You Can’t Put that Nerve-Shattering, Pants-Crapping Sound in a Radio Spot!


Commercial radio has to run commercials to survive, right? Duh. It’s the first word in their name.

Listening to commercials is the price we pay to hear local information, news, and occasional music. If I’m driving around and I can’t deal with the jibber-jabber, I plug in the iPod or slide a CD into the player. Silence is not an option. There must be music playing, or at least, in the case of radio, the hope that some music will eventually play.

So I’m at peace with the idea of commercials. I admit that I’ll station-hop relentlessly to avoid them, but sometimes there is nothing but yap and I just have to ride it out. What makes that situation a little tougher is the handful of annoying and/or amateurish local spots that make me clench my jaw so hard I wind up spitting out pieces of dental material at the stop light.

But the commercials that demand my attention the most are the ones that do so in the worst way. I’m talking about the ones that use a siren, a doorbell, a ringing phone, or an alarm clock. Please, local radio producers, for the love of all that is holy and moist, stop putting these horribly unpleasant blasts of dissonance in your radio spots.

Bob Wire

Man, I haven’t been pulled over in six months. I’ll bet those cops have got SCMODS. SCMODS? State. County. Municipal. Offender. Data. System.

When I’m cruising down Broadway, minding my own business, trying to remember whether it’s Taco Tuesday or Dilly Bar Wednesday and suddenly a clock radio alarm pulses obnoxiously from my speakers, I have a knee-jerk reaction that involves slapping the dashboard multiple times, unleashing a stream of expletives and saying, “Five more minutes, mom!”

That particular sound is one that is universally hated, and I think it’s foolish to couple it with your product or service. You might as well be saying, “Adolph Hitler, Miley Cyrus and Jerry Sandusky all eat at Sam and Ella’s Café, and you should too!”

While that clock radio buzz disturbs me on the atomic level, another sound that elicits an automatic response is a ringing telephone. When I upgraded my phone a few years ago I hunted around for a ring tone that sounded like an old rotary phone because I wanted to be ironic. Now that “classic” ring has become one of the most common ring tones for people like me who are dumb enough to take their phones off vibrate.

When a phone rings in a radio commercial, I immediately start slapping myself all over like a guy being attacked by hornets. What pocket has my phone? Should I let it go to voice mail? Of course I should, I’m driving! But what if it’s one of the kids? Should I assign them a different ringtone? If I turn off the ringer will it disconnect the call? Who put that gum on the floor mat?

Bob Wire

I need to pull over and answer the phone! This looks like a good spot….

Then the commercial goes into its spiel, somebody answers the damn phone, and I change the station in a blind fury. I mean, when the phone on the radio sounds exactly like my phone, it’s like the radio saying, “Hey, Bob Wire. Yes, you. In the PBR t-shirt with the hole under the armpit. Why are you in the right lane if you’re planning on turning left at the light?” It’s unnerving at best, dangerously distracting at worst. Cut it out.

Another sound effect that can cause a panic on the car radio is a siren. If you write ad copy, please try to resist that low-hanging fruit. Sure, if you’re doing a spot for some lawyer who specializes in DUIs, the sound of a siren will be a very familiar noise to your target demographic. But so is the snap of the paper seal being broken on a bottle of Wild Turkey. Try something new!

When I’m behind the wheel and I hear a siren, I start rubbernecking, checking all the mirrors and drifting toward the shoulder. Last time this happened I almost collided with a guy who was slapping himself all over with both hands, looking for his phone.

No sirens. I don’t care if you’re making a commercial for Siren Mart. It’s just irresponsible to put that nerve-shattering, pants-crapping sound in a radio spot. Although I have to admit that when there’s a lot of traffic, I can tell who’s listening to the same station as I am because when that siren wails on the radio I’ll see a few other vehicles pulling over even though there are no emergency vehicles in sight.

There is one more sound effect I wish they’d stop using in radio commercials: a doorbell. It’s especially annoying when I have passengers riding with me, because it’s a little embarrassing when I start barking.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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