8 Most Creative Radio Contests1
By Thomas Chandler
In the not-so-distant past, radio reigned supreme as the primary entertainment medium. If you fancied the latest news from around the world, a baseball game, or a glimpse of popular music, the radio was your one-stop shop. There was one in every living room and every automobile.
It was not long after the advent of radio when the world was graced with the audio cassette, the television, and ultimately the internet. In the the blink of an eye, the era of radio had begun to fade into the sunset. Much like the newspaper and Katie Couric, radio has struggled to maintain its place in the world. Even before that, the people who ruled the airwaves worked overtime to make the format as interesting (and shocking) as common decency would allow. This is the world of “shock jocks”, like Howard Stern, or the fictional Dog Rollins, from the short film “DOG,” by L.A. filmmaker Barry Gribble…
Radio personalities would push every envelope and leave no stone unturned in their quest for listeners, and that was back when people actually listened to the radio. In this day and age, radio can’t be considered anything less than the wild, wild west. No one can blame these people for doing whatever it takes to poach listeners from other formats.
Without further ado, we present our 8 favorite cases of “whatever it takes”.
DOG – A Short Film
1. The Belmont Roller Coaster
In 1998, the now-defunct San Diego radio station Star 100.7 took a break from playing Fastball on infinite repeat to hold a contest in which contestants competed to see who could ride the rickety local roller coaster the longest. The prize? A brand new, shiny car. The contest went on for the entirety of the summer, with the players riding the coaster all day long and sleeping in the cars at night. Later, a few years after the winner was announced, the contestants filed a lawsuit against the radio station for irreparable damages to their bodies. Apparently, the human body can only handle so much of a good thing.
2. Hold Your Wee for a Wii
Not only was this contest put on by a Sacramento station creative, it was also ill-advised and lethal. It’s exactly what it sounds like: the contestants were instructed to continuously drink water, and the last one to need a bathroom break won a Wii video game system. Unfortunately for everyone involved – and humanity as a whole – the people involved ignored the very real danger that is water intoxication. One contestant died from participating in the contest, and her family was awarded $16.6 million in damages from the station’s owners.
3. Guess the Stain on a Pair of Boxers
Why? Staind. That’s why. And what else are you going to do when you’ve got two all-access passes to that night’s Staind show, a.k.a. the concert event of a lifetime? (If you’ve been alive for 3 to 4 seconds.) Contestants were brought in to examine a pair of soiled boxers and guess what caused it. Spoiler alert! It was yogurt. Following the contest, the contestants had to live with themselves for the rest of their lives.
4. The Great Pet Pin-Up
KZST wanted to raise some awareness for the local Humane Society, so they devised a contest that preyed on people’s terrifying obsession with their animals. There were twelve winners with pictures ranging from cats in fireman outfits to yorkie barristers. The pictures were then compiled into a calendar, with the proceeds from each sale going to the Humane Society. The animals that were forced into dressing up and sitting still while their owner’s publically embarrassed them? They got fleeting fame.
5. The Ugliest Bathroom Ever
What’s something that everyone has? A bathroom! How can we make use of that? KSAZ knew exactly what to do. In 2008, they promoted a contest saying they’d give a cash prize to the picture of the messiest bathroom owned by one of their listeners. Listeners flocked to the idea of making a profit off of what was before only increasing their chances of contracting Hepatitis C. The pictures that came in were posted online. Results? Horrendous. But thankfully, no outhouses.
6. Jill Scott Prettiest Brown Eyes
Jill Scott sure has pretty brown eyes. Hey, are your eyes prettier than Jill Scott’s? That’s the question WKYS FM posed to their listeners back in 2000 (the prime Jill Scott years.) It was the kind of an inane question you wouldn’t be surprised to hear in the women’s bathroom at a dance club. That said, it was something entirely different coming from a nationally syndicated radio station; it was pure genius.
7. MasterLube’s War of the Walls
Kids like art. They like making it; they like seeing it. If you give kids the tools, materials and huge blank canvas, you’re going to attract a decent sized crowd. Radio station KRRT secured two giant walls, painted them white, then invited local artists to compete in making the most impressive work of art they could. The contest wasn’t just a hit, it became a scene.
8. Journey Back to the 80’s
The current generation of twenty-somethings loves the 80’s. We’re not quite sure why, but not having lived through them may have something to do with it. This contest has been done by multiple stations, though with varying degrees of success. It usually crops up when Journey comes to town, asking people to send in pictures of themselves in their most-80’s-est clothes for a chance to win backstage passes to that night’s show.
Thomas Chandler was born and raised in a small town outside Seattle. He’s currently writing a screenplay about two robots striving to reform the American educational system.