‘Shut Up and Drive Month’ — Encourage listeners not to text and drive, keeping them engaged and unharmed.
credit: iStockphoto/Felix Manuel Burgos-Trujillo
“We can’t give away gas cards to our listeners!” an impassioned program director told the sales manager, in no uncertain terms.
“But these are $100 gift cards!” exclaimed the man who keeps the station solvent, wondering why on earth he was hearing this.
“I don’t care,” said the PD. “Our listeners are environmentalists and not only won’t they want free gas, they’ll be angry at us for giving it away. No way are we doing that.”
Having sat down between them minutes earlier, I looked forward to the pleasure of being their moderator. The sales manager looked at me. I asked, “How much money is on the line?”
“It’s a $30,000 buy! But only if we do the promotion to give away the gift cards.”
I had asked the question to see if this would sway the PD. It didn’t. Instead, he became even more obstinate when I asked to see the research indicating that the station’s listeners either didn’t drive cars or didn’t want free gas. His response: “I don’t need any research to tell me what I know is fact.”
You know how this ends. Of course the station gave away the gift cards and got the $30K advertising buy from the agency. I later asked if they received any reaction from the audience. Yes, they had each received calls from the typical 20-something listeners anxious to know when the next gas card giveaway would be.
I took away several lessons from the episode.
First, program directors may be great at picking music but should not jump to behavior conclusions about a target audience without evidence.
Second, when there’s a lot of money on the line, a sales department almost always has the final say.
Perhaps most interestingly, there are many fun things to promote around the very subject of transportation. Here are a few idea starters you may use for promotions and, if you’re smart, you’ll also make money with them.
‘LOVELY RITA, METER MAID’
Blow the dust off this gem, which I heard the first time thanks to the father of classic rock, Fred Jacobs.
The first thing you’ll need is something that looks like a parking ticket. But instead, it’s the exact opposite. It tells the car’s driver that Lovely Rita from Classic Rock 103 noticed that their meter had expired and so paid for more time, hoping to save them from a real ticket.
“Rita” places your station’s ticket on the windshield of every car to which she contributed a few quarters for a meter. The sponsor gets its logo on the ticket (with a coupon if the client opts for it), coupled with all the on-air promotional announcements:
“Lovely Rita, the Rock 103 Meter Maid, saved a bunch of people from getting stuck with parking tickets downtown yesterday. If you see Rita on the street, be sure to honk and say hello! Brought to you by [for example, Citizens Bank], where your hard-earned change grows with interest that’s five times the national average.”
In you deal with the client, be sure to build the cost of the meter change into the sales package, so the client picks up the expense. You’ll be surprised how many cars you can save with even just $30 a day.
Cute uniforms are optional but encouraged if you happen to hire the right interns!
“City Guides” Metro systems often have print budgets to produce brochures promoting city events like street festivals, foot races and parades. It’s up to you to figure out what content would be interesting for the guide — at a minimum, the brochure should contain schedules and locations of the events, and how to get to them via Metro.
You could also include links to website resources, event history and pictures from previous years. Promote pick-up locations for these guides on your radio station(s). You may also want to make space for coupons from the sponsors of the event and other clients you bring to the program.
Find the right contact at your metro system and you might be able to pull this off several times a year. It’s also great exposure for the station.
‘PARTY BUS #22’
If you’re in a place where concerts and sporting events are difficult to reach, it’s a safe bet that you can sell at least one or two bus trips to listeners who want to get there and not worry about driving. Partner with a local travel agency who already has a list of active customers interested in entertainment.
Always reserve a few seats to give away on-air so you have an easy excuse to promote the ticket sales. You may be able to get a group rate on the tickets when you buy 30 at a time from the promoter or stadium.
Each bus can be sponsored. Always send a “host.” Let people bring their own beverages.
Get testimonials from your first few trips to prime the pump for the next ones. Eventually you get a group of regulars who like to travel to together on the Party Bus.
‘SHUT UP AND DRIVE MONTH’
Encourage listeners not to text while driving by having them sign a pledge on your website. Or have listeners text the word “pledge” to your station’s SMS system (not while driving, obviously!). Everyone who “signs” the pledge becomes eligible to win a new smartphone from the mobile phone provider (or retailer) who sponsored the pledge drive.
Because everyone is on the go, there are countless ways for you to engage your audience and actually become part of their lives beyond the airwaves. With a little imagination, you can take your station places it has not been before.
Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. Reach him at email@example.com.