Part Three – The Prize Pig Factor
As we study the factors that lead to different music research results generated by random Callout samples and online station web database samples, we are taking a closer look at the listeners who make up both types of panels. So far, we have seen that Callout sample panels attract participation by more Passive listeners or Normal Fans. Station website databases are more likely to be populated by the vocal minority Actives or Extreme Fans. In our “research of the research” we found another group that is capable of corrupting research drawn from surveys using radio station databases – “Prize Pigs.” It is quite likely that Prize Pigs are in your station’s database more than once. A Prize Pig is probably not even a listener of your station except for the contests. And it is likely that the Prize Pigs in your database are also in the database of every other station in the market. Radio stations using contests as a point of entry and motivation to build the station’s e-mail database should beware. Stations relying on that same database for market research should reconsider. And particularly risky is mixing both – offering the chance to win a very cool prize for participating in a survey.
Our nationwide Callout sample of over 300 music radio station P1 listeners aged 18 to 54 in the top 25 markets reveals that only 8% of listeners have “High Interest” in radio station contests. The majority of listeners we reached in our Callout survey don’t participate in contests because they believe they’d never win. However, Prize Pigs are drawn to the challenge and the opportunity to get something for nothing.
There is a story we were told by a Radio consultant about contests. Around 1980 a Los Angeles radio station gave away a Ferrari sports car in a major on air contest. One lucky listener would be randomly drawn. Spreading the promotion over several months, hundreds of thousands of listeners fantasized about winning this very expensive performance car. Finally, a winner was selected – a very lucky and excited guy from L.A. The next year, the radio station decided to do the exact same promotion a second time. Another Ferrari. Same contest. Same buildup. Same excitement. And then the winner was drawn – same guy. The same guy had won two Ferraris in two consecutive contests. How could this happen? It turns out he was a full time contest player. He knew how to stack the deck in his favor. Today, there are many more like him.
They call themselves Contesters, Gamers or Players. Radio uses less flattering names - Prize Pigs or worse. They try to win anything your station is giving away. And our examination of Callout and Station Web-based panels suggests that Prize Pigs may be polluting radio station databases across the country. In fact this small but aggressive contest cult is more pervasive than we knew. In a recent Google search for “secrets to winning radio station contests,” more than 480,000 results surface. There are Contest Clubs - people who compete with each other tallying winnings. There are tips and suggestions for increasing the odds of winning. There are stories of people who play contests as a full time source of income. Kathy, one Contester reports winning at least twice a month – merchandise, tickets, vacations – she hasn’t paid for a trip in years. Winnings that Prize Pigs don’t use themselves, they can sell on e-Bay or StubHub for cash. Here is one example of a website that offers tips to Prize Pigs who want to win radio contests: http://contests.about.com/od/improveyourodds/tp/radiocontests.htm
Another site offers this piece of advise for increasing your chances of winning station database radio giveaways: “Submit the maximum that you can. If there is no maximum, flood the station with your entries.” If your station’s e-mail database is an entry point for giveaways, chances are you’ve been flooded. Between AOL, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and all the others, one individual has unlimited ability to create as many e-mail addresses he or she would like, then seed your database with all their aliases.
One Contester claims to be in radio station databases with over 100 different e-mail addresses. This greatly improves his chance of winning e-mail entry contests. And if the station does an on-line music survey invitation with a chance to win an Ipod or something even better, this one Prize Pig will get 100 survey invitations and complete 100 different music surveys for 100 chances to win. And he may not even cume the station. Since these Prize Pigs may not even listen to your station or format, this can explain survey results that don’t look right. Radio stations report to us that when they do on line surveys to station databases with a hot prize incentive, they get many more completed surveys. “The bigger the prize, the larger the sample,” says one PD. But is it more people? Or is it just a few Prize Pigs completing multiple surveys?
When Prize Pigs who are not listeners participate in on-line music surveys, they will try to make themselves look legitimate. As the Contester websites suggest, radio stations want to award prizes to listeners. So Prize Pigs pretend to be real listeners. Even if they don’t recognize a single song in a survey, the Gamer will still score the songs familiar. They typically give higher scores to songs by artists whose names they recognize. In station database surveys which display artist names, it is common to see brand new releases by established, big name artists score very familiar and very positive after getting only very little radio airplay. Prize Pigs trying to pass themselves off as real listeners will also give lower scores to songs by artists who’ve gotten negative press or may have lost the cool, hip image. Recent examples of brand new releases from artists with highly recognizable names include AC/DC and Miley Cyrus. While unaided Callout was showing typically low Familiarity scores for their new songs, station database online tests with artist names on display showed instant Familiarity for both. In terms of Appeal scores, station database samples scored the new AC/DC song overwhelmingly positive and the new Miley Cyrus song overwhelmingly negative. In both of these cases, the respondents seemed to be scoring the artist name, regardless of what the song sounded like. Results like these can be indicative of non-listeners participating in on-line database surveys.
It’s important to remember that our findings do NOT suggest that Radio contests have negative appeal. In fact, 79% of our sample report having at least some interest in contests, but they are not Players. They enjoy the entertainment value of trivia questions, radio games and contests in the same way TV game show viewers enjoy watching the contest and playing along in their heads.
Critical to the success of the research process is to control sampling on the front end to ensure the integrity of the data on the back end. Panels built on individuals who opt-in to the database for reasons such as contesting relinquishes control and weakens the statistical reliability of the sample and ultimately the final data.
Next time, online surveys that Normal Radio Fans will do.