Case Study: How This Station Tripled Ratings With Urgent CTAs

In this article, I showed three simple ways to make your show and content important by increasing urgency on the air. Now I’ll show you how that works in the real world.

Well, the real world as defined by Nielsen ratings, which is anything but the real world, but it’s how most broadcasters measure success.


My client is a CHR station targeting 18-29 year olds in a very competitive market. We’ve been building a smart listener database for several years, learning their preferences and tendencies. One thing we know for a fact is that those listeners most likely to play contests are many times more likely to be a ratings respondent.

The Promotion:

We had a limited supply of tickets to Disneyland to give away, a great prize. Rather than conducting (yet another) call in to win contest, which simply doesn’t work, we instead targeted those most valuable listeners: ratings respondents.

The goal was to activate interested listeners, which has nothing to do with how many promos we run, how much we hype or how loud we shout. It has everything to do with making the offer tangible, immediate and most importantly, urgent.

So, we used our database exclusively. Here’s how:

  1. A text message went out to those who had indicated an interest in winning contests and promotions.
  2. Instructions were to turn on the radio station and listen for a specific song, guaranteed to play in a narrow window (15 minutes), starting almost immediately (within 10 minutes).
  3. When they hear the song start, just reply to the text. A random text was selected as the winner and awarded a pair of tickets.
  4. At the end of the song, a message was sent to congratulate the winner and promote the next time we’d play.

The Results:

With most promotions, we don’t really know how many played, let alone know who participated. In this campaign, we know exactly who’s being influenced. And, using data from M-Score, we can track the impact on meter carriers. In every instance of executing the promotion, every time we sent an alert, panelists increased in the promoted quarter hour.

And here’s the kicker: This was run without any promotion on the air. None.

Here’s why this worked:

  • An immediate CTA (Call to Action). They didn’t have to remember anything later.
  • Easy to participate. A small ask, just tune in and listen for a song right now. Simple.
  • Direct & personal. A direct message inviting me to play along.
  • Activates non-listeners instantly. The invitation goes out to all opted-in listeners, not just those who happen to be listening now (as with most call in to win contests).
  • A welcomed message. It was delivered only to those in the database that had indicated interest in playing.
  • No disappointment. There were no busy signals, no “sorry you didn’t win” messages. Everyone trying to play got through, and received an acknowledgement message.
  • A strong incentive. Have you seen the price of tickets to Disneyland lately?

How To Do This On Your Station:

You can have similar results. Really you can. Here’s what it takes:

  1. An active, smart database. Active in that it’s updated, scrubbed and relevant. Current. Smart in that you collect attributes about each person in the DB. Knowing who the contest players and Disney fans are increases response rates and allows you to target messaging. The database doesn’t have to be huge, but the larger the database, the more meter carriers you’ll find. Don’t have one yet? Start now.
  2. Attention. Most promotion and contesting efforts seem like a chore that the promotion department has to check off their task list each day rather than a marketing opportunity to drive listeners. Plan your campaign and think through each step, then execute with precision and enthusiasm.
  3. Commitment. Break out of the habit of doing things the same way you have since the 80s (Call in to Win). Focus on the effective, not the easy.

This case study is detailed in the Master Class Seminar 10 Digital Concepts That Build a FanBase.  You can watch the seminar on demand and download the outline from the session here


Find out more:

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