Recipe Ingredient #4 To Make A Bad Radio Or Television Commercial: Coupon Ads

The three deadliest words in any radio or television commercial:

“Mention this ad…”

Of course there are variations:

  • “Tell ’em (DJ or spokesperson) sent you”
  • “Tell ’em you heard it on (radio station)
  • “Say you heard our ad”

The list goes on, and on. The phrase is usually followed by some weak percentage discount off the purchase price, or a nominal “bonus”.


It’s a ploy that tries (and almost always fails) to do two things simultaneously. First, the obvious:

  • So the business can attempt to “track” how many people are hearing and responding

And the subconscious :

  • So the business owner can psychologically convince themselves they made a wise choice advertising with that particular radio/tv station (or stations)


Just like advertising itself, this is also rooted firmly in Psychology.

Think back to when you were a child, and were being tormented by the school/neighborhood bully who had taken something that belonged to you. Or for no apparent reason, was holding some body part of yours in a rather painful position.

In order to retrieve your item or be relieved of pain, you were instructed to say something specific by the bully.

Most likely, it was something you knew to be untrue, or completely inane to humor them.

The bully has the leverage. You must do his bidding.

Reluctantly you say the magical phrase, which provides relief…and most likely humility.

Advertisers do the same thing to the audience with a “coupon ad”.


Quick rule:

Don’t insult the audience. Ever.

Very, very few people like to be forced to say something stupid. Especially in public.

When their payoff for saying they “heard your ad” or your business’ “catch phrase” is of little or no perceived value to the consumer, they won’t do it. Especially if your company slogan is ridiculous jargon that you’d be embarrassed to say by yourself in your own car.

Of course there are some people who will do or say anything to save a few bucks. Who can blame them? But I’m willing to bet the vast majority of the public won’t.


If you’re a business owner or ad agency who feels some overwhelming need to “track” the effectiveness of your ad, I would suggest one of two paths:

One: The single, core message is either flawed or hasn’t truly been identified. Fix that first.

Two: If you must “track” the ad, determine what method you’d like to use to receive feedback (phone, web, in-store) – and only use that one method of contact in the ad.

Tim Burt

About timburtmedia

30,000+ ads globally. Commercial Advertising Marketing - world-wide audio producer, voice-over talent, copywriter.
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