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The 10 Best Radio Promotions I’ve Ever Done

Late last year, I wrote a column on the power of radio station events and promotions.

I lamented the lack of big events by radio stations these days. I concluded: “Radio brands must continue to create events. Radio will have more commercials and compete against more narrowly targeted competitors. Podcasters, streamers, and satellite radio can’t do local events. Few, if any, will ever create communal experiences the way radio has for over 100 years. The combination of personalities and events remains radio’s best bang for the buck.” 

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So it was with great excitement that I opened Sean Ross’ “Ross on Radio” email a couple of weeks ago to find out his “Ten Best Radio Promotions in the World.”

I experienced a mix of sadness and resignation when Ross revealed that not a single entry was from the United States.

The list included stations from the U.K., South Africa, Australia, Slovenia, Netherlands, and New Zealand. Some are cute, others funny. I’ve done versions of a few, and others are new to me. They got me thinking of the ten best promotions I’ve participated in over my career.

These aren’t all my creations or ideas, just promotions I participated in on some level. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with incredible promotions and marketing people.

Scott Segelbaum, who I worked with at WYSP, Philadelphia, and KLSX, Los Angeles, and Cindy Webster at the CBS Radio cluster in Philadelphia, either created or made many of the promotions on my list happen. Both always knew somebody and could get literally any ridiculous idea that either I or one of the airstaff came up with.

I once challenged Scott to produce an elephant in a radio station t-shirt at a city event that every radio station in town would participate. He did. It worked. The call letters wound up in all the news coverage. Cindy has a knack for getting people to do the unimaginable. No better testament exists than the tributes to Angelo Cataldi she obtained for his retirement, including kind words for people he insulted for years, such as Charlie Manuel and Andy Reid.

#10) Twenty Songs or $20,000 Music Marathons (WYSP, Philadelphia; KLSX, Los Angeles). We did this successfully in Philadelphia and Los Angeles to establish music quantity images. Once each daypart, the station played 20 songs without commercial interruption, backed up by a $20,000 guarantee. In those days, stations in the largest markets had budgets that allowed us to give away $20,000 in cash several times annually. We built the giveaway around a specific personality, as we did in this fun promo from WYSP.

The only negative was that person inevitably actually did screw up and unintentionally give away the $20,000 at least once. The best part was going to the bank, getting $20,000, and bringing it to a staff meeting where I dumped it out on the table and gave each jock a chance to hold twenty-large in their hands.

Nobody in radio for under 20 years believes that stations gave away $80,000 in cash in a single year. That’s when radio was fun, and listeners had many reasons to listen.

#9) Live In It And Win! (WRQC, Minneapolis, WYSP, Philadelphia, Slager Radio, Budapest, Hungary) – One of the most entertaining promotions ever is putting four contestants in a car with limited breaks. Contestants aren’t allowed to bring anything into the car to entertain themselves.

They have each other and the station. They can bring food into the car, but nothing that goes in the car comes out. Usually, there is a tiebreaker because some contestants may never come out.

Then WYSP morning host Danny Bonaduce awarding car to the winner.

This promotion was so good that I brought it to Budapest, Hungary, where Slager Radio did it with smashing success.

#8) The Turkey Drop (WYSP, Philadelphia) – If you’ve been in radio any length of time, “WKRP In Cincinnati” must be one of your favorite television shows. The most famous episode is the seventh episode from the first season, “Turkey’s Away.”

Feeling left out by the changes at WKRP, “The Big Guy,” Arthur Carlson takes the Thanksgiving promotion into his own hands with comically disastrous results.”

At WYSP, we did a safer version of the turkey drop, resulting in listeners receiving certificates they could redeem for Thanksgiving turkeys. The first year we did it with Les Nessman (Richard Saunders), who re-enacted his role in the episode “Oh the Humanity!” The following year, we brought Saunders back and doubled the fun by adding actor Gordon Jump, “The Big Guy,” allowing us to end the event with the line: “With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

#7) The Ultimate Sports Ticket (WIP, Philadelphia) – This turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime promotion. For a brief moment, WIP was the flagship station for all four of Philadelphia’s major sports teams: The Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, and Flyers. That’s the first step toward giving away a team’s season tickets.

Each league has a labyrinth of archaic rules we had to follow to the letter. It turns out that you can’t mention one team when giving away another team’s tickets. More than one league insists on that rule. It took some fun out of the promotion, as this promo demonstrates.

Still, it’s an impressive prize for a sports station to giveaway tickets to every home game for all four major sports franchises for an entire season – and one I don’t think I’ve heard any other station duplicate.

#6) Rock Art Show (KLSX, Los Angeles) – When Scott Segelbaum noted that musicians were creating other art, the station began sending out pitches requesting submissions for a charity art show. It was before eBay, so there was no one-stop to see musicians’ artwork. It was also at the height of the AIDS crisis, which many musicians supported, and became our charitable cause.

