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Tracy Johnson
How To Figure Out How Long Should Your Spring Promotion Run
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One of the most difficult decisions for programmers, promotion managers and air talent is figuring out promotion length.

How long should a campaign last? A weekend? 2 weeks? A month? How can you decide how long a promotion should run? You want it to be long enough to establish roots and get traction. But not so long it starts to get boring.

In the past, radio stations extended promotions over a longer period of time. It was common for a contest to last 10, 12, or 13 weeks. Now, with shorter attention spans and a faster paced society, promotion length is impacted. The shelf life is generally shorter. It’s become more typical for a campaign to run 6-8 weeks, and many times a major promotion lasts less than a month.

The trend toward shorter and more concentrated promotions is going to continue. So how can you decide the proper length for a promotion campaign?

Here are six things you should consider:

How To Decide Promotion Length

There are many variables that impact how long your campaign should last. Here are six of the most important considerations:

How Big is the Promotion?

Obviously, a larger promotion can be sustained longer than a shorter one. And usually, the bigger the payoff, the longer the promotion can last.

This is not an absolute, but generally a bigger prize will command interest over a longer period, particularly if the promotion involves a large pay off. It’s logical, right?

But no matter how big the prize, if the storyline of the campaign doesn’t have enough depth, it’s hard to keep it fresh and interesting. I’ve been involved with many contests with big money prizes that just couldn’t hold up because the story wasn’t strong enough to support it. And I’ve also had great promotions with relatively small payoffs that last much longer.

If possible, extend the length of your campaign by building the promotion in stages. Instead of rolling out every aspect of the contest, keep some surprises back and add drama in layers. This also makes it easier for your audience to follow and understand.

A promotion built in layers has movement, momentum and will be perceived as even bigger than the actual payoff. It’s also more interesting to the non-player.


Regardless of the actual promotion length, factor pre-selling into the campaign. Short promotions are challenging because your secondary listeners (also known as P2’s and P3’s) take longer to catch on. They figure out what you’re doing just as it’s winding down.

With pre-promotion, you can establish familiarity in a campaign while still running the actual promotion for a shorter time period.

If it’s a short promotion, pre-sell longer. In this regard, radio stations can take a page from movie companies, rolling out a campaign for a new film in stages. You’ve probably seen trailers that promote the next big blockbuster months or even years before it’s released. The closer it gets, it becomes more specific, revealing more details. And in turn, building anticipation for the launch.

Caution: Promoting too far in advance without updating the messaging and creative assets will result in fatigue before the promotion even begins.


Many stations make a big mistake by back-selling their campaigns too long.

Once the promotion is over, it’s over. Listeners really don’t care who won, unless it was them. However, they do care that there actually was a winner. So use all of your resources to promote winners.

But on the air, back-selling should be short. Very short.

The ideal back-sell would creatively segue into a pre-promotion for the next campaign. By leveraging the success of the previous promotion, you’re build momentum for the next one while paying off the first.

if you are clever, you can transition from one chapter into a new one, much the way a movie company promotes a trilogy. One movie ends by setting up the next one.

When back-selling, the philosophy is, Don’t tell me what I missed…tell me what I’m GOING to miss. The promotion ends, but the story doesn’t.

Interest Level

Another factor that influences the length has nothing to do with the active audience. It’s all about the story that has already happened.

This is common in cause marketing.

You can constantly tell a story of how the cause is making an impact by revealing the benefits of the campaign in the past. That can extend the shelf life because it is about a story, not the payoff.

The actual promotion is a tactic that is just one in a series of ongoing events that all contribute to a larger story.

Promotion Weight

Generally, most stations don’t run nearly enough promos to reach critical mass. Attention spans are short, listeners are not paying much attention and it takes multiple impressions to create response.

No matter how simple the promotion, the audience just won’t get it right away. For best results, plan to overwhelm listeners with more promos than you think you need. That’s the only way to make an impact.

The shorter your campaign, the more heavily you should promote. Promoting a campaign 4-5 times per hour is not too much, as long as the promos are creative and interesting. But you can’t sustain this level for months. So a key consideration in duration of the promotion is taking into account how heavily you’re planning to market it.

In our fast-paced. competitive world, it’s usually better to run heavy promotion for short periods and then move into the next aggressive campaign.

Promote it Off Air

Great contests and promotions attract attention beyond the existing audience. They usually are more effective driving repeat listening occasions, but some promotions can also build cume if the promotion is interesting enough.

So doesn’t it make sense to leverage that aspect by promoting it externally? Don’t just rely on promos to drive it.

Along with ads on TV, direct mail or outdoor, use other resources. Social media advertising is highly effective and can be targeted by lifestyle, interest, demographics and geography. This is especially valuable if you’re also using it to build your station database.

If you have a good database, run extensive email campaigns. I have clients that run multi-week (up to 8 week) promotions with almost no on-air promotion. They drive it all off-the air, and it’s converting into measurable listening increases.


Okay, so how long should a promotion be? Obviously, the answer depends on a variety of factors. But if you force an answer, generally they should be at least two weeks, but not more than six.

On occasion, a promotion will run up to 10 weeks. More than that, and you’re probably stretching a bit.


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