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Fred Jacobs is President of Jacobs Media, a media research and consulting firm. Jacobs Media clients have included CBS Radio, Premiere Radio Networks, Citadel, Greater Media, MTV Networks, Playboy, Amazon, Electronic Arts, NPR, Sylvan Learning Centers, and Taubman Malls. Learn more about the company here.


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August 2011

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Bill Weston

Excellent, thought provoking piece, Fred. As a cable-caster and not broadcaster, VHI avoids the lottery issue. For radio, using a 'text to enter' tactic with a nominal, additonal fee is an enticing idea. But how to get around the random selection / everyone has an equal chance conundrum?


Thanks for the note, Bill. As you know, I'm no lawyer (I just watched a lot of Perry Mason as a kid). And I thought about the prize, chance, consideration issue as I was writing the post. My thought was that for listeners who do not wish to/cannot spend the money to enter, you could simply build into the rules that listeners could send you an entry in the mail, thus alleviating the fee. Obviously, most people would still call the 1-900 number, but this would hopefully satisfy legal. But I think it's also true that it takes an awfully cool, big, fantasy prize like this in order to entice consumers to part with even a small entry fee. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

Don Beno

You have to admit, giving away all those 'vettes was a fantastic idea. More so than just giving away the million bucks. And, let's be honest....if you want a chance to win a cool million, drop a dollar on a lottery ticket.

For those of us who don't have $1,000,000 sitting in our prize fund, we have to get creative with those "smaller" prizes.

I remember when giving away an "autographed guitar" was a huge deal. Now Ebay has an array of just about any autograph of anything one could want.

While I believe concert tickets that come attached with the "meet n greet" are still a fantastic prize that money can't buy...they really only appeal to the fan of that artist.

A good contest contains a prize that not only appeals to the active listener, but the passives as well.

Bottom line, in my opinion, is the execution of the promotion. The on-air announcemnets must engage the listener whether they participate in the contest or not. The Corvette giveaway provided a nice street buzz whether you're a Chevy, Ford or Mopar fan.

There are perhaps dozens of places where you can register to win a Las Vegas or Ft. Lauderdale vacation. But if you repackage that trip and make it a "Fly Away to ANY vacation spot in the USA" using a variety of on-air creative promos as examples of where the winner might choose, it can create a thought provoking buzz among listeners.

In any event....Fred, I hope you're right about the economy turning around soon. Thanks for the article.

Jim Cahill

Don-well said...

what we had with the Corvette Collection-was "perceived value"-in many cases-viewers thought of the collection as "priceless"-we had an American icon that was also aspirational (important in percieved value)...and the campaign we built was in fact a testament to the Jack McCoy style--true "theatre of the mind" production --something which radio used to be so good at...and we used a multi faceted campaign including teasers, teasers, teasers.......something BIG was COMING to VH1...and then when we opened the phones-it was really just a GIANT fantastic radio contest with pictures...I grew up a HUGE fan of Jack McCoy and KCBQ and I believe the lessons from the "last contest" was that you could "produce" the radio station with true "theatre of the mind" promotion that separated you from every station in town, simply with imagination and great promo production...

yes-KCBQ played the same music as any station of it's ilk in the era-but became legendary through Jack's belief that "imagination powered promo production" created a special place in the minds of listeners...

Bill...to your point...prize, chance, consideration was, of course a concern of ours in putting the VH1 contest together so we offered a free means of entry-and added all the "free" players to the database of folks who used the 900 #...the Corvette Collection could have been won by a free entry-as it was, the guy who won the cars only called 1 time (amazing)-but the method of entry was fair for all who wanted to participate...an important element in any game of chance. If it's fair and it's free-it could be for me!

Jim Cahill

Jay Philpott

I wonder how many great ideas like this are shot down, or worse yet - stillborn in the minds of the dreamers and never articulated - because of the fear that the massive nature of the concept or its mechanics couldn't be articulated in a PPM world. BIG needs to be BIG, and while that doesn't necessarily mean long, I think you're shortchanging yourself if you just do a bunch of quick hit promos for something that's H U G E.

Would even a compelling, well-written Jack McCoy-style "Last Contest" promo survive in today's metered world?

Jim Cahill

excellent point-and good food for thought. Ratings are ratings. Short term can always be an adversary of long term. It often comes down to who the boss is.

I think at the very heart of putting any great BIG concept in play is courage. When I hit Tom Freston with the concept of the Corvettes-he leaned back, put his feet up on the conference table and said "Do it."-at the very heart of his decision was courage. Now of course it helped that he was Chairman & CEO of MTV Networks, but Tom is a very, very creative guy and he also clearly understood the moment and that we were playing for much more than incremental gains. This was a play to get MSO's that were not in business with VH1 on board quickly (expand distribution) as well as generate heat on systems that were already carrying the network...most of all it was a consumer facing play that demanded a BIG BANG and needed to be SUPER successful on the PR side or not be attempted at all.

Truly big plays require courage & long term thinking. What creative concepts survive are up to the boss and if the boss has courage and you're playing for the long run-I believe yes- a Jack McCoy style promo would/should look beyond the incremental and make a run toward LEGENDARY...from there, the buzz, vibe and audience follow. McCoy 101. Courage 101. Once you've hit that sweet spot-you've improved the asset value of the property, and that's bigger than anything a single trend, book, meter or metric should ever trump.

I was in another situation four years later (also with Jeff Rowe who ran the Corvette play with me at VH1)...we were in an incredible high level pitch meeting with Don Ohlmeyer at NBC in Burbank and we were proposing the NBC2000 project (spilt screen credits/seamless prime time/early jump into late local news -a complete reinvention of NBC's prime time presentation)-Don was President of Entertainment and it was his call entirely...

(the collective "Vice Presidential" brain trust in the conference room held it's breath as we awaited DO's response....

even though our concept would most certainly disrupt negotiated union labor agreements (screen credits & NABET) as well as put every business affairs attorney at every major studio in town into a 'foaming at the mouth manical frenzy' (they owned the programming-how dare we suggest such things?) Don said "YES" as fast as Tom did. NBC 2000 went on the air against the will of every studio & program supplier, and within 100 days, seamless "Must See TV" had catapulted NBC from 3rd to 1st and NBC went on a 10 year tear of white hot ratings, monster hit shows and record profits...

Don was thinking long term. Don was thinking increase asset value. At the heart of his decision-courage.

Jim Cahill

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