Are You Hyping Radio Contests Too Much?

Are You Hyping Radio Contests Too Much?

by Tracy Johnson

Just when you thought you have figured out how to influence ratings with your contest strategy, this happens.

New data warns us that you may be un-doing some of the good you thought you were doing in your promotion strategy. NuVooDoo Media points to a dark side of promotion if you are hyping radio contests too much.

It’s clearly established that contests and promotions work with the most important radio listeners: those most likely to participate in ratings.

NuVooDoo’s study reveals that ratings respondents (diary and PPM) believe radio contests add to the entertainment value of a station:

From the perspective of adding to their enjoyment alone, we see more than twice as many among the ratings-likely populations respond positively to the idea of contesting. Investigations from past studies suggest that the pool of likely contest players tilts even more decisively toward likely ratings responders.



That’s a good thing, a very good thing! Now for the dark side.

Are You Hyping Radio Contests Too Much?

However, those same respondents that love contests clearly believe that stations beat contests into the ground. Nearly half think they spend too much time talking about those promotions:


If you think about it, there’s a common-sense explanation for this. Ratings respondents are contest players, and they also tend to be more interested and engaged in radio, so it can be concluded that they get your contest much more quickly than non-ratings respondents.

Now I’m all for creative repetition to drive response. It works. It’s important. But I also know that a relatively small percentage of overall listeners participate in contests,  and while they are the most valuable of all listeners, they don’t need as much frequency in messaging because they’re more tuned in.

You might also like:  8 Ways to Bulletproof Radio Contests

Hype Less: Impacting Audiences More?

It’s an interesting dilemma, isn’t it? Relax the promotion efforts and run the risk of falling short of making the audience aware of the campaign. Concentration of Force is a key to promotion success. After all, I’d rather go a little too far and make sure listeners know about it than assume they’re getting it…but they’re not.

It’s also true that more promotion on a contest raises the perceived importance of that event.

So what’s the right balance? It scares you to death to think you may not be promoting heavily enough to have an impact, but what if the campaign is hurting you? How can we extract the greatest impact without going so far that we run turn our most valuable listeners away?

Whether or not your contest and prize is compelling, it’s worth considering. There’s no doubt that some stations tend to over-contest. Promotions managers and program directors often feel it’s something the audience expects. And air talent loves having those prizes to give away. It gives them something to talk about! But there’s nothing wrong with keeping your station clean. Then, when your contest comes happens, it stands out.

Always remember that contests are promotion, but they’re also content. The more your campaigns are designed to entertain, the less annoying they’ll feel to the audience. If all of your contests are simply trying to buy listeners by offering prizes, you probably are running off many listeners.


The solution to this puzzle will vary by market, format, station and even by contest. Perhaps the best advice is:

  • Consider promoting less frequently, but make it count more by shining a brighter spotlight on those promos, liners and announcements.
  • Balance your station with non-contest/promotion so it doesn’t sound so much like “this is all they talk about”.
  • Communicate promotion mechanics, details and even major announcements on your website, social media and via email to your database.
You might also like:  It's Time to Rethink Cash Contests

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