Forums » Friday Polls

Friday Poll: Should Radio Charge for Copywriting/Production?

    • 1262 posts
    December 6, 2012 10:28 PM PST

    Happy Friday, everyone!

    Here is this week's poll question:

    Should radio stations charge for creative services? If so, under what circumstances? Do you ever charge local clients for copywriting and production? What do you typically charge?

    Looking forward to reading your answers!

    This post was edited by Rebecca Hunt at November 3, 2017 11:17 AM PDT
  • December 6, 2012 11:12 PM PST

    Yes! All the time. If creative has value and experience behind it it should be charged for.

    Stations that "include" creative still charge for it, but give the client no idea of the value.

    • 5 posts
    December 6, 2012 11:34 PM PST

    As a writer in stations that gave it away and others that charged and also as a writer in ad agencies I go the full spectrum.

    In New Zealand they gave it away. In the UK and now here in Australia they charge- not a lot but they do charge.

    Charging is better because it actually adds value to the product- the client also becomes much more engaged because they are paying for it. In fact set it up properly and educate the sales guys and it can become a profit centre or at least cover costs. In reality everyone can sell a 30 x 30 plan, it's the creative that makes it work or not and if you're giving it away- it has no value. Of course good creative only comes from a good brief and to help you with that have a look at this

    May the wind always be behind you


    • 55 posts
    December 7, 2012 2:14 AM PST
    An excellent and important question. And I'm glad to see the "yes" answers here. When I worked in radio, we never charged, which is a mistake. As has already been echoed here, free creative has no preceived value. The only time we charged clients is when they wanted to use the work on other stations. For some reason, radio has dug this value-added hole for itself. Buy a schedule and get the creative for free. TV charges you. Print charges you. As a principal in an ad agency now, I look back and it's hard to believe how much really good work we just gave away. The good news is, the smart clients (who were typically the successful ones) appreciated what they were getting.
    • 1 posts
    December 7, 2012 5:04 AM PST

    Yes, but typically only when we use an outside script or production resource we have hard costs for and the client's spending level doesn't justify absorbing the cost.  Creative is presented to clients as equally important to scheduling/frequency and target.

    • 83 posts
    December 7, 2012 5:42 AM PST

    We charge for copy and production for clients all over the US, but when we started our radio station 3 years ago, we decided NOT to charge because none of the other radio stations in our area charge for production.

    We COULD (and should) show more value, but we have not fought that fight yet! It was hard enough to be "the new guys" we didn't want to make it even harder to buy us!

    John Small

    Sunny Radio &

    • 3 posts
    December 7, 2012 6:30 AM PST

    I have, huwever, usually not.


    • 3 posts
    December 7, 2012 6:38 AM PST

    Pose as a prospect and solicit pricing from ad agencies in your market :30 & :60 second creative. That is the value. However, when you charge for creative, you must have copy that sounds professionally produced. You can not have the afternoon joc read the ad. The copy must deliver the clients unique selling proposition, compelling offer and call to action. And it must be done in a way the engages the audience.

    Remember Budwiser's Real American Hero Camapign?

  • December 7, 2012 7:53 AM PST

    No, I have never charged a customer for copywriting or production.  But I've met quite a few that I SHOULD have.

    • 11 posts
    December 7, 2012 8:04 AM PST

    I never did.  The cost of production...whatever it was, should b considered in the price of the ad, as you would with other expenses incurred in running the station.  I didn't charge for the paper the ad was written on, the cost for the production people to record/produce, the cost of the tape/hard drive or anything else. If special production was done this was considered value added service.   In the same light, I didn't charge less for ads that did not receive any special production. Costs for writing and production of an ad should be included in your rates. Isn't writing the copy and producing it part of what the client is buying.   If a client provides you with a produced you charge less?

    • 182 posts
    December 7, 2012 9:43 AM PST

    Only if the spot will run on another station. I am paid to work for my station, not for the other guys. If my words and my voice are going to run on the competition, I want compensation. In the Riverside, San Bernardino, Ontario area $50 to $100 per spot is average. In some cases, where there are constant copy changes, I work a flat monthly fee.

    • 1048 posts
    December 7, 2012 9:52 AM PST


    Would, better still: would your clients characterize the quality of your copy and production to be about the same as what other stations in the market are providing or markedly superior to it (the benchmark being the results they're seeing).  Sioux Falls is an exceptional radio market, home to a number of fine, talented, committed broadcasters, which is why I ask the question.  There, I believe, the bar for quality is set somewhat higher than in other markets of equivalent size.

