“Recycled Resumes” – One of my faves because the very idea that Dunwoody publishes its catalog on paper made from crappy recyled resumes …it made me laugh even before I could write the spot. (That’s usually a good sign.) Turn it up when you play it. The sfx help. (NOTE: Give each spot a few seconds to load.)

“Ditch Diggers” — When I was a kid, my mom always told be to do well in school or I’d “end up being a ditch digger.”

“Janitor” – This is the very first spot I did in the series. I like how whiney and wimpy the guy’s voice sounds. The first of many jabs and traditional “liberal arts” degrees. 

“Fast Food Guy” — This time the voiceover is the guy at “Burgerland.” He’s bummed out, he’s got a shitty job, and he complains about it to you, the person in the car waiting for service. Note that we continue to have fun trashing liberal arts classes like  “art appreciation” and “romance languages.”

“Near Bored-To-Death Experience” — This one is another guy with a crappy job talkin’ about why he shoulda gone to Dunwoody. Kudos to the actor. I think he really pulled it off.

“Hamster” — This spot is one of two on this list that were inspired by a sound effect. Sometimes a sound effect so captures what it is you are trying to make your listener feel,  you can build a spot around it.

“Job Line” — Actress Phyllis Wright, an old friend from Minneapolis, makes this spot work. She’s doing the part of the lady on the “Job Line” who lists the horrible jobs you’ll have to settle for if you didn’t go to Dunwoody.

“Crickets” – This is the other spot built around a sound effect. Of all these Dunwoody spots, this is the only one that made it into a national show (One Show). Maybe that’s because they all suck, I don’t know. But I don’t care either. I stand by this campaign as the best one I ever wrote. I encourage you to adopt the same attitude with work you instinctively feel is right — put your head down, plow ye forth, and go with your gut. Also, it helps to have a great client. (Yeah, I know, they were a teeny client. No committees. No gauntlet. In fact, that may have been the key.)

54 Responses to “My Favorite Radio Campaign”

  1. Palma says:

    Thanks Luke. I love radio, especially AM radio. I remember hearing these spots and thinking, “how can that shitty little school afford an ad agency? And, they can, it must be a shitty little agency with a good writer freelancing there.”

    Do you have a Liberal Arts degree.

    • heywhipple says:

      Yo Michael: Glad you liked ‘em. And yes, I DO have a regular old liberal arts degree. And it was sorta fun bashing my own achievement. While writing, I would remember the 4 years I spent on the street looking for work with my B.A. in Psychology.

  2. esin says:

    Let me know when you stop being modest and start calling these spots “Just Awesome”.

  3. Recycled Resumes is the best radio ad I’ve ever heard – bar none. Brilliant.

    • heywhipple says:

      Yo Simon: Glad you liked Recycled Resumes. I remember coming up with it at Fallon. I was sorta suffering that day, had a buncha okay ideas. But when the concept of the spot occurred to me, not the script (that came later) but just the CONCEPT, it made me laugh. Usually it is a good sign for a broadcast assignment when the idea is funny on paper. Then, producing it, it gets even funnier.

  4. George Gier says:

    Best of Show! Seriously, Luke, these are awesome. Many radio campaigns don’t progress. That is, they never rise beyond the first effort. This one however does, and does it well. Ditch Diggers and Crickets… sublime.

    • heywhipple says:

      Yo George: Thnx dude. Hope I don’t come off as braggy, but I think it’s okay to put up some of your own work and say, dang, I think this is pretty good. (Trick is though, it can’t suck or one looks bad.)

  5. David Freels says:

    Great stuff. I particularly liked ‘Job Line’ as I found myself looking forward to hearing the next job description. I was not only enjoying the spot but listening intently to what was said and what was about to be said. What were the results of this campaign?

    • heywhipple says:

      As for results, all I can say is they were good. The client kept comin’ back askin’ for more radio to rotate. Also, “Job Line” has my single favorite line I EVER wrote in 31 years of advertising: “Department store Santa: Some drinking allowed, but no….” Ah, it’s that “but no….” and all its attendant images I like so much.

  6. These rule. I find Ditch Digger Recycled Resumes particularly delicious. Great performances all the way through. Casting a much bigger deal on radio than most of us make it.

  7. I’m going to be bold and say I didn’t like them all too much. I can see why they could be great, but I thought they where so long (All 1minute +) and I wasn’t interested in listening them (they didn’t create interest).

