Text Messages Are Music to Radio Station's Ears

A Boston radio station plans to take its new text-messaging marketing strategy to advertisers after a test at a summer concert more than doubled the size of its wireless database.

JAM'N 94.5, a Clear Channel radio station, ran a trivia contest with questions announced by station DJs and displayed on video screens at its June 2 Summer Jam Concert in Mansfield, MA's Tweeter Center. About 13 percent of the 20,000 concertgoers responded by text-messaging in answers on their cell phones.

Prizes included seat upgrades, an autographed basketball from Boston Celtics player Paul Pierce, backstage passes, signed concert memorabilia and tickets to future concerts.

As a result, the station captured about 2,600 new cell phone numbers for its database, building on its existing base of 1,500 text-message-using listeners who have opted into the JAM'N 94.5's 9-4-5 Txt Msg Mafia. The free club sends consumers news, concert information, contests and promotions via text message on their cellular phones.

The challenge now is to mine the data gathered at the concert, develop relationships with the new consumers and present them with quality offers to keep opt-out rates down, said Dennis O'Heron, marketing director for Clear Channel Radio Boston.

The goal is to bring the new technology to the station's advertisers and offer the medium as another way to connect with listeners, such as by sending messages to concertgoers urging them to go to a sponsor's booth for a promotion at a concert.

“As with everything, you will have people who will opt out,” O'Heron said. “The onus will be on us to be the gatekeeper and not to make the same mistakes people made with e-mail.”

The radio station built the 9-4-5 Txt Msg Mafia club by offering membership to its e-mail database of 45,000 listeners, promising offers and concert information if they registered their cell phones. Prior to the concert, JAM'N 94.5 also ran a test on its morning show, in which DJs asked a trivia question and told listeners to text in their answers, and got 600 responses in the first 25 minutes.

So far, JAM'N 94.5 has received only about 10 opt-out requests from its text-message campaigns. Part of the reason for the low opt-out rate may be the station's age demographic.

Its listeners are ages 12-24, a demographic amongst which text messaging has become popular. According to M-Qube, the technology firm that provided the wireless text-messaging capability for JAM'N 94.5, text-messaging use in the United States is nearing that of Europe, where 1 billion messages are transmitted daily.

The watershed for text messaging in the United States was the hit TV show “American Idol,” for which viewers used their cell phones to text in their votes for show contests. The number of responses generated by “American Idol” proved the technology's viability as a marketing medium, said Mike Troiano, senior vice president of business development at M-Qube, Boston.

The keys to making text-message marketing work are to use only opt-in contacts, to limit the number of messages sent over the medium and to always use it in conjunction with another medium, Troiano said. The technology works best as part of a direct response campaign, cooperating with print or broadcast advertising as in the case of JAM'N 94.5, but not as a stand-alone mobile advertising medium.

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