    Like Blaine (above), I spent most of my career in radio giving away ideas, copy, and production that was markedly superior to the market "average," and did so without a thought because that's the way radio has always done it.  The older I get (and the more conscious of my mortality, shall we say), the more I have come to realize the truth of Jim Williams' adage: a thing is worth what you pay for it.  So, if I'm going to invest an inordinate amount of time developing a campaign - say, more than the 30 or 45 minutes (if that) that one typically spends writing and producing a spot for a client - I charge for it.  And what I've learned - lo, and behold! - is that local clients are more than willing to invest the additional money for quality work.

    So, if a client wants average work provided for free - fine, give it to him.  But if he wants truly exceptional work and you can deliver it, by all means, establish a fair price and charge him accordingly.  You'll both be the better for it.

    • 1048 posts
    December 7, 2012 10:09 AM PST


    You say:

    If they are going to be charged they may as well hire an agency.

    There was a time when radio sales reps weren't expected to do more than secure contracts (or write up orders), turn them in, and see that the advertising was running as ordered.  But many of the most successful reps in our business today--certainly in the small and medium markets--are doing much more for their clients, often serving as marketing consultants and de facto advertising agents, if in a limited capacity. 

    ...the better the commercial, the better the results...

    Absolutely true!  We all agree on this, and yet I suspect that if we're completely honest, we'd also be forced to admit that there are more than a few commercials running on our stations today--literally in the next hour--that are locally written and produced, filled with cliches and adspeak, and doing little more than making the advertiser feel good about himself or herself when they hear their spot on the air.   If we (as an industry) stopped perpetuating this mediocrity, invested the time and effort to create consistently engaging and effective commercials--and charging appropriately for it--how much better off would we be today?

    If you read the trades, the blogs and what-not, there's an almost universal acknowledgement that our creative execution isn't what it should be - a significant reason why many national advertisers don't take radio seriously - but that's as far as it goes.  There are pockets of brilliance in our industry (Jerry Lee's B-101 is perhaps the best in the country in this respect), but we have a long way to go.  And, I believe, it has to start with each of us making that commitment not to settle for less - for our clients and ourselves.

    My two cents, anyhow.

    • 1048 posts
    December 7, 2012 10:24 AM PST

    Reply by Dale Olmstead on Friday

    Costs for writing and production of an ad should be included in your rates. Isn't writing the copy and producing it part of what the client is buying. If a client provides you with a produced you charge less?

    Dale, excellent questions!

    Is the client buying access to your audience, your creative services, or both?  Historically we've treated them as a package deal, but in fact they're two different things.  Most stations' rates are based on the perceived value of their airtime, which is in turn based on the size of their audience, the popularity of their programming, etc.  Few stations I know of base their rates on the ability of their sales departments to create demand for their airtime by means of the effectiveness of their sales effort or the quality of their commercials. 

    So, we throw in the commercial copywriting and production without a second thought.  That's what we've always done.  That's how everyone else does it.

    But let's say there are several competing stations in a market, and I want to advertise on all of them.  Am I better served by having each station's rep create a different commercial for me to run on their station(s), or by creating the best spot I can and running it repeatedly on all stations in the market?  Obviously, the latter approach is the one taken by national advertisers (and by smart local advertisers): speak with one voice to the market, consistently and relentlessly.   So, which station is going to provide the copy and production for the advertiser to use across the board?  The one that can demonstrate its work is superior, which will likely be the one willing to invest as much time, effort, talent, etc. as it takes to achieve that level of quality.

    Shouldn't that station be in a position to charge appropriately for doing that work? 

    This is, of course, purely theoretical.

    Or is it?

    • 12 posts
    December 7, 2012 12:46 PM PST

    I'm glad to see that some of the stations are putting a value on the creative side of the business.  It's always been an interesting conundrum in how you charge a client and in the years that I sold radio advertising it was always included in the price. I now write and voice radio commercials and get paid to do so and I think more and more it's especially important to put value on what a radio station brings to the table.  

    • 269 posts
    December 8, 2012 8:03 AM PST

    I have never levied a charge for creating the product we sell to them.  In my mind, the price of the product is factored into the rates we charge for an advertising schedule.  If they run it on another station, so be it.  We have become a valuable part of the chain.  If I pay someone to build a house and they quote $250,000, I do NOT expect a bill for labor on top of that.  The number I was quoted should have all of the charges included.  MY feeling is that when we start nickle and diming people on production costs, we are like hotels that tack on RESORT fees.  I may pay it once, but you'll never see my happy face there ever again.
    That's just my opinion... now, who do I send the bill to for writing it?

    • 269 posts
    December 8, 2012 8:05 AM PST

    As  an advertiser, I would always be asking every station in the market to produce ads and submit them, and I would pick the best among them for every campaign.  As a BUYER, I would have NO loyalty.  I would just want the best and the most for my money without concern for what I put any of these companies through.  From MY side of the table, I want to make sure that the production that we at the radio station produce is always the best it can be because I know that we can always be bought around.

