Clear Channel Dallas Station Dumps Ads for Sponsorships

Lonestar 92.5, a Texas radio station that broadcasts "outlaw" and alternative country, is dumping ad pods in favor of single-advertiser sponsorships for long periods of uninterrupted programming. The Clear Channel Dallas station is taking the war on ad clutter to a new level with a "maverick" move. In the sponsorship format, one sponsor will get about two minutes of "integrated" time during each hour of radio airplay, including voiceover messages from the host.

Ironically, the old-new sponsorship approach--popular in the Golden Age of radio, from the 1920s-1950s--sprang from the station's H2 digital radio multicasts. According to Kelly Kibler, director of sales, the ad-free multicast programming arranged by veteran DJ Duane Doherty was so popular the station decided to take it to the main FM band. (Terrestrial digital multicasts use previously untapped "side bands" of single frequencies to multiply radio channels.) The only question: how to keep it mostly ad-free, thus maintaining its pirate-radio vibe?



"If an on-air personality can do anything they wanted, the No. 1 response is not playing commercials," Kibler says. "Commercials work, and commercials are great. But for this kind of thing, a sponsorship model is better." Kibler said the sponsorship deal made real partners of advertisers, which extends to the station's Web site ads. Sponsors also enjoy category exclusivity during airplay--for example, "just one beer, one airline, one car maker."

Although the format may look like an extension of Clear Channel Radio's company-wide "Less Is More" initiative, Kibler said it's the brainchild of 92.5 alone. Depending on the advertiser and audience response--which has so far been favorable--Kibler is hopeful the idea will appeal to Clear Channel executives and propagate to other stations.

"Every agency is asking for something new, for a way to stand out from the clutter," she says. "And if you want to stand out, this is the way."

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