Professionals Skip the Clichés

Don’t do it. You don’t need clichés, especially in advertising copy. They are lazy. “For all your toe shoe needs,” “sale ends soon,” “the tent is up, the prices are down.” Ick. We don’t need a study to know audiences mentally tune out at these trite idiocies, we tune out ourselves. Where’s the inspiration? Where’s the motivation? Why are we wasting resources creating this waste of time?

The intent of this post was to provide a list of some clichés and provide alternatives. But in assembling this article we learned that the vast majority of cliché’s used in commercials come because the copywriter is ‘telling’ the audience, instead of ‘showing’ them something.

Here’s an example: instead of telling the listener that the advertiser is “the home of fun for the whole family,” give them the sounds, the images, the lingual inspiration that brings them into the ad, participating as part of the ad where they can see themselves and their family having fun. This is best done in audio, where the listener can picture themselves and their family having that fun, instead of in supplied visuals like TV and online. The only goal: show, don’t tell.

Show, don’t Tell

Instead of telling the listener the advertiser has “savings throughout the store,” use the visual abilities of audio, your blog, your landing page to show savings throughout the store. Instead of telling the listener to “hurry on in before we run out,” show the shortage, the demand, maybe even the disappointment of someone who missed out (though make sure the prospect doesn’t think they are too late).

Of course I know the time constraints on copywriters, too – so here’s a (by no means complete) list of cliché’s that you may be asked to include, what listeners/readers think you mean, and maybe an alternative or two to make the copy better.

“It’s customer appreciation time.” Listener’s reaction: “What? You didn’t appreciate me all the other times I shopped your store?” How about: Thanks to your loyalty, we can save you another 15 percent through Tuesday.”

“It’s savings time.” Oh, so you’ve been overcharging me for years. (This reminds me of the big mall anchor stores like Sears, Kohls, and JC Penney. They advertise big Saturday sales, and in effect are telling their customers to wait until Saturday to shop, otherwise, you’re being over-charged.)

“Located at” Just drop this. 9.9 times out of 10 it is just excess verbiage.

“Going on now.” Of course it's going on now or you wouldn’t be advertising it, or you’d provide a specific date. And make sure when a sale or special is to be over the copy lets listeners know exactly when it will be over. Sale ends January 5th, never “sale ends soon”.

“Sale ends soon.” This has zero motivation to move people to action. This is an attempted plea for immediacy, yet fails to provide any. Without a firm deadline readers and listeners will think they have time to shop until they stop seeing and hearing the ad. But the advertiser stops the spot when the sale is over. So the listener forgets there was a sale they were interested in because they thought they had time because the “sale ends soon”. Always use a firm date.

“They won’t last long.” The listener thinks: you either didn’t order enough, or the product has been discontinued. Thanks, but I’ll wait for the upgraded version. Maybe: “These are the last of version 2.9, and they are priced to save you money.”

“We service what we sell.” You had better. If this needs mentioning, the client has other significant perception problems that need to be addressed with the advertising. Alternative: “Should you have a problem, bring it back, we’ll make it right.”

“Service second to none.” What are they are trying to say? Maybe they are the best at what they do? Show it. Use testimonials with real people, not actors or “air personalities”.

“Its inventory/St. Patrick’s Day/holiday/clearance/bargain/sale/whatever time…” Can you say “ad coming, let my mind wander”? Remember when local car dealers got the bright idea to mumble the disclaimer at the front of a radio spot? Listeners soon realized a high-pressure yelling car spot was coming and changed the station. If you don't remember that, its 'cause of the same reason. It didn't work.

“Our people make the difference” or “friendly, knowledgeable staff.” Instead show the friendly, knowledgeable staff. Show the listener how your people make the difference.

Reap the profits when you avoid the clichés and needless words.

Define “Convenient”

Have we included clichés in copy from time to time? Only on client demand. One demanded “conveniently located” in his commercial for farm tractors. Never mind that the reason he was on our station was so his spot would be heard for dozens of miles, and at night for hundreds of rural miles; and his business was not “conveniently located” for everyone. Yet he insisted because he was “Just 6 miles off the Interstate at exit 2B.” How is that convenient to rural farmer farmers across 120 miles of signal coverage? Those few seconds could have been better-used showing.

Ad pros can only protest so much before the lure of the dollar sign pushes management to approve the ad. I expect you know what that’s like.


But there are alternatives, and the key is education. Teach the advertiser the value of each second of air-time, of the reader’s time, and show them how the power of words makes his product relatable, desirable, and necessary. Ads are more powerful when they skip the cliché.

A list of commercial clichés/babble to avoid:

Neil has decades in radio, on the air and in the production studio, creating successful client commercials (one customer grew 500% in days). To be able to create images in sound, to help people smile, to enable business growth, to do better every time, is always a delight.