    • 83 posts
    December 8, 2012 2:48 PM PST

    I would say (very biased opinion of course) that our work is as good as it gets in this market. The other stations are pretty darn good here... but I can prove that the "other guys" feel that our product is good too.... both companies paid us to write and record ads before we started our station three years ago. I knew we would lose them as accounts, but we DO still provide voiceovers for two local TV stations, a local cable company and a few local ad agencies (where we've won them Addy awards)

    As we approach our third year we are in a better position to make this change. I know it will be shocking to some of the local clients, but I also know that MANY will gladly pay for ideas that work! 

    I have said for MANY YEARS... Advertising costs you money... but EFFECTIVE advertising makes you money!  I think we need to focus on making our clients advertising work better and we will ALL be happier!

    Rod, I Love this forum to exchange ideas and see other perspectives! Thank you for providing it!! Very nice!

    • 83 posts
    December 8, 2012 2:53 PM PST

    In a case where the copy and production are not free, the salesperson puts that right in the presentation so they know what to expect.

    I have radio clients that pass on our fees to their clients. Sometimes they offer "one free ad per quarter" with an annual agreement.

    If we decide to charge at our local station, I believe I would adopt that concept here.

    John Small

    Sunny Radio -

    • 1048 posts
    December 10, 2012 6:35 PM PST

    Reply by Chris Rolando on Saturday

    I have never levied a charge for creating the product we sell to them.  In my mind, the price of the product is factored into the rates we charge for an advertising schedule.  If they run it on another station, so be it.  We have become a valuable part of the chain.  If I pay someone to build a house and they quote $250,000, I do NOT expect a bill for labor on top of that.  The number I was quoted should have all of the charges included.  MY feeling is that when we start nickle and diming people on production costs, we are like hotels that tack on RESORT fees.  I may pay it once, but you'll never see my happy face there ever again.


    It's only "nickel and diming" if that's the perceived value of the copy or production, isn't it?

    Recalling Jim Williams' adage that "a thing is worth what you pay for it," the advertiser is ultimately the one who determines the value of the product by his willingness or unwillingness to pay for it.  When your charge to an advertiser remains the same, whether or not he has you write and produce the commercials, he might be led to conclude (if he thinks about it at all) that the value of your copywriting and production is only marginal. 

    I'm not singling you out; we all do it, to one degree or another.   And that's my point: we (Radio) are responsible for establishing the value of our work, whether perceived or actual. 

    If an advertiser is happy with the typical fill-in-the-blank, cliché-ridden adspeak (whether derived from a Yellow Pages ad or a CNA, it makes no difference), embellished and polished with stirring music, sound effects, lame humor or bad acting, packaged to make him feel good about himself when he hears it, why rock the boat?  You know whereof I speak. 

    Listeners are exposed to this sort of thing in markets of every size, every day, all across the country.  I'm nearly convinced that when advertisers and ad writers hear these spots, they think to themselves, "Well, that must be how it's done." and proceed to emulate and perpetuate it.

    But every so often an advertiser dares to demand something better than what he's been getting.  Maybe he's heard a commercial somewhere else that really moved him.  Maybe he's tired of merely hoping his ads are contributing to his success and wants more concrete evidence.  Or maybe an ad rep who's thinking of ways he can do it better approaches him with a superior piece of work and says, This is what you could be running.

    Advertiser:  THAT'S exactly what I've been wanting.  Let's go with that.

    Sales Rep:  Gladly.  There will be an additional charge of $_____ for the commercial, because of the additional time/effort/talent/etc. that was required to create it.  Fair enough?

    At this point, you probably assume that the advertiser will object: "Hey, you guys are supposed to do that for free, aren't you? Everyone else does."

    How you respond to that objection is determinative.  (Remember that old bromide about making assumptions? It applies here.)

    I was contacted by an advertiser on the coast a few months ago; he spends many thousands of dollars a month (five figures) on his radio advertising.  He sent me a half-dozen of the spots he'd been running (celebrity spots, voiced by talk show hosts and other popular personalities in his market, urging their listeners to avail themselves of the advertiser's service) and asked me what I thought.  They were terrible, if typical - wordy, unfocused, and dependent upon the "credibility" of the spokesmen with their listeners to respond to the call to action. I told him what I thought and why.  Afterwards I realized that I'd probably come across like horseradish and wouldn't hear from him again.

    Strangely, he replied to my email.  Here's what he said:

      It’s absolutely refreshing to get such a detailed response. Thank you for not taking this lightly.

    Those two sentences are being framed to hang on the wall in my office.  They speak volumes about what advertisers really want, even need from us.

    I hope to share his success story a few months from now.  