    Still love your work though Luke, red Hey Whipple about 3 times now and I can dream it backwards.

    • heywhipple says:

      Jaap. Am glad you liked the book. But about not liking this radio?
      You are RONG.
      Yes, that’s right.
      Capital R, O, N, G.

      Thanks for the honesty, dude. That’s brave, when others disagree.
      But like I said in my essay, I stand by these.

      • Perhaps it’s the age difference, perhaps it’s because I’m from the Netherlands. I’m not used to hear such long commercials. With radio commercials, you’re always doing something else. I think the ones you listed here require a lot of attention, not least for being over a minute in duration. I think the new generation is not waiting to hear this. Thanks to internet there is already a huge overload of information coming our way, so we are very careful about what we want to see or hear, and we train ourselves each day to avoid ads.

        What I don’t really like about those is that they don’t leave much room to ‘discover’ what’s happening, and that’s what usually makes a good print ad. I’m not saying this one is great, but it leaves room for the listener to paint a picture in his mind.

        Then again, I’m only a student who has only heard a handful of radio commercials, discussing this with the author of Hey Whipple, a book I learned so much from. But my inexperience does give me a different perspective as well.

        And I don’t think I can be RONG (is that the new wrong?). The list you made is about personal taste, and yours isn’t the same as mine, despite all that knowledge and experience you have ;-) I try to learn from yours as well though, but I’ll keep my preferences.

        • heywhipple says:

          I totally get it. And I did happen to like that Australian zoo radio spot. Well cast and produced. I like how you’re sticking to your guns (which is what I recommended at the end of the radio page.) Keep at it, dude. And glad you liked the book.

          • George Gier says:

            @ Jaap,

            Sorry, Jaap, but I’m with Luke on this one… you’re RONG. Only so much so, I’ll throw in the silent “W” for free. You’re WRONG. There. The argument that your generation is too ADD to listen to anything even remotely close to 30 seconds is lame and would be soundly trashed by anyone from your generation. It’s a lame crutch used by lame creatives who can’t think of how they would develop anything past the opening sentence. And the “I’m from a different country” thing doesn’t work either. Wow, sucks to be you today.

          • Deric says:

            I’m not taking any sides on this argument – merely adding some perspective.

            I love the spots. I think they’re perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing about them.

            However, 60-second commercials are rare nowadays. Not because we young kids can’t handle anything past 30 seconds. We all manage to sit through two and half hour movies or three-minute songs. Although, every Nickleback song is about three minutes too long (I’m from Canada by the way). But I digress.

            Sixty second spots are expensive media; they cut down the frequency of the client’s message, and radio (in Canada) has been relegated to a hardcore retail medium. It’s become the starburst of the audio world. My guess is the same is true in the Netherlands.

            Whether a spot is 30, 60, or, God forbid, 15, it should catch the listener’s attention within the first five seconds. Be it an interesting thought, sound effect or just silence, it doesn’t matter. I read that in a book once. You may have heard of it.

            However with all the station surfing that’s done while listening to the radio, 30s and 60s have about equal chance of being heard.

            Then again, if you hear something that does interests you – whether you’re five or 105 – you’ll listen until it doesn’t anymore. And if that interesting thing entertains you along the way (which all of Neil’s radio does), you’ll suddenly find yourself wondering why it had to end so soon.

          • Deric says:

            And by Neil, I mean Luke.

            My sincere apologies Mr. Sullivan.

            It’s been one of those never-ending days.

          • @George Gier
            Get a grip man. My days are always good. Don’t fill in that for me. And this page is about personal taste as well. You cannot let me not have my own. I get what Luke is saying (just as he understands me). Your post is a tad too offensive though and doesn’t really hold water.

  8. dean says:

    Nice campaign. I do see it as a campaign. My favorite is Hamster. These should have all won, but the shows seem to be random at times. Cannes especially this year. There was some good work, but some quite banal work that won. It left me boggled and cynical (and no I didn’t have work in Cannes that was scorned).

    Were they entered in the Mercury Awards? How’d they do there?

    • heywhipple says:

      Thanks, glad you liked ‘em. No, they never got in any national show. Lots of medals in the Minneapolis show, but that’s back yard bragging rights. And there was not a Mercury show at the time. These were written in 1997. (Yeah, I’m old, so sue me.) And as for how judges judge radio? Most judges don’t LIKE radio. It bores them if it is not cool print, TV or online.

