The First Radio Commercial

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The first Radio commercial was broadcast on August 28, 1922. The station was WEAF AM in New York City. It was owned by AT&T. The commercial was for a real estate development called Hawthorne Court Apartments in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood in the borough of Queens. The apartment complex was owned by the Queensboro Corporation. The apartment complex was named after Nathaniel Hawthorne, on of America’s great writers.

The commercial was 15-minutes long, broadcast at 5:15 pm. It was a live read commercial delivered by an official from the Queensboro Corporation.

The commercial script follows the same formula that we advocate today, 1) the emotional on ramp, 2) the felt need, 3) the action step and 4) a description of life ever after.

 Let me enjoin upon you as you value your health and your hopes and your home happiness, get away from the solid masses of brick, where the meager opening admitting a slant of sunlight is mockingly called a light shaft, and where children grow up starved for a run over a patch of grass and the sight of a tree.

But moving to the suburbs of New York poses it’s own set of problems, a long commute, extra work to care for a home and a yard. This is part of the felt need, “Yes it would be nice to live in the suburbs but it’s going to be a difficult decision”. The script for the Hawthorne Court apartments commercial elaborates on those concerns.

Thousands of dwellers in the congested district apartments want to remove to healthier and happier sections but they don’t know and they can’t seem to get into the belief that their living situation and home environment can be improved. Many of them balk at buying a house in the country or the suburbs and becoming a commuter. They have visions of toiling down in a cellar with a sullen furnace, or shoveling snow, or of blistering palms pushing a clanking lawn mower. They can’t seem to overcome the pessimistic inertia that keeps pounding into their brains that their crowded, unhealthy, unhappy living conditions cannot be improved.

Next, the Hawthorne Court Apartments offers the action step.

The fact is, however, that apartment homes on the tenant-ownership plan can be secured by these city martyrs merely for the deciding to pick them–merely for the devoting of an hour or so to preliminary verification of the living advantages that are within their grasp. And this too within twenty minutes of New York’s business center by subway transit.

Right at your door is such an opportunity. It only requires the will to take advantage of it all. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to your family to leave the hemmed-in, sombre-hued, artificial apartment life of the congested city section and enjoy what nature intended you should enjoy.

Finally, to end the commercial, the writer paints a picture of what life will be like if the listener takes the steps to buy an apartment at the Hawthorne Court Apartments.

Dr. Royal S. Copeland, Health Commissioner of New York, recently declared that any person who preached leaving the crowded city for the open country was a public-spirited citizen and a benefactor to the race. Shall we not follow this advice and become the benefactors he praises? Let us resolve to do so. Let me close by urging that you hurry to the apartment home near the green fields and the neighborly atmosphere right on the subway without the expense and the trouble of a commuter, where health and community happiness beckon–the community life and friendly environment that Hawthorne advocated.

The Hawthorne Court Apartments are still in business today. Townhomes start at $750,000.

We can learn a lot from this first Radio commercial. The four key elements are:

  1. The emotional on ramp, the first few words of the commercial that grab the consumers attention. The safety of our families is on the second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, something we all think about.
  2. The felt need, the thought process we have when we are alone with our thought. The challenge of finding and financing a new home is a major consideration involved in fulfilling the felt need.
  3. The action step, the commercial needs to tell the listener what to do, how to do it, to fulfill the felt need.
  4. A description of life ever after, how happy you and your family will be when you move to the Hawthorne Court Apartments.

Go find a real estate developer in your market. Try writing a 60-second commercial using some of the ideas from this script. Let me know if you need some help getting started.

Talk to you soon.

Spike SanteeThe First Radio Commercial

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