Clear Channel Radio Advertising Strategies

  • Comments: 3
  • Written on: March 23rd, 2011

I am a big believer in radio advertising.  If you have a business on a tight budget, or if you just want to get the best marketing deal around, radio can get your message out there quickly at a cost that is much lower than television or print media.

If you decide to use radio to promote your products, business or organization chances are you will come across at least one station owned by Clear Channel.

As a business owner you are after the best advertising deal you can find.  Getting a good deal from Clear Channel is not as easy as calling the local sales manager and asking for it.

This post will give you some tips and strategies that will help you plan your marketing spends on Clear Channel stations to get the biggest bang possible for your advertising budget.

Why is Dealing With Clear Channel Different?

Some of the most basic rules of radio business do not apply in the world of Clear Channel.  For example:

  • Cash is not king.  Clear Channel stations do not accept cash payments for advertising (if you do pay in cash the sales rep has to take the money to a bank and get a cashier’s check to turn into the station).
  • Bureaucracy in Action.  Local Clear Channel stations do not have the authority to make local decisions based on circumstances and expectations.  Whatever the corporate office says goes, regardless of the facts on the ground.  Local people can influence corporate at times, but once a decision is made there is no appeal.
  • Engineered Scarcity.  Clear Channel stations rarely have unsold inventory, which means fewer bonuses for local advertisers

So if cash in hand does not get you a better deal, bonuses are rare, and you can’t find anyone locally who can make a major decision without checking with the management in Texas, how can you possibly get an advertising deal that is better than your competition?

Learn Clear Channel’s Rules and Use Them to Your Advantage

Why is Clear Channel sold out all the time?  One reason is that their stations are highly regimented, Clear Channel produces a good radio product, and their advertisers get results.  But that is not the only reason.

There is literally tens of thousands of dollars of DEEPLY discounted advertising available on EVERY Clear Channel station if you know how to find it.

Imagine if you could buy your Clear Channel advertising for 25% of what your competition pays.  That would give your business a MASSIVE competitive advantage.  Here are three sure-fire ways to get tens of thousands of dollars of DEEPLY discounted Clear Channel advertising.  I know because I have done it.

METHOD 1.  Network with the Air Talent

Clear Channel makes everyone on their airwaves take annual exams designed to prevent advertisers from unduly influencing air talent with direct money, favors, or consideration.  This is widely known in the radio industry as Payola.

The FCC, which licenses radio stations, prohibits Payola.  In fact, if a station’s employees are caught accepting Payola, the station’s broadcast license can be revoked.  As a general rule it is a bad idea to offer Clear Channel employees any kind of direct personal consideration with the expectation of air time.  It won’t happen, and if you find an employee who lets it happen the risks to you and your business are not worth it.

With that said, you need to take the time to get to know the air talent and introduce them to your products and services.  You can offer them free trials, samples, or comped service as long as there is no expectation of direct consideration on the airwaves.

By letting the air talent know who you are, what you do, and why you are the local expert you are positioning yourself to be called upon later when a topic is relevant on one of their shows because you are top of mind.

I have not given anything to any local Clear Channel personalities, but I have been featured on two of their morning shows this week alone.  I would have had to pay over $100 per spot if I was buying the time.  That’s what my competition pays, but I received the exposure for free.

METHOD 2.  Leverage What Your Sales Rep CAN Do

There are a lot of things your sales rep can’t do to help your business, but there are also some things they can do – especially if you are already a paying customer.

In radio, the bulk of a sales person’s salary comes from commissions on advertising that is sold to you.  If you are not happy and pull your paying ads, the sales person sees a direct and immediate drop in their take home pay.

They don’t want to lose the income, and the station does not want to lose your business.  If your schedule is not producing what you had expected (or what your sales rep had promised) call your rep and ask for help.  BE sure to ask for SPECIFIC things or ask for SPECIFIC options that may help.

If your ads don’t perform you WILL eventually pull them off the air.  Your sales rep will do everything in their power to prevent that from happening.  Here are some of the things your Clear Channel sales rep CAN do for your business:

  • Bonus commercials.  Depending on how much you are spending with Clear Channel, your sales rep may be able to get you some bonus (free) commercials on a regular basis as long as you maintain your spend.  For example, I spend about $7,000 a month with Clear Channel and my sales rep was able to get me about $900 a month in free spots to “help me reach my goals.”
  • Rate Reductions.  This is a potent weapon.  If you are not getting results with your schedule, ask for a rate reduction to bring your investment in line with what it is producing.  Odds are you will not get the rate reduction, but there is a good chance that you will get extra bonuses that could include :15 mentions, weather sponsorships, or other short spots that increase your name recognition and therefore the effectiveness of your other ads.
  • Ask About Sales. Just like a department store puts goods on sale, radio stations run sales on commercial inventory.  Usually sales change every 10-13 weeks and each sale has a different angle.  A station might be running a promotion that gives you a one-time-buy opportunity to get some great spots on special at an irresistible rate.  The stations figure that if the ads work for you you will continue buying them when the price goes up later.
  • Ask About Trade opportunities. Radio stations LOVE to trade things.  But trade with sales reps is tricky.  Remember that the bulk of a sales rep’s paycheck is a percentage commission on what you spend.  If you trade there is no spend, so there is no commission to motivate your sales rep.  Also remember that as a general rule trade can not be applied to an existing schedule.

METHOD 3.  Become the King of the Auction

Twice each year, Clear Channel holds a radio auction.  During this auction the stations sell advertisers’ products and services on the air for as little as 25% of their retail cost.  This is a HUGE opportunity that is often overlooked by businesses to accomplish 2 things:

  1. The auction is done on the radio.  DUH!  Its a free on-air commercial for your product or service!
  2. Amass a HUGE advertising budget that will leave your competition reeling in your marketing wake

In a recent auction completed by Clear Channel in Omaha, NE one of my companies – Schrock Innovations – was able to raise over $40,000 in trade that we can use to raise brand awareness throughout the Omaha metro area.

I am pretty familiar with the computer repair field in Nebraska, and I can tell you that our cash advertising budget puts most of our competitors to shame.  After we lob another $40,000 on top of that in Omaha alone we will be able to leverage our core messages in ways our competitors can only imagine in their wildest dreams.

The best part is that by selling labor-focused services in the auction we were also able to gain several dozen new customers who will continue to work with Schrock moving forward after our trade terms have ended.

In total, I was able to gain immediate access to a $40,000 marketing budget on Omaha’s best radio stations at a cost of only $2,000 of labor services that I will deliver at a yet to be determined future date.

What could your business do with a $40,000 marketing injection?

Clear Channel Conslusions

For a business competing for time, attention, and patronage for it’s products or services radio is a powerful tool to bring in customers and generate revenue.

If you have a fat pile of cash at your disposal and you are not using radio, you should be.  Undoubtedly if you look at your marketplace there will be a Clear Channel presence – they are nearly everywhere.

If you use these strategies successfully you can transform even the most meager marketing budget into a guerrilla marketing power house.

Your competitors are probably reading this same article right now, so seize the initiative and begin growing your company before they do.



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