THE VAULT: The 40 Greatest Promotions ever run on FM radio

Staff Writer

Radio promotions put the wow factor into radio. Promotions, stunts and contests can create word of mouth, increase awareness & recall, drive cume & market share, create compelling listening and are great revenue drivers for advertisers.

Another, often unspoken but major benefit, is that a great, well executed, multifaceted promotion can give a station a sharp point of focus and direction. And stations with limited marketing budgets can benefit from strong PR via promotions & stunts.

As well as appealing to the minority of active ‘contest’ participants, promotions should also appeal to the majority – the ‘passive’ listeners.

Whereas contests used to be targeted primarily to ratings diary keepers, now they are an integral part of a stations brand DNA.

Australian FM radio has always been at the forefront of executing brilliant, original and creative promotional campaigns. Many of our promotions here have found their way onto US, UK, European, Asian, and African radio over the years.

And many promotional mechanics used on radio over the decades have been adapted to other media (an example from the UK: did you know Who Wants to Be a Millionaire started out as a radio contest?) – or have started being adapted in consumer marketing outside the media (e.g., many elements of the Share a Coke campaign will have been familiar to anyone who has worked in radio over the last few decades).

Here’s a list of the most popular, most effective and successful promotions ever run on FM radio in Australia.

I look forward to your comments and suggestions for the ones we missed.

