Special Report: Direct Response Media: Radio’s Network tunes in workers

It is tough for a radio station to increase its share of listeners, but less of a grind to get those listeners it already has to tune in longer.So, it was with this in mind that ckks-fm in Vancouver started its...

It is tough for a radio station to increase its share of listeners, but less of a grind to get those listeners it already has to tune in longer.

So, it was with this in mind that ckks-fm in Vancouver started its At Work Network five years ago.

Known in the b.c. market as 97 KISS-FM, the Rogers Communications-owned station has an adult contemporary format.


In Vancouver, it ranks No. 1 among women 25 to 54, No. 2 among adults, and No. 4 for all persons, a prime audience for the At Work Network.

The At Work Network is exactly as its name suggests: a network of listeners who spend the greater part of the day at work with the radio turned on.

Dale Buote, program director of 97 KISS-FM, says revenue was a primary consideration for the start up of the At Work Network.

The pool of revenue for am radio – the band where the network got started before its switch to fm – had been declining for some years.

‘Our strategy was, if we could increase the [am] pool even just slightly, but could take 100% of it, then that would have a major impact on revenue,’ Buote says.

‘What we were doing was approaching clients for direct response who previously had not put any money in am radio, so we were now increasing the pool, but by virtue of the fact that we were doing programming and controlling it, we were getting 100% [of the increased pool,] and it had a dramatic effect on our revenue.’

Chuck McCoy, vice-president and general manager of 97 KISS-FM, adds another reason for the station’s continuing with the At Work Network is the added value it provides listeners.

As an example of the benefits the At Work Network provides listeners, above the usual radio promotional fare of free concert tickets and backstage visits to performers, restaurant meals, cds and T-shirts, Buote cites the case of an automobile dealership.

‘A client comes to us with an automobile they’re promoting,’ Buote says.

‘They want to do a contest that involves a number of things, and we are fairly restricted as to how much we put on the air in terms of clutter and so on,’ he says.

‘Without the At Work Network, and the ability to access those people [who belong to it,] we might have to turn it down.’

Have to listen

What the station is able to do in these kinds of cases is tell the client that it has a promotion, and, if people want to participate, they will have to listen to 97 KISS-FM.

In the automobile dealership example, Buote says the station mailed the more than 50,000 members of the At Work Network a list of songs and the one who called the station when it played those songs in sequence won a new car.

So, as well as one person being forever grateful to the dealership for his or her free new car, the auto dealer also gets a mailing to all other members of the At Work Network, some of whom have already indicated, in questionnaires the station has sent them, they are in the market for a new vehicle.

Of course, Buote says the auto dealership buys advertising on the station, but he adds the promotion for the new car is done strictly using the At Work Network database to mail its members.

‘There’s no on-air component whatever for these At Work Network promotions,’ McCoy says.

‘You have to be a member of the At Work Network to play the game,’ he says. ‘They’re the only people who know about it.’

Buote says aside from ‘the crass revenue angle,’ the station’s objective with the At Work Network is to get people who already listen to the radio station to tune in longer, since trying to boost a 10-share station to a 25-share station in an 18-station market is folly.

‘I’ll fly Air Canada or Canadian [Airlines International,] but neither one of those airlines is ever going to get 80% of the market,’ Buote says.

‘So, you get the people who fly to fly more [often,]‘ he says. ‘And, that was the objective, to get people who listen, to listen to more hours, and when they’re at work, it’s the longest stretch of time.’

Buote says another benefit the At Work Network has provided for the station is an efficient tv advertising buy.

Since 97 KISS-FM buys tv time to advertise itself, it naturally asks At Work Network members in the four-times-a-year At Work Network News to specify their three favorite tv programs.

Buote says as well as the predictable favorites, the station’s 25 to 54 female audience also picks shows that are not among the top 10 in the ratings, so advertising the radio station during these shows is cheaper and more precisely targetted.

As well as providing additional information about the station’s listeners, McCoy says feedback from the Network News confirms the station is reaching those listeners it set out to reach, at least while they are at work.

As well as collecting such simple demographic information as members’ ages and occupations, Buote says the network also allows the station to collect much more data, including such things as place of residence, buying habits, and information about people who work at home.

Additionally, McCoy says, that information has allowed it to create new promotions.

He says one of the more recent promotions was built around members’ stated intent to take a foreign vacation.

Proprietary information

Buote says the information gathered through the At Work Network is for the exclusive use of the station.

He believes selling or providing the data to others would lead to the collapse of the network.

‘We know how we want to approach these [network members], and we know there’s limits to what these people will accept in terms of pitches and offers and that kind of thing,’ Buote says.

‘But, there are ways for clients to reach those people through us when they buy a campaign, and we tell them we will send out invitations to some people who we feel would be interested in this event, and then we do it,’ he says.

As for the future of the At Work Network, Buote sees some expansion down the road, although it is not clear what form that expansion will take.

Perhaps, Buote says, the station could organize a breakfast club for morning listeners, or an evening or weekend club for people who tune in at those times, and so offer these listeners the same sorts of advantages the station offers its At Work Network audience.