NPR targets younger listeners with four-city “radiotypes” campaign

By Mike Janssen

NPR has launched a three-month multimedia marketing campaign that aims to increase audience for stations in four markets around the country.

The campaign runs the gamut of media, including billboards, social media and print, TV and digital ads. Participating stations are KERA in Dallas; WFYI in Indianapolis; KPBS in San Diego; and WMFE in Orlando, Fla. NPR chose the stations based on their opportunity to grow audience and their eagerness to work with the network, according to Emma Carrasco, chief marketing officer for NPR. They were also selected for geographic diversity.

NPR billboard

NPR billboard in Orlando, Fla.

NPR is backing the campaign with a $750,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, awarded last year. Planit, a branding and communications agency based in Baltimore, was chosen to develop and execute the campaign via a competitive request for proposals process.

Ads and billboards started to appear in all four cities last month, bearing messages such as “Skydiving Algebra Teachers Listen to NPR” and “Dubstep-Loving Banjo Pickers Listen to NPR.” The ads also feature the brands of local stations and the URL InterestingRadio.com.

Visitors to that website are encouraged to make their own “radiotype” by mixing and matching labels from one column, such as “skeet-shooting” and “sudoku-playing,” with identifiers in another column, including “truck driver” and “linebacker.” After selecting their local station, the site recommends local and national programs for listening, along with the air times on their local stations. Website visitors are also directed to the stations’ web streams.

WBEZ in Chicago launched a marketing campaign this month that makes a similar play at appealing to potential listeners who think of themselves as adventurous and open-minded, though it tries to grab their attention by encouraging them to procreate.

NPR’s campaign also features TV spots, which start rolling out on PBS affiliates in the four markets within the next two weeks. And Planit is working with the radio stations to run contests on their Facebook pages in which Facebook users can submit their own “radiotypes.” Submissions that garner the most “likes” from other Facebookers will earn prizes.

In developing the campaign, NPR drew on research that found its programming might resonate with many potential listeners who aren’t aware of public radio or have yet to sample its programming. The campaign targets people from 25 to 44 years of age, a demographic that skews younger than the median age of NPR’s audience, 49. NPR’s analysis determined that the participating stations all had room to grow their audience in that age bracket.

The campaign will run through early April. NPR will evaluate its success based on the growth of the participating stations’ cume audiences and traffic to their web streams and social media platforms.

NPR says this campaign is the first of its kind in its 42-year history. In 1998, it placed “NPR Takes You There” ads in national magazines. This campaign differs in that the network is channeling its funds into significant local buys instead of at a national level.

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