The Ultimate Ear Test Also known as The Secret Sound. Made famous by Mix. A mystery sound is played, clues are given, and listeners win cash if they identify the sound correctly.
The $100,000 Wheelie Bin of Fortune Nova’s version of the secret sound … but without the sound. $100k in loose change fits conveniently into a wheelie bin. A piece of junk from Merrick & Rosso’s office was hidden under the change, clues were given, and listeners won the cash if they identified the piece of junk.
The Million Dollar Cash Drop From 2Day FM. Finalists had the opportunity to skydive onto a grid containing 250 squares. A recent variation is 104.7’s Drop the Ball.
Fifteen Seconds of Fame Listeners get to do their stuff on radio, sing, tell jokes or play an instrument.
Radio Gladiators Martin / Molloy chose a handful of listeners to talk about the day’s chosen topic. Best call won the prize.
Pop Quiz Listeners get the chance to win cash by answering 10 popular culture questions correctly within a 60 second time limit.
The Caravan of Courage Hamish and Andy’s annual road trip, which was covered on air and also on television.
The Lie Detector Listeners were strapped to a lie detector and had to reveal the truth when asked questions about their personal life. Its run came to an end in 2009 after a serious incident on 2Day FM.
Cash Call One of the original radio contests which now appears on Television breakfast shows.
Pay Off Your Plastic / Pay Your Bills Radio stations pay off listeners phone, electricity, gas bills.
The Celebrity Party Made famous on 2Day FM. A party with lots of celebrities. Listeners got to win their invite to this ‘exclusive’ event and rub shoulders with the stars.
Love Online Originally run as online dating was launched in the 1990s. Fox FM married a couple after their first meeting.
The Last Contest A promotional and production extravaganza. A huge giveaway of truly amazing money-can’t-buy prizes, billed as The Last Contest.
Phonesex On Nova. Callers on the line have to guess the sex of the next caller (boy or girl). If they got three right in a row (1 in 8 chance) they won the cash.
Wrong Words Took current songs and re-recorded them with different voices as poetry in completely opposite genres. Also known as The Musical Challenge. And taken to its logical extreme on Nova as Wrong Songs.
Gotcha Calls A segment featuring prank phone calls. These were axed, for well-known reasons, late last year.
Million Dollar Head in the Sand From Fox FM where listeners had to dig in the sand to win a million dollars. Also known as the The Million Dollar Dawn Dig on 2Day FM (pic) and there was The Million Dollar Vault where they had to shovel cash out of a bank vault.
Two Strangers and a Wedding A controversial competition where two contestants who have never met are chosen by listeners. Then they had to marry to win the prize. There was also The Naked Wedding on B105.
Wedding Unplanners Nova’s answer to Two Strangers and a Wedding. Merrick and Rosso gave two listeners the wedding of their dreams. Then, day by day, they de-constructed the dream wedding into a nightmare. A horse was involved. And an ‘80s synth. And half a moustache.
The Triple Play that Pays Originally on Triple M. Hear and identify 3 songs in a row to win cash.
Beat The Bomb Listeners have to ‘stop’ the bomb which is ticking away while the cash prize keeps increasing.
Billboard of Cash Listeners were given the chance to guess the cash amount on the billboard to win it. Another recent variation was Loose Change on Nova Perth.
Shoot The Celebrity in The Arse An ACRA winning Martin / Molloy segment where listeners were invited to call in and ‘shoot’ a celebrity guest in the arse.
The Tall Ship Adventure From Hamish and Andy’s show where Andy sailed to Tasmania to celebrate the launch of their show there. Not to be confused with Merrick & Rosso’s Pirate Ship, which just went around the Sydney harbour a bit.
Rock Words A legendary contest in Perth, originally on 96FM and later on Mix 94.5. A crossword on air using musical clues.
The Fugitive Listeners were given cryptic clues to join the hunt to find The Fugitive who had a large cash bounty on his head. First to find and identify The Fugitive won the prize money.
Battle of the Sexes A legendary contest where males competed against females. The guys were asked female skewed questions and the girls asked male questions.
Renovate Your Life Nova gave a listener the chance to travel first class around the world, renovate their home or buy that dream car.
House From Hell From Andrew Denton and Triple M. Listeners had to live together in a house. Was the forerunner to Big Brother.
Cunning Stunts Despite some rumours, the name wasn’t original or controversial – it dates back to radio in the 1970s. Nova adapted the idea, adding more outrageous and elaborate daily stunts. Many of the stunts would no longer be legally viable. (btw – several announcers did get caught out by the tongue twister title).
The Bunch of Fives Listeners ring in when they hear the five songs in a row to win the nominated cash prize.
Bugg’d / The Hidden Microphone A location-based promotion – listen to audio transmitted live from the ‘bug’, listen for clues, first person to find the bug wins $24k.
Moral Dilemma From Nova and also Mix. Listeners call in with a moral dliemma and callers give their views.
Pot of Shite A talent segment with an emphasis on poor quality. It combined Martin / Molloys love of both bad impressions and Bernard King’s ‘Pot Luck’. The late Paul Hester was often on hand to hit the gong.
48 Parties in 48 Hours Hamish and Andy gave themselves one weekend to attend 48 parties and reported back.
Live in it to Win It Listeners had to live in a car. The last contestant in the car won the prize. A variation from Triple M Perth was Get Your Hand Off It (listeners keep their hand on a car – last one to get their hand off it, wins it). Another variation is Kiss My Car – Listeners had to kiss the car. If they took their lips off the car or lifted their feet off the ground they were disqualified. Winner wins the car.
Millionaire in Mexico A listener won a trip to Mexico and a million pesos (worth about $80,000)
Who’s the Voice On Nova, listeners had to guess the mystery celebrity singers edited together to win a cash amount. Similar to Smooth Stars and Mystery Voices on Mix.
Tossers Originally a suggestion from Bill Clemens of BP&R, based on a promotion in Germany called You Bet Your Arse. Tossers used the same mechanic – a toss of a coin decided whether you would win a new car or have your car crushed. (There were many other horrible fates – such as having your wedding album destroyed).
The Birthday Wheel Each morning a birth date is nominated and if a listener with the matching birth date calls in they win the money. There are lots of variations on this classic.


Credit goes to the Program Directors, Promotions Directors, Assistants, Announcers and anyone who came up with the ideas and more importantly all those who executed them on air, on the street, and online. You know who you are.

Don’t forget to leave your comments and suggestions below for any other rippers that come to mind.

See the final top 10 from your votes here.

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14 Jul 2017 - 5:23 pm

Is it just me, or is this just an old article rehashed? I remember reading this exact same list here some time ago. What about some of the current promos? – Smooth Stars, WSFM’s Stripped Back, Kyle and Jackie’s everyone gets a car, to name a few.


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