Why Promotions Fail

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Posts: 130
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2009 8:42 am

Why Promotions Fail

Post by winterwest » Thu Sep 20, 2018 10:48 am

Ya know, I've threatened to write this more times than I can count. More often than not, I start to compose it in my head and realize that there are so many avenues I could take this down that my head starts looking like a map of LA. No one needs that.

Instead, rather than share what is now nearly 40 years in the industry, let me offer in real time what I'm dealing with now, and why I unfortunately expect it to fail.

In the 13 years since stage four throat cancer took me off the air full time, I've continued to independently produce community oriented benefit promotions. Most of the time I would try to involve a media sponsor where appropriate but found quite often I'd be looking across the table at a blank stare that said "I haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about".

That's OK. Without radio I've managed to build many working bathrooms with running water on the reservation and provide over 600 of our veterans (and their families when deployed) with a winters worth of free firewood every year for 6 years.

But let's get to the project at hand and what is all too common in this industry that used to be "radio".

A few months ago, a friend of mine I knew from the business and had kept in touch with throughout the years called and asked "Hey! How would you like to get out of the Arizona heat for awhile and come join me here where it's a little cooler for July and August!?" He was helping a friend close his RV dealership and offered to trade me an RV for some tech work. (always good to have a side hustle when you work in radio, kids!) Long story short I get talked in to producing a promotion as the owner has now decided not only to keep the dealership, but move and expand, as well.
(I AM trying to retire, ya know...)

This dealership wants to specialize in the upgrading and customization of existing customers units, as well as selling seriously upgraded units for extended off-grid use.

After examining the demographics of the typical RV buyer/owner and comparing them to the target demo across formats, the decision is made to bring sociographics to bear and acquire a used unit and create the ultimate "Mobile Hunting Lodge on Wheels".

Then give it away on a "Young Country" format.

This unit will be valued at upwards of $100,000 when completed and will contain everything from a built in gun safe (welded to the frame to be theft proof) an outside butcher station and the ability to "dry camp" for months on end with recycled "gray" water, solar, and 4 6VDC deep cycle batteries that will keep this unit running without plugging in. Cool, huh!?

When you consider the obscene sum of non-traditional revenue that could be generated, not to mention building cume and supporting the stations image in the community, what station wouldn't want to be chosen as the media partner for such a give? Add to that the choice of a hunting oriented charity that provides game meat to food banks as the beneficiary of this promotion through live remote "hunting game" events and it's pretty hard to lose as a station.

Having chosen a station in the market based on research, I reached out to the Promotions Director to set an appt. for a face to face. I also contacted their corporate offices and left a message for the head of programming to introduce myself and let him know I was interested in offering one of the markets stations this promotion and wanted to reach out to make sure I was within the parameters of their practices. No reply to either initial contact.

Upon calling the station to follow up with the Promotions Director I was met with "uh...um, I, uh...hmmm"
The Promotions Director had left the station and company and no one thought to take her contact information off the website. At least I got a reply.

The PM drive and Promotions Director from the target stations sister Hot AC returned my email to let me know about the departure of the country stations Promotions Director, and that she could help me. She explained that there was an RV dealer that was sponsoring 1 hour of the morning show so maybe it would be better to do the promotion on the Hot AC station. She then closed her communication with me regarding this potentially very productive promotion with the cutest little smiley face emoji. Just adorable. Unfortunately, not exactly what you want (or expect) to encounter on a business communication.

At this point I thought it best to contact the local group GM. Via email I explained what we had in mind and expressed mild concern over turning over a promotion of this magnitude to a very obviously inexperienced Promotions Director. I offered to teach them what I knew about making real money with promotions, but I wanted a certain amount of oversight from him on the process.


While promotions has always been viewed as the "Fun & Games" end of the business, it is idiotic to think that it is not part of the "business" end of the "Broadcast Business".

A Good Radio Promotion Should:
* Generate Revenue
* Build Cume
* Support the Station Image in the Community

This radio station, group, and corporate, have until EOB tomorrow to respond. What happens if they don't?


Nothing for them in the way of revenue. No new listeners that came from the live events and news coverage. No bright shiny image of them supporting their community.


A few more stations out there that could still be a good choice for this promotion. In fact, as the minutes tick by without contact, my guess is the other stations might even be a better choice....as long as they are staffed with "Broadcasters".

I'll keep you up.

Posts: 130
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2009 8:42 am

Re: Why Promotions Fail

Post by winterwest » Sat Sep 22, 2018 5:15 am

Well…I really wish I wasn’t right about how this was likely to turn out, but I was right about how this was likely to turn out.

So, dumbfounded am I at the utter lack of understanding of promotions in this particular broadcast community that it’s left me to ask myself…


The station outlined in the initial post above behaved exactly as I had predicted. Because of the complete lack of any, ANY promotional experience in the house, they had no idea what to do with the promotion they were handed.

BUT WAIT! It gets better!

I decide to take a walk yesterday and visit the first day of the regional state fair, and who do I see? The other young country station in the market, manning an information booth. I decide to stop and “pick around” a little and the conversation comes around to promotions. I mention that’s my background and that I am, in fact, in the market working on a project.

Now, the person I’m talking to “schleps avails”. I won’t go so far as to say they’re in “sales” or that they’re an “account executive”. That would imply a base knowledge of broadcasting and “how it works”. Nope. Not here. With questions like “How do I know you’ve got this $100,000 RV?” and “Why would you just give it to us?” I couldn’t decide whether I was more disheartened, disgusted or amused.

I was about to explain to her all about “contracts” and how, when the station would be talking about this incredible RV on the air, they would also have to talk about who built it and where it came from creating, uh…you know, EXPOSURE FOR THE BUSINESS! If she didn’t understand that from the beginning, I may as well leave out the part about the station building sponsorship packages for the give, or that live remotes should be booked for the upholsterer, paint and body, audio/video and wheel and tire outlet that would be contributing to the completion of the project.

This is the part where I realize I’m talking to the ex-wife of the dealer I’m building this promotion for. I thought it best to let her be the one to bring it up. It didn’t take long.

Without missing a beat or changing the expression on my face I asked her “What, exactly, does that have to do with your radio station making money?”
“Uh, duh…um, uh….” Was all I was able to get out of her so I’m really not sure if she had a credible answer or not. I have my guesses, though.

So, now my dilemma…..
(OK, it’s not really a dilemma. I just want to know what you think.)

Of course I’ll be dropping an email to both corporate offices that represent these groups. I don’t know how generous I’ll feel about outlining their EPIC FAIL in this market, but hey, it’s not like I’m looking for a gig and have to kiss anyone’s ass. If they’re old school broadcasters, my guess is they’ll be frustrated and maybe a little pissed. I’m sure a phone call will be made. Either way, I’m sure they’ll appreciate knowing who’s capable in their jobs, and who’s just collecting a paycheck.

If they’re typical of what I’ve run into the past few years they’ll have no clue that you can actually make serious money with a well crafted promotion. They’ll want to know how many “likes” it will garner or whether or not there will be something they can “re-tweet”.

In other words, ANYTHING other than radio.

You’ll notice I’ve named neither the market, the calls or the groups that own the stations.
(while some who know me may disagree, even I’m not THAT much of a dick)

Should I? Why?

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