  9. john w. says:

    Love your ‘art’, liberally.
    My fave line. ‘Don’t be in a rut when you can be in a ditch.’
    Oscar Wilde inspired? ‘The man who calls a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for. ‘

  10. These are indeed great. Writing radio is the most fun I’ve had, too. I’m now inspired to seek out more of it. Thanks for sharing your all-time favorite work.

    By the way, why can’t your Twitter photo be as folksy and unfreaky as the one above? What was going on there? :)

    • heywhipple says:

      Yo TIm: Glad you liked ‘em. And yes, that creepy Twitter photo was taken on Halloween two years ago, right after my boys put on the make-up. I’d change it, but by now it’s the picture people have learned to expect.

  11. WorkingClassDan says:

    Hey Luke,

    these are very cool. Recycled Radio is excellent. It has a seamless transition to the sell which is always a bonus when that happens. Not that I’m against doing a ‘tag man’ section but if you can weave in your sell you’re on a winner.

    I also love your SFX-based spots. Great radio often has a key sound that is not only evocative (man in a hamster wheel) but it wouldn’t work as well on TV or anywhere else. It’s the old theatre of the mind thingy that everyone talks about but you don’t really hear as often as we should, probably because it’s difficult to do.

    And can I throw this out there, that some people are ‘radio people’ and some just wouldn’t give it the time of day; it’s a ragtag bunch within the larger ad-person group. Radio people are weird. People who get excited about radio ads are weird. Good weird.

  12. Deric says:

    I love them all, but most notably “Recycled Resumes,” “Crickets,” and “Janitor.” Funny stuff. There’s a lot of heart and craftsmanship in all of them that you just don’t hear anymore.

    I’m curious though, how did you present these scripts to client? Did you read them plainly or act them out? Did you sing when you presented “Janitor”?

    Thanks for sharing.

    • heywhipple says:

      Hey Deric. Glad you liked the radio. And as for presenting them, yes, there was a small bit of theater. Couldn’t just READ it, but I don’t try to go way over the top with a non-actor’s take on the actor’s craft. Usually were presented over lunch.

    • heywhipple says:

      I think you are right. There are people who are good at radio and then….everyone else. They are an odd, hard-to-find group.

  13. Nice. I miss the craft of great radio. I think sound-only-based storytelling could come back somehow though, reinvented, for a different medium. The limitations made it fun.

  14. Marci Diehl says:

    By “Job Line” I was laughing so hard I was breathless and in tears. I’m not here to do an academic discussion of whether we will still listen to :60 spots. I think these are brilliant. I’ve written some radio ads — back when they would consider :60 ads — and loved the freedom to be creative and still get that message in. As I’ve been with your book and this blog — I’m inspired and a flat-out fan. Of you — and Dunwoody.

    • heywhipple says:

      I am SO glad you liked it. since these never got into any national shows, my reward is getting nice messages like yours.

  15. Jean Mitchell says:

    This are effin awesome! where i come from there arent good radio commercials, ( harsh to say i know, but true) they always say pretty much the same thing and TRY SOOO HARD to be funny and then everything goes down the crapper. Or they probably use the jingle from the tv commercial as a radio spot too. Lame

    Luke this are amazing radio spots! im still laughing at the “for a quater more you can buy the big popcorn” hahaha it’s just great and yes the actor did great too. I think this is my favorite.

    Love Recycled resumed and Janitor, the ideas are awesome.
    i remember that in your book you mentioned the Crickets spot and when i read it i was trying so hard to imagine the sound of the crickets saying “loooooser” and now that i heard it for real, it’s waaaaay better and funnier than i had imagine.

    Nice campaing, i love everysingle one of them. (:

  16. Peter says:

    Luke, I think these are all great. My favorite is the “Near Bored-To-Death Experience”. The anticipation in the actor’s voice is so uncanny to how theater employees really act. I actually stumbled upon your blog today. I was googling your book (sadly someone never returned my copy) to find reference material for an article I was asked to write about advertising. I thought, “Hmmmm, Luke Sullivan is such a legend that he’s probably not even alive anymore,” And then I come to find out you have an effin blog? This is GREAT! If only you could see me I’m clapping my hands together like a cymbal-banging monkey toy.

    • heywhipple says:

      Yo Peter: Glad you liked the spot, and the blog. I have had a busy week and haven’t been able to post for awhile. But letters like yours really make my day. Thx dude.