    In the meantime, Chris, I'd ask you respectfully to consider two things:

    1) The fact that we've not done something previously doesn't have to pigeon-hole us forever, especially if there's a case to be made for change.

    2) I know that you're not the least bit hesitant to ask a prospective advertiser to buy advertising from your stations.  Why would you hesitate to ask him to buy copywriting and production as well, assuming (that word again) that you can demonstrate the superiority of your creative product in the same way that you demonstrate the superiority of your medium (radio), your stations, and your service. 

    Chris, you're one of the giants in our industry, in my book.  In the area of radio advertising sales, management, and training, you're a leader.

    I'd welcome your leadership on this issue, as well.  Heaven knows this is an area where Radio really needs some help!

    "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:

    'tis dearness only that gives everything its value..."

                                                                                                       - Thomas Paine

    • 1048 posts
    December 12, 2012 11:44 AM PST

    Here's some food for thought.

    I stumbled across this site,, doing some research online.  The company provides advertisers with a complete package of services to help them develop effective, engaging radio commercials.

    What do advertisers pay for their services?


    EngagingRadioCentral provides all the appropriate steps to be taken in radio commercial development from perceived need to final on-air use. Too often short cuts are taken in creating important advertisements ... resulting in less than desirable results.

    This complete package of services offered is based on the "Engaging Commercials" disciplines developed by Sensory Logic through years of advertising research using Facial Coding ... so advertisers can get the results they want:

    • Creative planning - provides the direction for completing the job as derived from discussions with the advertiser
    • Brief writing - a creative brief is developed based on the creative planning
    • Copywriting - 4 to 6 completed spots are written by a minimum of two "Engaging Commercials" qualified copywriters ... then rated for engagement
    • Engagement Ratings - initial evaluation of all commercial scripts is made by Sensory Logic to determine the "level of engagement"
    • Talent - top talent and casting is provided for maximum "engagement value" of the spot using a minimum of two voices, and more if required
    • Production/edit/mix - complete professional production services are provided to result in a quality, finished radio spot
    • Post-Production Testing - includes re-rating the spot for "level of engagement" by Sensory Logic

    Costs for this complete service range from $8,200-$9,600. [emphasis mine - RS] Details available on request.

    All spots produced through EngagingRadioCentral are created by professionals trained as "Engaging Commercials" experts ... thus providing for more than twice the ROI than ordinary radio spots.

    How much of this work are YOU doing for free?

    • 5 posts
    December 12, 2012 12:48 PM PST

    Excellent work Rod. I've watched the debate this past week and seen how many people 'give it away'. As an independent radio production company in Australia I now know why my work is moving more and more to 'new' media. As long as the spend is more important than the product nothing will change. Merry Xmas.


  • December 14, 2012 9:03 AM PST

    Two things seem to be true in every market I've ever worked:  radio stations tell me they have excellent creative, and radio listeners tell me the advertising in their market is horrible.  I've made my living for 22 years as an outsource for radio creative and production. Put another way, I've lived well off of radio's obvious shortcomings.  Businesses don't want to buy radio advertising. They want to buy success.

    To those of you who feel that radio should keep on doing what it's always done: selling airtime and slapping together some "free" hastily-written same-o same-o churned out by the same overburdened crew who do all your station's ads...I'd like to say "thank you for your support!"  But instead, I'll say it's like selling a Ferrari and then swapping in a 1973 Lada engine when your client's not looking. 

    Stations make more money when they sell success, not airtime...which often means outsourcing for fresh ideas, new strategies and stand-out production...and getting clients used to paying for that.  Don't believe for a minute your clients will object to paying for something that moves them closer to the "success" they seek.

  • December 14, 2012 9:07 AM PST

    Absolutely Shaun.

    • 54 posts
    December 14, 2012 10:45 AM PST

    I think one of the great shortfalls of Radio is that we have not shown value for this service. This has been bad for us, bad for our clients, and bad for advertising. If we at least showed value for the work from idea conception through to production we'd avoid many pitfalls. But possibly for reasons of maintaining competetive advantage over those media who charge for production we have continued to provide this service for no charge.  3 advantages to showing value. 1) We begin to invest more importance in the time and effort required for the task. Seeing a direct correlation between income and creative from concept to Mp3 makes us more intentional, and, I think more accountable. We could also simply show value on a proposal, not necessary to have seperate charge on invoice per se. 2) Charging for our creative services prevents Production departments, and copy writer(s) from being abused by well-meaning but ignorant clients who we've invited to request no-charge adjustments over and over again till just right. 3) Charging for creative would increase the total ROI on Radio advertising as a result of improved quality. How can we respect this craft appropriately when it carries zero monetary value? Many a Radio schedule was sufficient to get the job done, but anemic creative prevented it from materializing.