CC Radio brings in-context advertising to radio


Clear Channel Radio announced the ability to automatically insert any length of audio spot immediately after specific programming or commercial spots based on content. Called “contextual advertising” or “semantic advertising”, the ability has previously been available only to Internet advertisers based on text content and is credited as a major driver of the Internet growth and success. In preliminary operation for the past year, the proprietary CC Radio service is now available to all national advertisers. Test campaigns for major national advertisers VISA, GEICO and Wal-Mart, produced outstanding results for the advertisers.

One of the campaigns paired ads with programming content. To support Wal-Mart’s exclusive retail sales contract for AC/DC’s highly anticipated Black Ice album last Fall, MediaVest and CC Radio devised a program where a Wal-Mart ad for the album would run immediately after an AC/DC song was played on a selection of 106 Rock AC and AOR stations in 91 markets. If no AC/DC song was currently on the station’s playlist, the 30-second spot appeared after a song by a similar artist.

Wal-Mart moved 784,000 copies of the album during its first week in stores: the second-largest debut week for a new album to date in 2009, according to Billboard magazine.

Horizon Media’s contextual campaign for GEICO played strongly on the company’s “save 15%” theme in three ways. First, the campaign dynamically placed custom 15-second ads for the insurer after ads from vehicle makers (including autos, motorcycles, RVs and others) and auto dealers. Second, the ads were run at :15 past the hour during each hour of the coveted morning drive (6:15am, 7:15am, 8:15am, 9:15am). And third, the contextual reference carried through in the creative, reminding listeners that “since it’s now 15 after the hour, there’s no better time than now to spend the next 15 minutes saving 15% with GEICO”. For added impact, CC stations aired a paid 60-second GEICO commercial after the custom :15. 

“The ability to place ads in context within a live broadcast significantly increased the value of this GEICO campaign,” said Lauren Russo, SVP and Managing Director for Local Audio & Promotions at Horizon Media. “The willingness to embrace change and drive innovation is crucial in our choice of media partners, and it’s why we return to Clear Channel Radio for crucial campaigns.”

A turnkey campaign developed by Clear Channel Radio and OMD for VISA paired quick-hitting, 15-second spots with appropriate merchant messages – for VISA that meant more than 25,000 merchant messages in more than 120 markets. The result was five times the number of gross ratings points as VISA had been seeing with its morning television advertising (television dollars were diverted to radio to fund the campaign); and a 10% rise in short-term volume through VISA’s network compared to the same period the previous year. VISA ultimately singled out the campaign as a company-wide best practice.

Natalie Swed Stone, OMD’s U.S. Director, National Radio Investment tells RBR-TVBR: “Yes—we were involved and won a Buzz Award for this program in 2008. We initiated discussions with Clear Channel  on development of the program and were delighted with Clear Channel’s enthusiasm., ability and creativity in turning this into are reality to meet Visa’s needs.It was successful by all measures and was a true partnership.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Obviously, this is a great idea. We’re not sure how “proprietary” it will be for long, though. In the meantime, word-searching and tagging all of the content that will be going into a day’s programming can be done manually as well. Bottom line, though, this is the kind of technology Google should have brought to radio with its service. Congrats, Clear Channel, on giving radio the same kind of contextual punch that search optimization has brought to the internet.