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I’d love you to join me on this magical flight through life. I’ll be sharing recommendations, snippets of wisdom and bits of work along the way.

“Oh radio is so old hat, who cares?!” Well, read on & you might just find yourself celebrating Radio Commercial Day on the 28th August! And who knows, you may just decide upon a campaign of your own, or tweak the one you’re currently working on.

Make a cuppa, put your feet up and read on, because…. drum roll please… I bring you not one, nope, for that would be miserly. I bring you EIGHT fabulous creatives, who have been kind enough to offer their expert views, tips and advice. In part one, I ask “Why advertise on the radio?”

But first, as radio is such a personal medium, allow me to share a few of the reasons why I’m such a huge fan…

Reel to reel tape recorder by Jason Dent illustrating Sara Starling radio commercial voice over blog

I don’t know about you, but I can’t even remember when I started listening & dancing to the radio. I do know that I was young. Very young. I made my first appearance on Radio 1 at the age of 5 or 6, having recorded a request for the Monster Mash. I also happen to have met my husband in a radio studio. How could you not fall in love whilst creating the sound of Fungus the Bogeyman, farting away whilst riding his bike? It’s amazing what you can do with a hot water bottle, flour & water and an old bicycle!


Radio on kitchen windowsill by Harry Grout illustrating Sara Starling radio commercial voice over blog

Radio is a very personal medium. When you speak on the radio, you are entering someone’s home, their car, their ears, their sacred space. Wait….did I see your ears prick up? Rightly so! It’s not often that stranger, client or customer invites you into their home! And in this era of Covid, it brings no unwanted travellers with it, either. How great is that?!

I know, I know, I’m biased. My career began in radio, in the hazy days of razor blades, chinagraph pencils & sticky tape. In fact, one of those very razor blades enabled me to unleash myself, after a mischievous colleague gaffa-taped me to a lamppost not far from Broadcasting House! Digital audio workstations like Adobe Audition could never do that. Fact!

But I digress. The bottom line is that I’ve never fallen out of love with, or stopped working in the world of radio. It has a magic all of its very own, a rare intimacy. When you strip away the pictures (we’ll come back to that), you can focus on the sound, the words and simply add the scenery of your choosing! Think of it as nicely warmed plasticine for the ears, that can be moulded by your very own, unique imagination.


Of course, like everything, there’s good radio, bad radio and brilliant radio. And the same applies to radio commercials. Some just tick the box and others, well, they’re an art form in themselves.

It’s true, we humans spend much of our lives wanting to blend in, but there are times when we want & need to stand out. To stop and be noticed, whilst the world hurries on by. And that can be the key to a great radio campaign.

Radio in vintage car by Julian Hochgesang to illustrate Sara Starling radio commercial voice over blog

As with all things, there are trends in radio. With ears bathed in the industry both personally & professionally, the things that stand out for me are often the things that buck those trends. So, maybe listen to an ad’ break with fresh ears & notice the similarities, and also what’s missing.

If you were to ask me what makes a great radio advert, I would say one that’s beautifully crafted, makes me feel something and is memorable as a result. It might make me laugh, move me, or perhaps pull me in to listen more carefully. As a voice over artist, I’d also add that you can sense it when you read the script. There have been occasions in the voice over booth when I’ve shivered & the hairs on my arms have literally stood on end!

How does it do this?

Through the choice of words, the way they’re delivered. Through the sound design, the music, the pauses, the overall production and the intention that lies behind it all.


Vintage radio to illustrate Sara Starling radio commercial voice over blog

The beauty of radio, is that, in comparison to TV, it’s far less cumbersome. As I alluded to earlier, the lack of pictures has logistical benefits. The pictures are in the minds of the listeners. No cameras required. Fewer people involved. In a world that’s experiencing a huge amount of change and uncertainty, the affordability, reactivity and immediacy that radio can offer is incredibly valuable.


Never mind what I think! In order to be as helpful as possible to you, lovely clients, I asked three questions of some seriously fabulous creative experts in the industry. They were so generous with their time and advice that I had too much information to squeeze into one blog, so this is part one of a series! Those cracking creatives are, in no particular order: –

Paul Burke (PB) – a multi award-winning writer, producer, director, he’s also chaired juries for D&AD, Creative Circle & The Aerials. Oh yes, he knows what he’s talking about!

Gerry Farrell (GF) – Creative Director at Gerry Farrell Ink, winner of numerous awards at Cannes and D&AD as well as serving on their juries, so you know, he knows what works.

Rick Loynes (RL) – award-winning commercial producer for Signal, now Bauer Media, he’s also a talented musician, voiceover & a lovely chap to boot.

Olivia Downing (OD) – Copywriter at TBWA\MCR.
50 under 30 – The Drum’s Outstanding Women in Creative and Digital and a real tour de force in the creative industry, championing both women & creative.

Tim Fortune (TF) – Producer at Global Radio for over 28 years, I think we can safely say he knows what’s what!

Pam Myers (PM) – Radio & audio producer at Rorschach Ltd, she also happens to have been a member of the Cannes Festival of Creativity Radio Lions jury, she knows a winning idea when she hears one!

