious and superficial level and therefore less emotive and less likely to elicit action.

The set up to the topic is very long winded before turning into a relevant message. So long that you begin to think the ad is about something else and it jars at the point of twist rather than be part of the fun of it.

Whist this ad won an award for creativity, it doesn’t get my vote for effectiveness.

Creative Agency: Unknown at release TBC

Case Study 5: Lemon Lift


These scripts are very relevant to the strategy behind the product, playing on the concept that a Lift soft drink is hard-hitting with strong lemon flavour.  The light and shade in the execution creates a sense of contrast (playing on that ‘Law of Contrast’) and makes an emotive connection to the product. The target audience for this product appears to be male and perhaps in this instance it is relevant to use a male voice despite data favouring female voices for efficacy.

The senses are activated through the use of sound effects with refreshing bubbles and pouring, and the can opening snap is a psychological cue that is anchored positively for most of us and triggered here during the ad in a nice way. The expressive descriptions of the drinking experience used in the script evoke stimulation of the senses too.

The contrast between the type of customer that likes a soft lemon and those that like a hard lemon flavour is working well to define the niche and audience, making the segment feel like it is ‘about me’. Tapping into our need to feel connected, this does a great job of this.

The ad reinforces the brand every time you think of lemons. The ‘hard hitting’ lemon flavour is very specific and no doubt delivering on some taste and sensory testing by the brand giving them confidence to go full bore into this concept.

A very single minded message here works a treat, it is entertaining and with plenty of light and shade. This seems like a pretty effective campaign taking all this into account.

Creative Agency: McCann-Erickson


Case study 6: OzLotto


This concept gets our interest by the laid back nature of the voice talent. The studies referred to above also discuss accent and the effectiveness of local voices versus ‘standard voices’ and would suggest that a voice that is expected is more effective than one that is unexpected. In this case the voice is slightly less expected than a dry voice over in a radio context, but in this instance works well because it is an everyday guy, speaking like an ordinary person might. His laid back nature is very Australian in the way he underplays the problem neighbors and how his Lotto winnings helped him overcome this. This is iconically Australian in every way possible here, tapping into the brand archetype of the everyday man/woman and has created a great emotional bond with the experience of winning lotto in our own way.

This concept builds up the problem to get us to relate to the issue at hand (we’ve probably all been there) and to think about having the money to solve the problem is mostly an unattainable dream for most of us, which creates an emotion enough to act. This positions the winners and the dreamers in a very grounded, every day and realistic way to spend their winnings as opposed to buying yachts or islands which many Aussies wouldn’t relate to.

Fitting in the gambling responsibly disclaimers on these categories often reduces the ability to make a good story or to do everything we want to in 30 seconds, and the compromise to this spot in this instance is the brand recognition. Whilst it was clear that the story is about winning the Lotto the specific brand was only mentioned very briefly, just once, and a little thrown away. The good thing is that in this category there are not a lot of competitive providers and likely any increase in category spend impacts the brand in any case. The association with ‘Lotto’ may be enough in this instance to sell OzLotto.

Well, I certainly felt inspired to buy a lotto ticket. Let’s hope that the right brand is purchased making it as effective as intended.

Agency: Marketforce





BRQ Business Research Quarterly 2015 – Effectiveness of radio spokesperson’s gender, vocal pitch and accent and the use of music in radio advertising
Spanish Journal of Marketing ESIC 2017 – Influence of radio spokesperson gender and vocal pitch on advertising effectiveness: The role of listener gender.