Should You Begin A Commercial With A Question? Expert Marketer Tim Burt Explains

Should you begin your radio commercial with a question? It’s a topic that has been debated in the advertising world for decades.

3D man near red question mark

Recently, I read a thread in a Facebook group about this very topic. The person who opened the discussion mentioned that he was about to speak at a university, and this very question was written on the white-board at the front of the room.

This person emphatically said “no” for the following reason:


Those who believe that you shouldn’t begin your commercial with a question will argue that whatever your opening line is, it gives the audience the opportunity to say “no”, and leave that radio station.

While the thought process (on the surface) may seem logical, it’s actually flawed.

Here’s my reasoning: you’re only talking to your targeted audience. In other words, you’re only speaking to those who are actually in the market for that advertiser’s good, product, or service.


For instance, I could place 100 free pizzas in a room of 100 self-proclaimed “pizza lovers”,  and tell them to take whatever they want.

Some will take entire boxes, while others may only take a few slices.

Then there are those who won’t touch any of them for varying reasons (they’re dieting, the pizzas have the wrong toppings, deep-dish vs. thin crust, etc.).

But they’re all “pizza lovers”, right?

The bottom line: even though you think that everyone in the audience may love/want/need your particular product or service, they don’t.

And they never will.

You will never, ever convert 100% of a targeted audience when selling something. Ever.

But would you settle for 30%?


Not every script I write begins with a question.

But I will start an advertisement by posing a question if it leads the audience to solve the problem in their life with the question I posed.

For instance (as I state in almost all of my seminars), I will pose this question:

“If your house burned down tomorrow, do you have enough fire insurance to rebuild?”

The purpose of that question as the opening line of the commercial is to get the audience to quickly think about their homeowner’s insurance policy.

If they answer “yes”, then the odds are that I may never be able to get them to switch to the advertiser who is paying for the ad.

If they answer “no”, then I have hooked them. It’s the rest of the copy’s job to make sure they don’t wiggle off it.


With a stupid question.

I’ve actually heard an ad that began: “Hey, do you like pizza?”

Instead, why not say “Have you ever had an authentic Sicilian-style pizza? With the garlic-butter crust, the oregano baked in the sauce, and toppings that measure almost an inch high?”


Don’t be stupid with your initial line of questioning, and your audience won’t think you’re stupid, too.

Starting a commercial with a question can be a powerful way to keep your targeted audience listening. But you don’t always have to start with one – only when it’s warranted.

Tim Burt

About timburtmedia

30,000+ ads globally. Commercial Advertising Marketing - world-wide audio producer, voice-over talent, copywriter.
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1 Response to Should You Begin A Commercial With A Question? Expert Marketer Tim Burt Explains

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