James McCombe (JM) – Producer & Studio Manager at Maple Street Creative, he has his feet firmly on the ground.

Kieran Murphy (KM) – formerly of Global & Maple Street Creative, Kieran is has now been unleashed upon the world in his own right. He also happens to be a stand-up comedian, which might just come in handy!

Vintage radio on shelf to illustrate Sara Starling radio commercial voice over blog


All agree that radio is relatively cheap to produce, compared to other media channels, but what else makes it such a great option…….?

RL: “To put it simply, it works. According to Radio Centre, 88% of adults in the UK listen to radio every week.

It has stunning potential to connect your service with the general public, and from my experience it can often prove to be a fantastic investment.”


TF: “Not only is radio un-skippable, but you’re using a medium that people regard as a friend who’s ‘on their level’ “


PB: “The pictures are better.”


Radio on dusty windowsill by Alberto Bobbera to illustrate Sara Starling radio commercial voice over blog

OD: “Because most radio is as dull as dishwater, it’s the perfect opportunity to really get creative, without spending a lot of money.

Laser sharp targeting. Radio allows you to really fine-tune your audience, and from a listener demographic perspective, that can be really fruitful for your brand/product. Increasingly, we’ve seen the rise in other audio- based advertising surrounding podcasts/music streaming and it can really have great return on investment because of this.

It always amazes me how many clients don’t put ‘audio’ on their media plan, and when I suggest it, they look at me as if I’ve just time warped from the fifties. Since The Buggles, people have believed the egregious lie that video killed the radio star, and yet I’ve found the opposite to be true.

Quote from Olivia Downing - There's never been a better time to hit the airwaves

As an advertising creative at TBWA\MCR, it’s also worth noting that some of the best creative I’ve ever encountered is written for radio. And once you’ve got it in your head, it’s pretty hard to forget – which is exactly the effect you want it to have on your audience.”


Vintage radio on car seat by Milijov Kuhar to illustrate Sara Starling voice over blog What Makes a Great Radio Commercial

JM: “It’s such a frequent companion for many people. Waking up for the day, driving, working, it’s there in the background, usually within arm’s reach, entertainment and companionship interspersed with your brand’s messaging. Other media often requires your undivided attention which is so hard to get these days – it’s a passive advertising medium.”


KM: “With the right advert, you can achieve far more than something on TV – Visual space can be limiting.

A 2015 study by radiocentre found that Using more radio boosts overall campaign ROI: if existing budgets are reallocated from other media to give radio a 20% share of spend, overall campaign ROI increases by 8%.”



  • “People are less likely to switch off or change the channel.

  • You make your own pictures based on what you hear so it’s way more personal than TV. It’s been called “the theatre of the mind” but it’s actually the theatre of your mind.

  • You can listen to it when you’re moving around, getting the breakfast ready or digging the garden. So, it’s a great way to target multi-taskers.

Gerry Farrell quote - creating pictures for radio- to illustrate Sara Starling radio commercial voice over blog
  • It’s not just radio these days, it’s audio. So, you can advertise to Spotify listeners.

  • A celebrity voiceover costs a lot less for a radio campaign than it would for a TV commercial.”


PM: “Radio has always made a great partner to other media, there is research that shows what Radiocentre call a multiplier effect, in other words, it can increase the value of TV/online activity by reinforcement. This makes a lot of sense; radio is an intimate experience, it talks directly to the listener (even more so now with so much audio consumed as mobile on headphones).

Radio has a reputation for trustworthiness too, in these turbulent times the radio audience holds up well as a source of news and information, more so than television.

Woman listening to radio by Eric Nopanen to illustrate Sara Starling radio commercial voice over blog

Radio can lift the mood, or respond to the emotional needs of the listener, there are fascinating developments in audio technology in this field. And of course you can’t skip radio ads. In an age of ad blockers, radio is a medium which guarantees your ad will be heard by the audience. To see the research papers, and find excellent sources of inspiration, I highly recommend Radiocentre which does a fantastic job of promoting radio in the UK.”


If statistics & cold hard numbers what you’re after, look no further than Rajar, the official body in charge of measuring radio audiences in the UK.

Radio on wall by Naadir Shahul to illustrate Sara Starling radio commercial voice over blog

If you didn’t really care about radio or audio before, perhaps you’re beginning to now? So often we’re told that ‘it’s all about video these days’, but hopefully we’ve helped to illustrate that it would be a mistake to forget about our old friend the radio, audio & the mighty power of sound.


Because in part 2, I will be asking:

What makes the perfect radio commercial?

And if the thoughts & ideas shared by the wonderful contributors to this blog have inspired you, remember, you don’t have to venture out alone, there are some cracking creatives out there who will cook up the perfect campaign with you. And of course, if you need a voice, look no further! Drop me an email – and let’s talk.


With enormous thanks to Pam Myers, Rick Loynes, Gerry Farrell, Olivia Downing, Tim Fortune, Kieran Murphy, James McCombe and Paul Burke.

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