Clear Channel Finds a Way to Sell Keywords

Local Radio Advertisers Buy Search Terms From Stations

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NEW YORK ( -- Type the word "bread" into a search on the website for KPOJ-AM in Portland, Ore., and you'll be instantly directed to an ad for Dave's Killer Bread, a cleverly named local bakery from a local ex-con.
Dave's Killer Bread, Portland, Ore., saw sales jump by 23% after they bought the keyword 'bread' on KPOJ-AM's site.
Dave's Killer Bread, Portland, Ore., saw sales jump by 23% after they bought the keyword 'bread' on KPOJ-AM's site.

For paid search, advertisers normally turn to the likes of Google or Microsoft for buying time with a radio station or TV network, but for Paul Miraldi, Clear Channel's VP-marketing, the tactic was a new way to show off the unexpected results of an online video his Portland team had taken of the baker.

"He'd been trying to get on-air for awhile, but I don't think he knew the power of radio," Mr. Miraldi said. "So we edited down a piece, they liked what they saw, we put it on the site and watched Dave's Killer Bread rake in the dough."

Online marketing tactics for radio
Shameless puns aside, Dave's Killer Bread did see a 23% sales lift after the campaign went live. But paid search is just one of the online marketing tactics Clear Channel is employing for local radio stations and their uncertain status in a viral marketing media climate.

Mr. Miraldi began his efforts to boost web advertising initiatives in June 2006 with a Phoenix promotion called "Test Drive Wednesday." The program linked a local auto dealer with a Clear Channel station in an effort to allow test drivers to share their thoughts on the newest vehicles with listeners both online and on-air, in an effort to boost sales.

An instant success in Phoenix, "Test Drive Wednesday" has now been implemented in 20 markets, including Detroit, where a local Kia dealership sold three cars in one day as a direct result of the partnership.

Such combinations of online and on-air integration speak volumes about the ways radio advertisers can improve their commercial engagement, a notoriously tricky arena for a medium that finally switched from paper diaries to Arbitron's more accountable PPM measurement system last year.

Not a lot of request for metrics
Although Mr. Miraldi and his colleague Brian Vest, Clear Channel Online's senior director-local sales, can make such metrics available to clients, the requests have been few thus far.

"They're local-radio advertisers -- they're not asking us for the CPMs and the CPCs [cost-per-clicks] yet," Mr. Vest said. "Really, our strategy has been whenever we talk to advertisers about purchasing on-air to think about buying online as well."

And at a nominal fee, no less -- buying a keyword search on a station's site is only $120 a year, he said.

Since launching the keyword-search initiative with Google in 2004, Clear Channel has had about 15,000 local advertisers take out 20,000 different listings online. That accounts for about 15% of the total online client base, Mr. Vest said. The goal for 2008 is to make that number 50%.

"Advertisers are using it more on-air, and programming departments are finding it to be a useful tool," Mr. Vest said. "Instead of trying to tell listeners to go to, slash-this or slash-that, it's much easier to just send them to WEBN and then direct them to a keyword. No matter what you have them search for, you're going to get more results."
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