On opening night, the station hosted a party that Elton John, Stevie Nicks, Brian Wilson, Robby Krieger, Brian Setzer, Jon Anderson, Graham Nash, and others attended. CNN, Entertainment Tonight, and local media covered The Rock Art Show. It raised over $500,000 for charity in its first year and won a NAB award for “Best of the Best for Promotions.”

The Rock Art Show had unintended consequences. It launched the art careers of many musicians and became Segelbaum’s full-time passion and occupation. He is currently touring with an art exhibit by May Pang, John Lennon’s lover, during his 18-month “Lost Weekend.” 

The show features intimate photos of John Lennon. Pang appears live at these exhibitions. Radio stations are welcome to partner with the show in their market. Check out the Rock Art Show: at  or contact Segelbaum: at [email protected]

#5) Multiple Car Giveaways (WYSP, Philadelphia) – I’ve given away a car lot worth of cars over my years at various radio stations. Usually, a radio station is lucky to get one vehicle to give away. We got on a roll and had multiple car giveaways for three consecutive rating periods.

The first was an eight-car giveaway of a new model called the Sterling. After restructuring British Leyland, Austin-Rover Cars was one of two new companies. Rover tried to enter the U.S. with a joint project with Honda. The idea was British luxury and Japanese quality. Philadelphia was one of their target markets, presumably because then Eagles owner Norman Braman had majority ownership of Austin Rover Cars of North America (ARCONA), the distributorship for Sterling.

At the time, Coca-Cola wasn’t an advertiser, but the Account Executive, Jeanie Feeney, was persistent and had built an excellent relationship. She knew they were interested in car giveaways. In the end, Sterling provided eight cars to give away. Coke became a significant advertiser and provided the side panels of 17 million cans of Coke and Diet Coke that featured WYSP and the Sterling auto. Unfortunately, the quality didn’t live up to the hype, and that’s why you have never heard of the brand.

I recall going to grocery stores and turning six-packs of Coke around so the panels would face the aisles. It’s impressive when your logo is on every Coke can for three-plus months.

We did the promotion a couple of more times, once with five Nissans and once with five Classic Cars. I also remember taking the airstaff to the garage where we had the Classic Cars refurbished and letting them each drive one or two of them. These were the cars that many of the jocks grew up dreaming about driving. When they finally got to drive the Porsche, they longed over as a teenager or sit in the car with “gangster doors” they had seen in the movies, it helped them to really sell the promotion on the air.

I wrote about 4, 3, and 2 in “The Power of Events and the Electronic Campfire.”

I’ll just mention them again here.

#4) Smashing Pumpkins plays the Hennepin Ave Block Party (WRQC, Minneapolis, 1998 – I’ve done every kind of concert imaginable, but nothing beat 125,000 people in downtown Minneapolis for a free Smashing Pumpkins concert.

#3) Wing Bowl (WIP, Philadelphia) – The creation of Al Morganti in the days when the Eagles season was over before the playoffs. Mardi Gras meets a chicken wing eating contest. A Philadelphia unofficial holiday before it ended in 2018. Listen here.

#2) Howard Stern buries the competition (WYSP, Philadelphia 1989; KLSX, Los Angeles, 1992; WNCX, Cleveland) – We put the FUN back into funeral!

#1) Tim “The Rock N’ Roll Animal” lives on the ledge to bring the Who to Milwaukee (WQFM, Milwaukee). The best promotion I’ve ever witnessed is Tim the Rock N’ Roll Animal crawling onto the ledge 21 stories above Milwaukee. He vowed to stay there until The Who agreed to play Milwaukee for its (first) farewell tour.

This promotion was the genius of Lee Arnold, one of my mentors. It was incredibly risky because Lee had no idea if it would work – and how to end the bit if it didn’t.

Of course, eventually, Tim received a phone call from Roger Daltrey telling him it was okay to come in and that The Who would make its first stop in Milwaukee. But it required an enormous cash contribution from the station.

The station benefited from a true “presents” that included call letters on the tickets, which had to be mail ordered through the station – in the pre-Ticketmaster days.

The Who concert was the final straw in the Rock-war between WQFM and WLPX, which would change format less than a year later.

I was a mere spectator. Still a part-timer and more than two years from my first programming gig. The ledge ordeal taught me a couple of important lessons:

Big rewards require big risks, and big radio stations do big things. They are lessons that I never forgot whether programming a radio station or in life.

Here are two stories with accounts of the sit-in. The first one shows you the setup (while it took guts and stamina, it wasn’t dangerous. The “ledge” had a wall). There is also a recording of Daltrey calling Tim.

Can you picture pitching any of these ideas today? We dreamed up these things to make our stations stand out and be memorable. It’s a sad commentary on the industry that no station would do any of these promotions or events anymore, and no programmer would suggest them.

What are the best promotions or events you ever did?

Andy Bloom
Andy Bloom
Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.

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