By Conrad Schwellnus

After a week of engaging digital sessions, Radio Days Africa 2020 continued today with a particularly relevant discussion for radio creatives across various roles in the industry. Host Neil Johnson welcomed panelists Niall Power (Head of Station Sound & Breakfast Presenter at Beat 102-103 in Ireland) and Jonathan Lumley (Head of Clients, Channels and Markets for Immedia in South Africa) to what was an interesting discussion about the top radio promotions from across the globe in the last year. Back by popular demand, the panel focused on the meat of these incredible promotions, as well as the rapid rise of the role of digital and video across radio promotions of all types.

While Niall usually finds himself hitting the road to discuss and share the best radio promotions he’s come across in the last twelve months, the “new normal” has meant taking a slightly different approach. Today, #RDA2020 gave him the perfect opportunity to share a presentation including the five best promotions from around the world with delegates in attendance, showcasing campaigns from Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Serbia and Ireland. Each of these promotions highlighted the changing landscape of radio promotions, reminding delegates of just how important a multichannel approach has become to running a successful campaign in 2020.

The first promotion featured came from KIIS 1065 in Australia, who ran a gigantic giveaway hosted by popular duo Kyle & Jackie O. Dubbed as “Sydney’s Biggest Giveaway” across marketing collateral, the show ran a simple competition mechanic where listeners had to spend time listening for a ‘key’ song in the show, as well as every hour on the hour. Those who rang in when they heard the song stood the chance of having a physical key delivered to their doorsteps (with reactions being filmed by the station, of course). The promotion eventually led up to an activation where key holders had to place the key they received into a locked door, and the one that actually opened the door would win a house, $30 000 in furniture, as well as a car. This huge prize with a simple mechanic drew in hordes of listeners, and the moment where a newlywed couple turned their key and found out they had won (serendipitously a week after renting a granny flat nearby) was the icing on the cake. This was an unbelievable moment, which ultimately created a lot of on air and digital traction in its wake.

Next, Niall’s presentation turned to Greg James from BBC Radio 1 in the UK. Tasked with coming up with a promotional campaign for his show, he turned the brief on its head and asked his audience for savvy ideas for promo he should consider. The kicker? He would actually follow through on the suggestions and actually do as many of the ideas as possible. The #MakeThisGreg campaign, coupled with regular calls of “I Need Your Help” subsequently drove an incredible amount of attention to his show and the station. Kent-based listener Kat suggested that he do a video surrounded by middle aged men playing “New Rules” by Dua Lipa on horns. He did this and so much more, showcasing the power of getting the listener involved in radio, as well as harnessing their creativity in the content production chain. 

In New Zealand, popular commercial station ZM ran an impactful campaign via renowned radio team Fletcher, Vaughan and Megan, which effectively added a nice twist on a very well known promotion. Most radio industry veterans and listeners will be aware of the ‘secret sound’ competition concept, which encourages a listener to guess what the unfamiliar sound being played on air is in a bid to win a cash or other prize. What ZM did differently this time around, was ask a listener to be “soundkeeper” in the studio across the six week duration of the campaign. On the last day, the soundkeeper got the chance to guess along with a listener on air, ultimately getting it right without intervention from the station, and winning the $50 000 for herself. While not the most innovative basic concept, the tweaked execution (and teary finale) gave the station and its listeners a truly unforgettable moment.

The fourth campaign Niall highlighted came from a Serbian radio station, perfectly illustrating Jonathan’s comments that “some clients want something that hasn’t been done before” later on in the session. This station ran an out-of-the-box promotion in conjunction with a commercial food company without making the activation about the company itself. The team placed a large block of ice in a public area, encouraging listeners and passers by to guess how long it would take for the whole thing to melt. The activation not only drew in a physical crowd that may not have listened to the show before, but also provided ample on air content as well as digital video for existing fans of the show. People were also excited to take selfies with the block of ice and share the hashtag, giving the radio station a lot of UGC (user-generated content) which could be repurposed later. Ultimately, this was a campaign that can truly be considered win-win for all parties involved. 

The final promotion in the presentation came from Niall’s own station, Beat 102-103 in Ireland. ‘Leap of Faith’ set out to create a story that only began once the listener had won a “once in a lifetime” prize. The trick was that the entrants were never told the prize to begin with. Listeners were asked to fill out a basic form with information such as their favourite colour, or sports team, and then to call in if they identified themselves being described on air. The next step involved social media sharing from the finalist, leading into the completion of an obstacle course as a final challenge. Upon finishing the challenge in the quickest time, the winner was told to be at the airport the following morning at 10am with a plus one. What ensued was the gradual roll-out of the winner’s journey, as she hopped across three countries to watch three music concerts. Followed by a video crew at each phase, the last surprise was getting $500 spending money in New York for a day and a half of exploring before flying home. Listeners were hooked on air, waiting in real time to hear about the next thing the winner would be doing along the way. Ultimately, what happened after she won ended up giving the station and partners more value, as well as providing ample additional on air and digital content in comparison to what might have been the case with a more traditional campaign. 

Each of these incredible promotions featured beautifully packaged video content, no doubt as part of a turn towards radio stations across the world placing a lot more emphasis on digital strategy. “There is a lot of planning that goes into these types of promotions,” Jonathan reminded delegates. “It’s important to be as kind as possible to each medium as you can along the way”. For Niall, there is another important consideration, in that videos also create good sales tools. The Monday after the conclusion of ‘Leap of Faith’, the station received five requests for new campaigns, each of which has unfortunately had to be put on hold as a result of the pandemic, but each displaying the commercial power of a radio promotion that hits the mark on air, as well as on all digital channels.

If the campaigns on today’s list are anything to go by, it’s safe to say that not even a pandemic will be able to stifle the exceptional creativity within an industry that continues to grow and adapt according to changes and unforeseen challenges. We can’t wait to see who makes the list next year! Until then, be sure to share your thoughts about the best radio promotions you’ve seen in the last year using #RDA2020 on social media. We’ll see you back here tomorrow for Day 7 of the conference.