Clear Channel Test-drives Auto Program

Asks Listeners to Post Car Reviews to Radio Station Websites

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As radio loses advertising dollars to online and outdoor, the question for the medium becomes how to reclaim some of that money. For Clear Channel Radio, "Test Drive Wednesday" is one answer.
Instead of typical radio contests featuring concert tickets and product giveaways, winners are invited to test-drive and review a new car.
Instead of typical radio contests featuring concert tickets and product giveaways, winners are invited to test-drive and review a new car. Credit: kfyi.com

In a bid to entice car dealers to spend more in radio, Clear Channel Radio Phoenix has launched a weekly consumer-driven event called "Test Drive Wednesday." Instead of typical radio contests featuring concert tickets and product giveaways, winners are invited to test-drive and review a new car. Their comments are then edited and broadcast on-air as part of a 30-second spot for the dealership and as podcasts on station websites.

Buzz-generating effort
For Joe Puglise, the campaign is the chance to branch off from typical radio ads of screaming car salesmen and gimmicks and instead tap into the latest internet buzz-generating consumer media.

"We wanted to go beyond the scope of how advertising used radio by putting the content in control of the public," said Mr. Puglise, market manager for Clear Channel Radio Phoenix, whose largest advertising category is automotive, representing 10% to 20% of total ad revenues. "What it did was move the campaign from just another radio ad campaign into a consumer-generated ad campaign."

The campaign is as much a recognition of flagging automotive category spending in radio, flat to down over the past few years, as it is an awareness that the car-buying process has changed. More consumers are using the web as a resource, becoming more informed before they show up at a dealership. Clear Channel's hope is that its online content from reviewers will allow station websites to become one more source of information. A mid-week event also may peak the interest of those considering an auto purchase to do research online before a weekend trip to the local dealership.

8 stations, 12 dealerships
All eight Phoenix stations have been brought together for the campaign, which debuted June 14, as well as 12 Valley Buick/Pontiac/GMC dealerships. After two to three months, Clear Channel will look to expand the event regionally and then nationally.

"Radio and internet are becoming very chummy," said Dennis P. McGuire, VP-regional sport director, Carat USA. "The two working in tandem deliver a far more effective approach."

Mr. Puglise was a little wary of the idea at first, but after an initial week of soliciting, Clear Channel had 1,000 interested test-drivers.

"If we can continue to get results, there's no problem increasing what this category spends," Mr. Puglise said. "You need to pioneer and try something different. My definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
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