The ABC affiliate in Alexandria, La., conducts a simple Win a Trip Anywhere in the World contest and finds new advertisers in its own backyard.
Alexandria, La., may be a long ways down the DMA list, but the folks at KLAX can still teach us all a thing or two about the right way to run a travel contest. Believe me, I know. Back in my local TV promotion days I did it the wrong way. More on that later.
But in DMA 179, they can’t afford to waste time or money. “You’ve got to keep a handle on expenses and maximize revenue,” says KLAX General Manager Ken Nolan. He made sure the Win a Trip Anywhere in the World contest that it ran a year ago was a model of focus and efficiency. KLAX, owned by Pollack/Belz Broadcasting, not only kept contest costs close to zero, it also managed to turn typical promotion expenses into a new profit center.
The brainchild of General Sales Manager Lisa Balance, the contest aimed to keep the rules as simple as possible: viewers registered to win a random drawing. The top prize was airfare and hotel for two to anyplace in the world. Second- and third-place winners got hotel and show tickets in Branson, Mo., a popular vacation destination for KLAX viewers, about eight hours away by car. The prizes were obtained through barter with Incentive Plus Network, which specializes in exchanging stations’ unsold ad time for tangible goods and services.
Typically, a station lottery promotion runs the risk of adding to a station’s workload with little increase in revenue. Regular clients may pay extra to sponsor a contest, but that extra revenue can be devoured by the media costs of promoting the event. Worse, for smaller-market stations like KLAX, which has no local news or programming, on-air promotion comes directly out of sales inventory. KLAX’s solution was elegant in its efficiency and its effectiveness.
Rather than buying billboard space or radio time, it promoted Anywhere in the World by creating its own direct mail piece, designed from the outset to do double duty as a sales tool. Existing clients paid extra for additional print exposure. Even better, the direct mail piece provided a comfortable way to upsell print-only advertisers to TV spots.
The print piece included a mail-in entry card, but viewers could also register by e-mail—encouraged to enter either way by on-air promos (watch promo), which also generated revenue as each was tied to the sponsors’ ad buy. Promotion Manager Mike Mule customized the promos so that sponsors received on-air credit in proportion to their participation. Promos aired in top syndicated fare and in ABC primetime as well as on low-power sister station KWCE, which specializes in vintage primetime shows.
Originally, the contest was scheduled to run through the November sweeps. Viewer response proved so positive that KLAX quickly extended the entry deadline (and the advertising opportunities) into December. Winners were announced in mid-December in a live on-air drawing. The top prize went to an 85-year-old woman in Natchitoches, who can now travel, well, Anywhere In The World. So where will she go? Almost a year later, the dear lady is still deciding.
Much more decisive were the sales results of the contest, a $275,000 increase over the previous year’s third and fourth quarters. And much of that money was required and received up front, before the direct mailer went to print. Best of all, most of the promotion’s first-time clients signed up for more TV ads throughout 2006.
Station Manager Nolan attributes this success to his entire staff, who “worked hard to make sure nothing fell between the cracks.” He also credits Incentive Plus. “They make it possible to do promotions that a small station otherwise couldn’t afford.”
In 2006, the station conducted HDTV set giveaways and other promotions, but it intends to bring back Anywhere in the World next year and use it to turn up still more first-time advertisers.
Now, that’s the right way to run a world travel promotion. As I mentioned there’s also a wrong way. How wrong? Let’s just say that any time your contest winners are arrested and held by Indonesian military police, you’ve probably done something wrong. My bad. I’ll make a full confession in next week’s column.
Market Share by Arthur Greenwald is a series on successful station promotions that appears every Monday. Next week, discover how even a travel contest gone terribly wrong can have positive results for audience and revenue. We’re on the lookout for other good ideas for increasing local audience and revenue. If you have one (or more) to share, please contact Arthur Greenwald at [email protected].