First, with rare occasions such as golf and cologne, less is in fact not more. One of my favorite Clear Channel GM’s referred to that pogrom as “Our self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
When teaching Street School and discussing signage at events I always remind the promo kids that there are thousands of words in the English language that can be arranged like Scrabble tiles to create millions of sentences. But the sentence, “Tim, I was at the Katy show and you put up too many banners!” does not exist in the English language.
We need to be “big” and sound “big”. And to do that, sometimes we just need to be creative.
I’m a fan of semantics, theater, smoke, mirrors and even smoke ‘n mirrors.
Maybe my first experience with playing around with truth was when I was a van drive for WLOL in Minneapolis circa 1985-1986. (I was 11 and Emmis had notoriously lax hiring practices.) We had blitzed the market with a direct mail piece that included two bumper stickers, and magically one day, seemingly 1 in 2 cars had an ‘LOL sticker on them.
So we started a campaign of spotting cars and pulling them over to win $99. We did 2 winners in AM drive, one in the middays and two in PM drive. When I was out I was always “Paige in Spotter Van #14’. We only had one station vehicle but even the most casual listener would have been left with the impression that we had fifty vans on the streets.
Sometimes it’s just a different term. There’s “closet” and then there’s “vault”. We’ve all said, at some
point, “prize closet” when congratulating a winner. A closet is where you keep cleaning supplies or clothes. KDWB in Minneapolis has a “prize vault”. Why? It sounds bigger and more special.
When I worked in Charlotte I inherited Cash Man, which is maybe the best contest designed at training people how to fill out diaries. It’s a promotion that is always there, no matter what else is happening,
the Cash Man is always out asking people what station they listen to. Answer correctly and win $102.
We did three winners a week, but we made two or three promos out of each winner. At any given time
there were 40 promos in rotation so it sounded like we were giving away thousands and thousands of
dollars each and every week.
“Call and win the $1000 Song Of The Day!” We’ve so desensitized our audience to “free money” that it
really doesn’t mean much to them. It’s what you do with it, like “Beat The Bomb” at Power 96 in Miami
where a cash contest in inextricably linked to and a part of the brand. Most other contests just are
Cash can be bigger and sound bigger than cash. Maybe the best recent example was at The Wolf in
Greensboro where they calculated that for $330 they could buy school lunches for a year.
If you got on the air and did a $330 cash contest, people would play but it wouldn’t be anything that a
majority of people would set their clock to try and win.
“Free school lunches for a year for your kid!” on the Wolf almost disabled the phone system in the Triad
of North Carolina.
Taco Bell is currently doing their own version of the Dollar Bill Game with “Free Taco Bell For LIFE” as the prize. It’s really just a $10,000 giftcard but any time you add “for life” to a prize, yow.
The Last Contest at KCBQ in San Diego was hands down the biggest Radio contest in U.S. history. They
took $5000 and created hundreds and hundreds of exciting and compelling sounding prize packages out
of it. They stretched it out over two months and when they finally gave the cue to call, phone service
was disrupted in a third of the market. It sounded like they’d gone out and spent hundreds of thousands
of dollars on prizes and experiences.
The 2014 version is “Last Prize Standing” where you determine how much you have to spend, say, $3000 and then sit down with six pack of beer and create a dial position number of creatively named packages.
Prize Package #38: the Kim Karsdashian. If you pick the Kim K you will receive butt pads, spend a day tanning and getting your hair and makeup done before heading out with your besties out for a night in
a limo clubbing, and just in case you meet someone and want to make a tape, we’re throwing in a new iPhone 5.
We’re a medium of words, both spoken and sung. Sometimes words can be our most powerful tool in
how we image and position our brand. It’s just requires being clever and putting some spin to it.