Sunday, January 1, 2012

What it means to be a copywriter at a radio station

Commits alumna RANJINI N. (Class of 2010) worked as a copywriter with Adverto Advertising before moving to Radio Mirchi in Bangalore, again as a copywriter. So what does a copywriter do at a radio station? Read on… 

When I switched jobs and moved from an advertising agency to a radio station, I was pretty excited about getting an opportunity to experiment with a new medium. Writing for print gave a kind of permanence to your creative you can see it as long as it exists. Radio is all about frequency and immediacy instant gratification when you listen to your creation on air the very next day is what it is all about.

At Radio Mirchi, I handle sales copywriting for our Bangalore and Mangalore stations. I found that the role of a copywriter at a radio station is pretty much the same as in a creative agency. The only difference being that here you will think of different ways of using the medium of radio, radio, and more of radio. Ideation for a brand, the communication based on its positioning, activities to plan on air and on ground, meeting clients, etc., are all part of the role. A great idea attracts clients whether it originates from an agency or a radio station. So it really doesn’t matter where you belong as long as you come up with ideas that click.


The radio commercial or FCT (Free Commercial Time) is the most common advertising option for brands. In addition, clients increasingly ask for innovative ways of advertising. It may be in the form of clever brand placements within radio programmes or inventive methods of communication. An example I can think of from the visual medium would be strategic brand placements in movies or TV shows. Since the programming format varies from one radio station to another, a copywriter needs to be aware of both format and content to be able to offer customised solutions to clients.

Some potential clients do not appear to believe in the effectiveness of radio advertising. Some are unaware of any innovation apart from having the RJs mention the brand in their jock talk. In such cases, a copywriter’s creative, or concept, for brand communication has the power to change the client’s perception. We have managed to crack deals and convince clients who were either averse to radio as a medium or had no idea how to use the medium effectively. It must be mentioned here that copywriters not only write scripts for creative briefs handed to them by the sales team but also work closely with them for their sales pitches.

In a casual context, we do mix languages while speaking. Since radio communicates with the audience one-on-one, the language is conversational. Whether it’s advertising or programme content, the language used is always a mix of the local language and English: Kanglish, Hinglish, etc.

When you work for a local radio station, strong local connect is a huge plus. Proficiency in multiple languages helps abundantly. The copywriter benefits from a knowledge of local lingo, slang, and nuances. This helps particularly to give radio spots a local flavour when they are translated to the local language. And, more importantly, enables one to avoid any faux pas. There are examples of scripts that have been translated word for word (evidently with the help of Google Translator or some similar software) that give us a good laugh! It’s copywriters who are responsible for preventing such blunders.

When radio stations move to the Phase III auction of FM licences, smaller towns and cities will see the opening of FM radio stations. It will be even more crucial then to be aware of the culture, the city, and the sentiments of the audience for whom we write.


Airtel made the whole country sing “Har ek friend zaroori hota hai” and reminded you of your long-lost friend from school. A nationwide campaign such as this announces the positioning of the brand.
Now how do you reach that “zaroori friend”? With a radio commercial for “30 paise per minute plan” that’s available next door.

The point is, radio is seen as an excellent medium for tactical campaigns to create awareness for a brand and lead customers to the point of purchase. And that’s when, as a copywriter, your awareness of not only the overall brand positioning and communication tone but also of the city, a store launch, activities, etc., come into play.

Deadlines are sacrosanct. Time is money and radio is one medium where you get to experience it every day. Unlike television advertisements, radio commercials can be produced quickly with fewer logistical issues. Some clients take last-minute decisions to include radio in their media plan. And that cascades down to the copywriter as a tight deadline to produce the commercials.

Different kinds of brands invest in advertising during festivals, special days, and other occasions. By the very nature of the tactical campaigns, there is absolutely no room for delays, compromise on deadlines, or on the quality of the creative. Radio is the place where you can enjoy writing for a range of categories: from selling noodles to jewellery to villas to marathon runs to denims to insurance policies to mobile phones to hotels!

So, when the rest of the world is celebrating festivals, holidaying, and generally relaxing, radio stations will be busy putting together entertaining programmes, producing creatives, and executing advertising plans for their clients.

All said and done, the excitement of writing something new, creating small stories makes every day lively and interesting.
  • EXTERNAL READING: If you’ve ever dreamt about being a radio star, then why not make it happen? Learn how here: Start your own radio station.

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