After years of living and breathing radio, I now represent advertisers. Let me share what I hear from them: The clutter is brutal. If "less is more," you can’t tell by listening to the radio. The glut of sponsor billboards, 10th caller contests, remotes, and added-value are a blur. Meanwhile, we’ve conditioned listeners to tune-out spot breaks. It’s time to re-invent how to make radio work for your clients.
This was the driving force behind Snapple’s "brandcasting" campaign. I approached WFNX with this premise: Your radio station is struggling with low ratings and heavy competition. How can you grow, and leapfrog past other stations on to a client’s must-buy list? You’ve got three options:
- Spend a lot of money on off-air marketing,
- Hire a top morning show (for a lot of money),
- Do something newsworthy that drives new cume into the station.
Snapple paid WFNX a fee to buy out the entire commercial inventory (from Memorial Day thru July 4th). Plus, Snapple used their marketing and PR muscle to promote their involvement with WFNX. As a result, the station got amazing press throughout the radio and advertising communities.
Going commercial free for 40 days makes 10-in-a-row stations sound lame by comparison. Listeners are numb to it. And file sharing has rendered 10-in-a-row irrelevant. When the dust settles, WFNX will play about 15,000 in a row over 6 weeks. Obviously, commercial free music is a cume-magnet for ‘FNX. And we knew listeners would love it. The challenge was to weave Snapple into the station, without violating our "commercial-free" promise.
Our goal was to create "product placement" on the radio. But this campaign went far beyond just removing spots and thanking Snapple. We wanted to create a better listening experience, to engage listeners, to give them what they can’t hear on their iPods.
Snapple’s slogan is “made from the best stuff on earth.” So FNX tightened the library down to the best songs and launched the slogan, “Snapple & FNX playing the best music on earth.” With no spot breaks to work around, Snapple was woven into ‘FNX after every two songs. We injected the station with music content and creative imaging, all wrapped in Snapple. We produced dozens of entertaining artist vignettes (i.e., Snapple Pops The Cap on: Pearl Jam) and an audio signature (the sound of opening a Snapple cap, click to download sample) that was used throughout our produced elements. The message was brief, never a direct sell. Before listeners could tune out, ‘FNX was back into music. We also used Snapple caps as currency. Listeners could redeem them for free swag and admission to FNX’s ‘Cap Concerts.’
Ad agencies are reducing radio budgets as spending moves to the internet, street marketing and other non-traditional approaches. Radio is seen as an old medium that needs to respond to iPod, Satellite, and Internet radio. Brandcasting is one solution. I’m sure there are others. But one message is clear. To quote Jack Welch “Change before you have to.”