Why winning cash still drives radio ratings

Radio stations have been giving away cash for decades but is it a successful incentive for listener loyalty asks Jason ‘Jabba’ Davis.

In November last year Sydney’s 2Day FM used a $m cash giveaway to promote the second installment of the Twilight movie franchise. The competition was called Kyle and Jackie O’s Million Dollar Dawn Dig and gave a lucky winner the chance to dig up cash at Sydney’s Bondi Beach.

According to Nielsen figures, during that survey period, the station clocked up an impressive 1,003,000 weekly listeners over the age of 10. 

I’d make an educated guess the promotion would have covered a significant portion of the $1million prize, even if they weren’t insured against there being a winner.

On air, the notion of giving away an enormous sum of cash has a bigger flow-on effect. It makes the station seem generous and would generate a large volume of off-air conversation. As a stunt itself, the dig for cash received widespread media coverage.

Out of all the giveaways I’ve been involved with on radio, the opportunity to win cash drums up the best result.

The gimmick has also crossed over into the world of breakfast television where large sums of money are regularly thrown at viewers.

I asked WSFM’s Brendan ‘Jonesy’ Jones – no stranger to giving out dough to listeners with his largest personal handout $37,000 during his time at Triple M – for his thoughts on whether cash giveaways are the best way to attract and keep listeners.

“Huge amounts are good, but it really comes down to the mechanism. Have a good mechanism and it doesn’t matter about the prize, although a family apple pie from the local service station sounds povo,” says Jonesy.

Can creativity triumph over cold hard cash in keeping consumers tuned to their radios? With the current economic climate, cash is probably a better incentive.

Jason ‘Jabba’ Davis is a media personality with 15 years radio and TV experience.

This feature first appeared in the July edition of Encore magazine. To download it for free from the App Store, click here.


  1. The Mob
    23 Jul 12
    12:34 pm

  2. There are so many other mechanics that radio could use to drive loyalty for their advertisers. Quality content instead of mindless crap, imaging and banter around nothing concepts is one – Austereo is synonymous with building rubbish around highly repetitive programming.

    Why stations haven’t tried tying their assets to loyalty programs, deal sites or shopping initiatives where advertisers can see a tangible correlation between on air activity and sales is beyond me. This is the largest trending activity on the net and radio has the opportunity to create a very powerful integration but hey let’s role out that 1988 cash give away mechanic peeps that will do the trick….zzzzzzzzz

  3. Doug
    23 Jul 12
    2:19 pm

  4. @The Mob
    TripleM nationally had one of the most successful loyalty programmes ever launched – the Freq Club… It extended listening times, tracked and measured listeners habits, and where they were listening from. It was simple and clever… and financially successful. It was run by Aussies and was exported to the US radio market… it was so successful, Hoyts/TripleM decided to stop using the outside company, bring it inhouse, and set it up themselves… needless to say, it then was relaunched and failed.

  5. Doug
    23 Jul 12
    2:25 pm

  6. Re promotions – this is an ongoing debate… Is it better to have one massive prize… or a heap of little prizes. As Jabba (Dazza) says, it comes down to mechanics – is it engaging? I tend to believe that many smaller prizes make people believe they have a chance of wining and will have a crack.

    At the end of the day, people who get involved in promotions on radio measure about 5%… 50% love listening to winners… and the remainder dont care…

    Promotions just another way to cut through content clutter – provide entertaining and engaging content.

  7. The Mob
    23 Jul 12
    3:12 pm

  8. @Doug
    Apologies, I’m familiar with the Freq Club success, I guess it was a bit of an anomaly to the rule but yes its execution was well done, why did it fail when relaunched and run internally? I think this example supports the argument for more integration in this area and to move away from 5% big money promotional grabs. Formulaic radio driven by breakfast blasting, repetitive work day contesting and evening promo grabs every 25 minutes is such a dated methodology.

    I guess my argument is that this sort of thinking is endemic of the issue with much of commercial programming, it targets lower demographics, tries to lure them with B grade celebrity banter and over hyped promotions.