  17. Eve says:

    When I was hired at F.I.T. to teach “Copywriting for Radio and Television”, I had no idea what I was doing. I had been “let go” after 9 loyal years at Y&RNY and there was an opening and I needed the money so I thought what the hell, I’ll figure out what to do.

    Feeling like a fraud and suppressing giggles when addressed as “Professor Bergman”, I flipped through the book from which I was I was supposed to teach copywriting. I remember that they had 50′s illustrations like Playtex X your heart bra ads but that is probably not accurate. There was no way I could teach those kids anything of value from that book. So I begged the “Chair” to order 35 copies of my favorite advertising book of all time: “Hey Whipple, Squeeze this”, ‘The Chair’ agreed and I was given permission to use it (and Ogilvy’s book) as the class textbook.

    I was astonished when the kids in the class gave me the highest rating ever received from a first time professor. The credit should have gone to you, Luke. If I had anything of value to share, it isn’t because of what I learned in school, or at work on Madison Avenue. It’s because your book and your work taught me that alignment with the truth yields the most original and effective results. The book taught me to find the kernel of truth and execute it in the simplest way possible. It taught me to be fearless and unafraid of my own weirdness–in fact, it taught me that it was my very weirdness that would create the best ads. You have elevated the work of so many of us who have passed our knowledge on to others who will pass it on again. These spots are more evidence of your brilliance. I laughed my ass off. Well, I wish I had, but looking back I see it’s still jiggling right where it always was. Thank you, from all of us.

    • heywhipple says:

      Wow. Thank you so so much for the long, thoughtful, and kind email. The book is now about 12 years old. I NEVER get tired of hearing from students (and teachers alike) that they dug the book. It never gets old hearing kind words like yours. Appreesh.

  18. Dan says:

    Hamster is just brilliant. Maybe it’s the fact that I heard it in the context of the campaign, but as soon as I heard the wheel, my head went CLICK!, like when you immediately think “I wish I did that”. Cheers!

    • Luke says:

      yo dan, reeeeallly glad you liked Hamster. soon as I thought of that sad lonely sound effect, it sorta wrote itself. Doesn’t get old hearin’ people like it. Thx for the kind words.

  19. Tod T.bare says:

    helpful Post. thank for information.

  20. Gregg Bauer says:

    Great stuff. Wouldn’t expect anything less.
    Radio production has changed so much in the past years. We just cut 3 spots yesterday from our conference room table. Had the VO and talent call in with the producer on the other line. No need to go into the studio.
    Glad I found you on Twitter.

  21. Jessica K says:

    Great stuff! I’m an ad student leaning more towards art direction, but it’s always so fun to see the amazing work copywriters can come up with.
    I’m halfway through Hey Whipple, by the way. Loving every page of it :)

  22. John Deignan says:

    oh man, recycled resumes is great
    the hilariously-specific details really create a visual of this poor resume
    great stuff

  23. Ray Schilens says:

    Hey Luke- Would love to get you back on The Advertising Show to talk about your new book. Let me know if you’re available. Ray

  24. Kevin R says:

    These are just great. The recycled resumes spot is hilarious. I don’t know where you found the talent to read these things but those people sure know their stuff. Great scripts and a great read! Man am I feeling embarrassed about my own ham-fisted radio stuff.

    • heywhipple says:

      Hey Kevin, thanks for the kind words. As for the voice oever talent? Glad you like them and they were all picked after listening to a minimum of 150, sometimes 200 voices, comparing and going back and forth before settling on a few. Sometimes we did “callbacks” (bringing a chose few in for a more directed reading) which is something everyone does for TV shoots, but fewer do for radio.

  25. Whcgonzo says:

    Shared with the intern. Told him to “do likewise.” Should be enough input, right? Too much pressure?

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  27. Must be the writer in me, but I also think radio spots like this are a lot of fun. I’m looking to break into advertising ASAP, and I just finished “Whipple”—very helpful stuff. Your dedication to informing and inspiring younger generations is much appreciated, Mr. Sullivan.

  28. Jeff says:

    For some reason, I can’t get the ads to load or show themselves, regardless of which browser I use, whether it be Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc. My flash player is up to date and I don’t have any weird privacy or security settings getting in the way, that I know of, at least.

    Is this just a technical glitch or have you decided to take the ads down? Anybody else experience this?

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