The World’s 10 Best Radio Promotions
Niall Power is the head of station sound and morning co-host for Southeast Ireland CHR The Beat 102/103. Over the last five years, I’ve also encountered him at various radio conferences around the world presenting well-attended sessions on “Great Promotions from Around the World.”
That was the case again this year in a packed room at Radio Days Europe, held March 26-28 in Prague. (In general, it was nice to be at a radio convention where the hallways were packed to impassibility at times. Radio Days comes to North America this June.) This was Power’s first survey of international promotions after a two-year hiatus prompted by COVID’s impact on station activity.
It’s interesting to note that although winning promotions here spanned stations from South Africa to Sovenia, there were no U.S. stations represented this time. In 2018, the list did (rightly) include CHR XHTZ (Z90) San Diego’s experiential “Epic 48” series of mystery listener getaways.
Some of the stations on this list that staged larger-than-life promotions had national scale on their side. But not all were local or regional stations. Plus, the national contesting that dominates U.S. radio would presumably allow for more than just hourly “text-the-keyword-to-win” promotions. It’s also worth noting that Z90 is part of a local cluster, not nationally owned.
- RED FM Cork, Ireland – “Ed FM”
It was a natural for Red FM, “Number 1 for Hit Music,” to become Ed FM. Rebranding for charity or a hit artist has been a staple among radio promotions for a while, and the station first did the promotion in 2018. But when Sheeran returned to the market, Red FM’s repeat execution included an “Ed FM” bus wrap and having “Shape of You” played at Noon on the landmark bells of a local cathedral, as well as Sheeran calling the morning show to (unsuccessfully) guess the secret sound. (“Better luck with the concert, mate.”) The gold winner in Ireland’s national radio awards.
- SMILE FM Cape Town, South Africa – “Cape Town’s Loudest Snorer”
The AC station spent three weeks having listeners submit videos of spouses and family members who kept them awake. Hundreds of entries were whittled to three, which were then rated with the help of the Snoreland app. The promotion was a tie-in with Dial-A-Bed, which provided a “bed makeover.” The winner also received a cash prize and an assessment at a local sleep center. Another national radio awards winner.
- BBC RADIO 1 – Greg’s Giant Jigsaw
Greg James, morning host of the national Top 40 powerhouse, was escorted off the air and told he could only return upon completing a giant 20-piece jigsaw puzzle. Over six days, listeners found pieces across the UK from on-air clues, including frozen in a block of ice and at a football stadium. The final piece was found on the beach with a metal detector.
- RADIO 1 Slovenia – Dezelak the Hero (Dezelak Junak)
This is the promotion’s eighth year at the AC station, the nation’s largest commercial outlet. Morning co-host Miha Dezelak spent 10 days travelling the entire country on a four-wheeler bike to raise money for charity. He was joined by celebrities and ended up raising a million Euros for charity. Coincidentally, both Greg’s Giant Jigsaw and this promotion ended with the presenters jumping off a giant pier. Morning host Denis Avdic was at RDE and drew laughs at a session on music programming by complaining about the station’s music, especially Adele.
- iRADIO Ireland – “TikTok Mic Drop”
At some point, programmers have probably had to fend off the “let’s have listeners rap about…” concept in a sales/promotions meeting. In this case, however, iRadio had no trouble finding 14-to-24-year-olds willing to rap about driver safety for this promotion in conjunction with local agencies across the region. Winners received 1,000 Euros.
- ZM New Zealand – The Box
The national CHR powerhouse had a new variant on the “crack the code/mystery black box” promotion—this time the box could talk and interact with callers (something that would be a natural and positive use of AI for radio going forward). There were also 25 TikTok videos producing 11-million views. On one occasion, the box opened to reveal another box. The station’s current promotion is “ZM’s Next Flight,” where listeners win international fly-aways, but don’t know where they’re going until the day before.
- Radio Veronica Netherlands – Veronica Express
The October promotion for the heritage radio station was based on the 1970 Festival Express, the cross-country Canadian train that became a rolling jam session for major artists. Listeners rode “the most musical train in the Netherlands” across the country, culminating in a four-hour live concert at the station’s studios that doubled as the debut of a live music show.
- Absolute Radio UK – Absolute Radio Kevin
Bauer’s national Rock AC station is already known for its innovative use of side channels and pop-up stations (including the recently reviewed Absolute Radio 40s). The winner, chosen from hundreds of entrants, was a 47-year-old dad (with, fortunately, a decent on-air presence) who created a 10-day radio station dedicated to music from debut singles and albums.
- Beat 102/103 Waterford, Ireland – On The Run
Power’s own station did a variant on “The Fugitive,” a popular international contest over the last two decades, and BBC Radio 1’s “On the Run” where both Power and the afternoon host went missing and had to be located by listeners from clues. The promotion was meant to highlight lockdown restrictions being lifted and operated on no fixed schedule (with the help of a “patient sponsor”), and ended up lasting three days.
- KIIS FM Sydney, Australia – Kyle’s Baby Gender Reveal
ARN’s Adult Top 40 KIIS-FM has been a major success story over the last decade with the help Kyle & Jackie O, one of the world’s most-covered morning shows. The reveal was made from a yacht in Sydney Harbor by two fighter jets flying overhead in formation. This one did not seem to end with Kyle Sandilands jumping into the water.