After a COVID induced break I recently got to return to one of my favourite parts of the world, Fort Myers Beach, FL.
Once we’d picked up the rental car at RSW airport job number one was to find a radio station to suit the touring party – two mid forties parents and two music loving kids aged 9 and 5. Despite the temptation of SIRIUS XM which came with the car we stuck to FM and landed on South West Florida’s Y100.1, part of the iHeart stable promising a diet of 90’s to Now. A largely networked station, as you tend to see in this part of the USA, the presentation roster included Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, Wendy Wild and Toby Knapp. The station promos ensure a local feel with regular mentions of Fort Myers, Naples and Port Charlotte as well as reminding us they were playing the best music for South West Florida.
Let’s start with the music – there was a staple diet of Harry Styles, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and, after a recent Stranger Things inspired resurgence, Kate Bush. They all rotated on a very regular play clock. In between and slightly less regularly you had Ed Sheeran, Lizzo, SIA, Ava Max and Latto with a couple of classics thrown in from Fall Out Boy, Kelly Clarkson, One Republic and even Adele, who kinda ruined the buzz according to the 9-year-old. What it led to was plenty of sing-along moments, with a rousing rendition of Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good for You” from the back of the car being a holiday highlight. The overall synopsis was we were dealing with a well tested station who knew how to deliver what their audience wanted to hear. They also knew how long they listened for so they were willing to give them the hits on a regular basis, with a double dose of Harry Styles or Justin Bieber in an hour being a regular occurrence.
Other interesting programming notes included a mass dislike of a sketch on breakfast going on too long. “Just play a song” came from the back to full agreement as a feature of reading “rap lyrics” in a white DJ voice lost its entertainment value as it meandered well past 5 minutes on the clock (it felt even longer). Over 3 weeks this was the one potential “turn the dial” moment. I should add there were some very clever sketches on breakfast particularly around prank calls which we often caught on repeat in the late afternoon. The only challenge on these was the occasional need to reach for the mute button around some spicy language.
You always look to your own area and what really stood out in the advertising breaks were a couple of key themes –
The clever use of jingles and distinct voices
By week two the kids could sing 3 jingles from start to finish – “Zoom Tan Nine Ninety Nine”, “Gotta Get to Galliano” and DuckDuckGo who cleverly adapted “Every Breath you Take” by the Police to remind us that Google or Facebook are watching every click we make. Another good example was Bounty bringing Kelis’s “Milkshake” into their kitchen towel advert and no doubt attracting a whole new audience.
A regular advertiser Morgan and Morgan – a law firm “for the people” were brave enough to create their own rap which was distinctly different from their standard brand ads. The tone and positioning (evening/ weekends around specific shows) showed they were clearly targeting a different audience segment, one that the middle aged white lawyer VO in their traditional brand ads was not going to reach.
And what about the young lady with the, almost caricature New York accent, who shared the delights of what Kia of Cape Coral had to offer or Big Al from Stevie Tomato’s Sports Page, both instantly recognisable, even to newcomers.
The power of repetition
In the quest for optimum planning it feels like we’ve forgotten the benefit of repetition on radio to deliver a call to action. The kids asked if they could go to Kia of Cape Coral on Sunday – Why? Because the aforementioned young lady had told them repeatedly that there was a back to school special event in which there were 350 fully loaded school backpacks to be given out on a first come first served basis. Know your audience, give them what they want and make sure they know about it – it’s simple, right? The repetitiveness and distinct voice also told us if we took home over 350 dollars a week we could have $25,000 in credit instantly to buy a new Sportage. It also told us we could buy a new car for just a dime down. If I’m in the market for a car I know all I need to know before I even get there, meaning a lot of the selling is already done. Get the backpack, buy the car and off home you go.
Alternatively, seen as you’ve only spent a dime, you could take the family to Stevie Tomato’s Sports Page. They’ve got specials on Pizza (except Deep Dish) Pasta (I wish I could say it like Big Al does) and what about those ‘fall off the bone ribs!!’ All this and a promise that you’ll “Come for the food and stay for the sports.” I could probably also reel off the locations but instead I’ll post the question “How many adverts in this market can you remember so many details from?”
Promotions don’t seem to differ too much around the world and the station promotion revolved around the trip to the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Vegas. A nice prize with a fully paid trip, flights from wherever you are in the US, accommodation, spending money to gamble away or take in a show and a great live gig to showcase the best of your favourite station. Simple, desirable, effective and easy to be consistent across the network.
With some concerns around the addressability of smart speakers over here, it was interesting to note iHeart’s digital listening strategy continues to push people towards these devices. Regular promo’s pointed people in the direction of the smart speaker skills they had in place and with over 91 million such devices in the USA it’s understandable why. For reference that number is roughly twice what it was in 2018. They also regularly cross promote iHeart podcasts across the network on high rotation. These included ones around Love with 2 ex-Love Islanders, the LGBTQ+ community and Bedrock USA about political extremism and small town life, something that felt more prevalent this time than during any previous visits Stateside.
Five days after returning, we were again all in the car and the kids unprompted sparked up a conversation about how much they miss the radio in America. That’s something that gives me great hope as we challenge ourselves to remain relevant to the younger generations in this market. Along with the pool and the waterparks and the crazy golf, the radio was a highlight of their holiday, something to miss.
The great news is kids that you can have radio right here, maybe we just need to work a little harder to make it as memorable for you.