Paige Nienaber’s Midweek Idea Dump: Promotional “Universals”


(By Paige Nienaber) A little deviation from the regular format this week as we explore radio promotions that have commonality or that will engage the most number of listeners. There are things that we know for certain.

Knowing that, it’s always surprised me we don’t have these things in rotation. Jerry Springer? He had only seven topics and just repeated them because THEY WORKED.


It’s the Food Universal. Go out and ask 1000 people and 998 of them will like pizza. They’ll all differ about what kind of pizza, but most will like it.


They are the Entertainment Universal. The pizza math applies to films. Doubt me? Go on FB and post some TMZ gossip about some famous-for-being-famous celebrity. And then post, “What was the first R-rated movie you ever saw… with your parents?” Add a movie element and it’s a homerun. In January, I once did Movies For A Year and twenty people got a pair of tickets to every screening in the market. You’d have thought we were giving away oil wells.

Dropping Stuff

There’s something about dropping a pumpkin or a copying machine or 1000 ping pongs that is loud and visual and always ALWAYS works. Thank you to David Letterman for doing all that research.

Invert A Billboard

Anytime you flip the artwork on one of your boards for a day, the phones, email, and FB will blow up. You suddenly got the listeners to stop using you passively, if even for a day. It’s hard to beat stations that do that.

Losing A Digit   

If you lose a digit and suddenly become, say, 5.7 Mix FM, it will be the biggest contest you ever do. 

Field Trips

Most of your listeners will never socialize with their co-workers outside of work. So, any time you can get people out of their offices, together, having fun, you win. As witnessed by the Field Trips that Mix in Cincinnati has done.

Kids & Pets

These are the two Muthers of all Hot Buttons. It’s how you “get” your listeners. Through their kids and pets. As evidenced by Baby Idol and Mutt Madness.

“We Apologize”

Is the neutron bomb of curve balls. You can only do it once, but it kills everything, leaving only buildings and cockroaches.

Meeting Celebrities

Most of your listeners will never meet a celebrity. So something like backstage passes or a chance to sit and listen to (insert whoever rolls through) play in the conference room, is a life-altering experience for them. An experience that we’ve dumbed down and chlorinated so that it pretty much means nothing.


Most people will never ride in a limo except, maybe, on their wedding day. Consequently, if you park them in the back of a stretch, this will be a big deal for them. Adding a ride to a screening to the next giveaway of tickets to, pretty much anything, will elevate it. It makes it just a little larger. And except for prom season, they’ll usually do it for mentions.

Shaking Hands

No form of marketing will ever beat meeting listeners and metaphorically shaking their hands. It’s hard but it works. But whoever shakes the most hands will almost always win. And I will always used KS95’s “Meet Every Listener Card” as the epitome of how to launch a morning show.

Getting On TV   

This is the primary motivation for pretty much everything we do. So, for the 1000th time: doing a gas promotion where you take over a location and pump cars, will always get you press. And…. Diaper Crawls. Anytime you lay out a course in a mall, and have bunnies (Easter), reindeer (Christmas), turkeys (Thanksgiving), or just “babies” in diapers crawling, you will get TV. 

As witnessed by KHTT in Tulsa where they first hit all the media with press releases attached to diapers. 

And from Carly Rush: We held the event at a local mall. 18 babies raced 5 at a time, and then the winners of the 4 heats had a crawl-off. The place was packed, logo EVERYWHERE. The track was actually made out of strips of disposable banners and decorated with colored duct tape and orange cones to make it look like a road. Austin, our guy in the morning did hilarious play-by-play, very entertaining! I took your advice to deliver a unique press release, a diaper with a toy, and the press release attached. I got lots of giggles from the receptionists. And, as you predicted, we had 2 TV stations come out and cover the event. The mall marketing director, who paid for the promotion, was thrilled. It really could not have gone better, and we’ll probably do it again next year!

Gas Giveaways

Pump gas and shut down traffic in a big part of the community will always get press.

Lottery Tickets

Any station that has given away packs of scratchers will attest to the fact that the winners will often show up THAT DAY to get them. Even if they’re just ten $1 ones. So imagine if a station awarded 1000 $1 tickets…

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.


  1. So true! Name them what you want (as long as there is alliteration or rhyming involved :-D) and those things will always kill!


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