Virtual Dog Walk

Radio groups have been forced to get creative in an effort to keep money on the books and satisfy the needs of clients and listeners alike. With concerts and large gatherings halted for the foreseeable future, many stations have implemented virtual events, from happy hours and artist performances and “concerts,” to virtual appearances at client locations, to full-on convention-type showcase events.

One of the cornerstone events at Beasley Media Group classic rock WMGK Philadelphia (102.9) is the annual “DeBella Dog Walk,” now in its 15th year and hosted by morning man, and dog lover, John DeBella. The event regularly attracts more than 6,000 people. Under current circumstances, the event shifted to a month-long “Virtual Dog Walk.”

General Sales Manager Rob Keegan tells Inside Radio that “activities included photo galleries where people shared pictures of their pets, online fund raising for local area shelters and a Q&A with a local veterinarian. Although it wasn’t the same as being live, we saved some of the revenue from our sponsors and delivered significantly more people and impressions with our content than we could ever expect to deliver from the event.”

Some of the most successful digital extensions at Townsquare Media have been client-driven job fairs, home and garden shows and boat shows, “that we were able to nimbly create virtual versions of, complete with ‘booths’ and sponsors,” Senior VP of Digital Jared Willig says. The virtual events are hosted on station websites and mobile apps, “which together in Q2 reached almost 40 million people every month,” he reveals. Listeners could peruse all the exhibitors and learn about various businesses and services, “just like they would do at a live event.”

Each “booth” included unique custom content about the client’s business, “with deep information, great visuals and interactive opportunities so they could develop individual customer relationships, just as they would in person,” Willig explains. Exhibitors paid a fee for participating and title sponsorships were also sold. “The clients were able to lean into our community influence – the power of our Local First strategy – and we were able to guarantee the client a certain number of people would ‘visit’ each booth.”

Keegan said Beasley’s Philly cluster was able to hold onto client revenue earmarked for station appearances by converting some into Digital Personality Appearances, something he spoke about on a recent CRS360 webinar. “These are short video productions with our personality on location to demonstrate the customer experience,” he explains. “We take great care to make sure the videos are as entertaining as they are informative.” Once the piece is produced, it is posted and shared on station websites and social media platforms. “The engagement levels have been off the charts, sometimes capturing 40,000 or more views,” Keegan said. “The exposure is much greater than having 40 people show up at a client’s location looking for a prize.”

Cox Media Group put on a series of “Front Row From Home” concerts, where “every seat is in the front row,” WBLI Long Island Director of Branding and Programming and Top 40 Format Leader Jeremy Rice says. The group has held three “Front Row From Home” events, with the most recent one held this past weekend.

Rice has record labels produce an organic artist performance via video, which is supplemented with Zoom interviews and additional live audio/video pieces from other artists to create an hour-long concert event. “It’s basically an hour of live music which airs on all the Cox Top 40 and hot AC stations,” he explains.

“Virtual events help us to generate new dollars in place of on-site events,” CMG Long Island Director of Sales Megan Borelli adds. “We’ve incorporated a strategy to ensure clients’ on-air impressions made up for the on-site impressions lost.”

Rice sees these type virtual events as something that can enhance annual events and concerts, such as the “BLI Summer Jam.” “We could do a BLI Summer Block Party Weekend and play content and artists that have played Summer Jam in the past or who are scheduled to play the upcoming event,” he suggests.

Keegan also believes the virtual extension is here to stay. “Going digital with events and appearances out of necessity yielded some very good results for our clients. Digital extensions allow us to prolong the event for weeks beyond the scheduled day. Video appearances with our personalities is definitely here to stay.”

Willig says Townsquare Media plans to continue these type events in the long term, “and ultimately combine them with their in-person counterparts to have a hybrid and full 360-degree experience.” – Jay Gleason