Recipe Ingredient #10 To Make A Bad Radio Or Television Commercial: Asking A Dumb Question

A common misconception among copywriters is: “Don’t start off a commercial with a question. If the listener/viewer answers ‘no’, you’ve lost them“.


I agree with that to a point. But there’s one very important word missing from the first sentence in the above statement: dumb.

It should read: “Don’t start off a commercial with a dumb question.” The second part of their statement then is rendered useless.





Imagine you heard or saw a commercial for a pizza restaurant that started with this phrase:

“Hey, do you like pizza?”

(I actually did hear a radio advertisement many years ago in Salt Lake City that started off this way)

Instead of talking about why someone should visit the pizza restaurant, they foolishly grabbed the nearest advertising crutch and leaned on it heavily.

Now let’s imagine the commercial actually began with some thoughtful writing and an intriguing question:

Have you ever tasted a pizza made with fresh Sicilian seasonings and sauce?”

I have…and let me tell you, it’s damn good. Of course, I had to go to Italy to get it, but if it’s down the street…you can bet I’ll be there to get a pie.


A bigger misconception than not starting a commercial with a question is “I must use the first line to grab the attention of the audience”.

That’s partially true. The goal is to keep the audience listening beyond the first line. But don’t be dumb about it.


Find the most intriguing way to pose your question. It must trigger a psychological response in the mind of the audience.

Simply asking “Do you like pizza” gives you a knee-jerk reaction to a lazy question.

Tim Burt

About timburtmedia

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