What’s the Best Contest Entry Method?

Thirty or more years ago, radio stations asked listeners to do all sorts of things to enter contests – and, if the prizes were sufficiently enticing, enough people participated that radio stations never thought twice about promo copy that went something like, “All you have to do to win is …” and then go on to list steps including being the 100th-plus caller and/or answering some impossible question and/or sending in a postcard with your name, address and telephone number and/or going to a client location or station event and registering there and/or listening every minute of the day and/or answering your phone by saying some embarrassing phrase and/or any other inane thing.

Stations rarely did anything with the collected postcards or other entries besides store them for whatever amount of time the rules required. Call-in contests often treated callers coarsely, quickly hanging up on those who weren’t the correct-number caller and announcing “No more calls, we have a winner” to get the phone to stop ringing. In an era when diaries were the currency for ratings in all markets – and data processing took longer than it does today – it was a matter of waiting and hoping the promotion had an impact, often months after the contest had run its course.

Today, stations are under much greater scrutiny by senior management and ownership to show return on promotional investments. Contest entries are often cleaned quickly into station databases, with the hopes of finding additional lower-cost ways of keeping communications open with those responsive entrants. Contests and promotions are monitored for ratings impact as business texts exhort managers to learn to “fail fast” and move on to other ideas when one set doesn’t yield the desired results.

It’s critical that today’s contests and promotions have the best-possible chance of positively impacting ratings; there’s simply less margin for error. Add to this that today’s consumers feel more time-challenged than ever and it’s easy to see why contests need to have both highly desirable prizes, be easy to understand and utterly easy to enter and play.

We showed respondents in our NuVoodoo Ratings Prospects Studies a variety of radio station contest-entry methods and asked them how likely they would be to enter contests with those methods. What we learned is that calling in on the phone is a second-tier contest entry method – especially with younger consumers. Under age 35, most would prefer a version of the name game where they can enter online at the station’s website or via Facebook. For 35-54’s, phone contests remain competitive, but are still edged out narrowly by texting in to win.


Obviously, the prize has to be right. And we know that the biggest headwind faced by radio contests is consumers’ suspicion that not all the prizes are given away. With the right prize(s), a contest that’s easy to understand, easy to play and enticingly possible to win, contests remain a powerful tool in the kit of any radio programmer or marketer.