Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The dumbest radio contest so far

Like many of you, I have seen my share of radio station contests over the years, even if I haven’t gone along with very many. The purpose is supposed to be to increase listening, whether for a specific show or broadcast event, time of day, to promote the music or format being played, and/or in support of a sponsor.

But X-103.9 in Southern California may have hit a new low with their latest contest. An expensive new low. A possible $25,000 giveaway is a great prize for a local radio station. Any of us supposedly could “win”. Yet, I’m 2,000 miles away and don’t even have to listen to the station.


The prize goes to the first person who can produce a $1 bill with the serial number on it they have designated for the contest. If I have read the contest right, I would have to show up with this $1 bill by this Friday and win their prize. I don’t have to listen or even have any idea of what this station does on the air.

At first, I had the fantasy that anybody would, of finding the “winning” bill and hopping on a plane and spending $1,000 of that prize money as a result of an “emergency trip” to California.

However, my marketing expertise took over. Not only is no listening required, or nothing having to do with the radio station (other than knowing the serial number for the $1 bill), but this giveaway probably has nothing to do with the local market. After all, how honest would this “contest” be if the dollar bill happened to be in that marketplace? Memories of “the last contest” and the keys to a new car but not the car itself come to mind.

I’m not saying this contest is not on the level. But I have to ask the obvious questions. How does this contest help listenership? What does it have to do with the local market? How does management justify a possible (but not likely) $25,000 giveaway based on the first two questions?

Even if someone does “win”, chances are they would come from out of the area. The publicity generated would be positive, but the publicity would go national. National publicity would not guarantee an increased audience for the station online, since the giveaway has nothing to do with the station format. And not everyone learning of this story would be compelled to listen to the station. Even for the remote possibility of winning $25,000 on a fluke.

It will be interesting to see what happens after this coming Friday (Sept. 11). If someone wins, and it is a local person, I have to believe there would be an investigation into how a specific $1 bill winds up within a specified territory for a contest. If no one wins, will the station continue the contest? Do they “really” want to give away the money?

To put a real marketing touch into this, one more question. I saw the serial number they are using for the contest. Why does it NOT include 1039 (for 103.9) anywhere in the sequence?

There is a question to ponder while trying to find a radio station worth listening to.

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