Paige Nienaber’s Midweek Idea Dump: Games > Contests


(By Paige Nienaber) I have a theory that great contest methodologies can be traced back to a birthday party at Tom Wasmoen’s house in 4th grade. (Granted, it’s not much of a theory… but it’s all I got.) Think about it. These party games were all about fun, silly, group activities.

Obviously, they weren’t as exciting as entering your email to win Taylor Swift tickets, but what is?

A trip to the Super Bowl is a money-can’t-buy-prize. No normal, non-millionaire non-big wig is going to go to the Super Bowl. Or the Grammys. So KDWB put together a giant game of musical chairs on the floor of the Metrodome to award a trip.

Musical Chairs

Front-row tickets to ANY concert are a great prize. In all of my years in Radio, I’ve never sat in the front row. Once when I was a senior in high school, and with help from my friend Mike, we gained access to the mall where tickets were going on sale, and when the gates opened, a bunch of us were standing in line and we got front row for Bob freaking Seger. It was pretty awesome and something that we all still talk about.

So having people digitally enter for this kind of experience feels like a waste. For Bruno Mars, Wild in Tampa did a balloon toss. Toss, toss back, step back, repeat as necessary. The last to burst wins.

Tampa Bruno

Most party games begin and end with balls. For a chance to dance on stage with Britney Spears (a million-dollar prize if there ever was one), Dave Ryan took 101 callers, assigned them each to a numbered superball, and tossed them all down ten flights of inner stairwell at KDWB. The first to the bottom won.

In Seattle for Kenny Chesney tickets, The Bull had interns with leaf blowers blow twenty numbered beachballs across a field. If your ball was the first across a finish line, you won. Done by I-100 for Rolling Stones tickets with people in gerbil balls.

Bubble People

At the end of the day, Games > Contests.

And now on with the Dumpage.

Career Day

In 6th grade, you wanted John Donnelly in your class for career day. His dad would come and talk about his job as a 747 pilot for Northwest Airlines. They’d just started nonstop service from Minny to Tokyo and everyone in the class got – wait for it – branded chopsticks from First Class. John was a baller.

We try really hard to be funny. Sometimes the listeners can be funnier than us. So why not do a career day once a month and let people from specific fields or industries share their stories? I drove a cab in college. I’m set for life.

One of my favorite morning talent is now a flight attendant. She has amazing stories. Every business has its own weird stories. For Halloween? Seriously? Get a nurse from a hospital on. They see… stuff. So, pick a field or genre and let people share their stories once a month. Hotel housekeepers? Are a riot.

Show & Tell

It’s just so simple. Go on social media and show us something unusual that you have and tell us the story behind it. I’d start with a ¾ inch piece of wood that was stuck in my butt after getting lodged there during Mark S. Allen’s billboard “sit” in 1998 and finally worked its way to the surface after almost 20 years. 

People have stuff. Have them show it off.


In the beginning, there was charades. And it was good. The next step is Ticktionary. Rob whispers something to Joss and she has ten seconds to draw it. They post and the first person who comments, “Melissa Joan Hart on a surfboard!” wins tickets.


“Tacos For A Year”. Hear that in your mental in-head radio. That’s actually > than $1000. At least by perception. And a few times a year somewhere you’ll see taco chains or Ortega salsa do it.

Doing it with the best TikTok plea video could be amazing.

The U.S. Army

In at least one market they’re requesting promotions that are geared towards signing up high school grads.

There’s a great 4th of July promotion where people call in and leave messages for their loved ones who are deployed in the military. They and the loved one get an email letting them know when the message will run over the holiday weekend, and when it’s done, they also get the audio file of it running.

There are a couple of weekends when all the schools graduate. You could do the same thing either on-air or with a scroll on the site. Posting to their social media could be a challenge involving their privacy settings.

It would be a great fit for the client and they could get contact info for possible recruits.

Trash Tag Challenge

In case you missed this new and environmentally pleasing social media trend, here ya go. And a reminder that Earth Day is April 22nd.

Backyard Archeology

Joe Krauss on B-93.3 in Milwaukee opened up the phones and asked people what they were finding now that the snow has begun to melt.

Easter At The Mall

One of the stations has a mall with a $1,000 prize for a contest for Easter and the feeling was that “hunts” might be played out.

A fresh idea was to get a dozen freshly laid eggs from a local farm, number them, assign them to mall customers and on-air qualifiers, put an incubator in the middle court, and webcam it. The first chick to hatch wins for “its” assigned human.

Things That Spin

There isn’t a game show that doesn’t have a wheel of some kind. K-Hits in Sacramento once did the Wheel Of Leprechauns and callers were assigned to one, the wheel was spun accompanied by screaming leprechauns and if it landed on yours, you won.

Other things that have been spun?

  • Wild in San Francisco was the first to debut the Wheel Of Meat. Prior to 3 day holiday weekends in the summer, the wheel would be spun and whatever it landed on (wieners, steak, ground beef, carne asada, whatever) you got ten pounds of it from a grocer client. Phones blew UP.
  • Wheel Of Pop Culture Stupidity. Done at Power in Miami. Get a caller, spin a wheel, and ask them the corresponding question: “Emma Watson uses blank on her blanks”. Know this piece of inconsequential minutiae and win.
  • Wheel Of Meals. At Jamz in Birmingham. They were doing the easiest, simplest, and best ratings contest ever: Food And A Flick. You won two movie tickets and dinner for two. It was like they were giving away $1000. You got the tickets, it spun and you won meals at, say, Lonestar Grill.

Paige Nienaber insults/consults more than 100 radio stations on Fun ‘N Games (Marketing & Promotions). Find him at CPR Promotions. Read Paige’s Radio Ink archives here.


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