The Radio Remote: A model of audience feedback
This exploratory study examined the processes involved in the radio remote. In
particular, this study used a field observation method of 30 different radio
remotes in six markets. The researchers found that the radio remote process
involves a level of interdependence among the client, station and audience.
Overall, the researchers concluded that remotes could be judged according to the
presence of a client giveaway or special offer, station giveaways, station
interaction with the audience and an activity for the audience. Based on these
criteria, the researchers found that few remotes contained all four elements.
The radio remote: a model of audience feedback
Todd Chambers, Ph.D. student
Steven McClung, Ph.D. student
College of Communications
University of Tennessee
Paper submitted to the Media Management and Economics Division, Association for
Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, for the 1997 Annual Convention
Contact: Todd Chambers, 2023 C Belle Terra, Knoxville, TN 37923
(423) 539-4612/ e-mail: [log in to unmask]
Steven McClung, 122 D Taliwa Court, Knoxville, TN 37920
(423) 609-8349/ e-mail [log in to unmask]
Copyright 1997, Todd Chambers and Steven McClung
THE RADIO REMOTE
A MODEL OF AUDIENCE FEEDBACK
From a media manager's perspective, the majority of advertising works within an
audience feedback model - a medium prints or broadcasts an advertisement with
the hope that a potential consumer will read, see, or hear the advertisement, go
to the business and make a purchase. A problem with this model is that there is
no efficient method to measure the effectiveness of the advertising campaign.
For the most part, there are few companies interested in spending money to find
out the actual effectiveness of an isolated medium and advertisement. For radio
broadcasters, a method of analysis exists - the radio remote. Largely ignored
in the industry and scholarly literature, the radio remote epitomizes the
concepts of radio broadcasting - immediacy, mobility and intimacy. It also
represents a method to gauge the amount of audience feedback to a persuasive
message. This paper seeks to define and examine the effectiveness of the radio
remote in terms of its relationship among individual radio stations, the
advertisers and the listeners. Based on these relationships, a descriptive
model will be developed and tested. Finally, future research questions and
methodologies will be proposed for further research in this area.
The radio remote
Past research into the area of broadcast advertising has focused on the
areas of effectiveness (Wienberger & Campbell, 1990; Buchholz & Smith, 1991;)
and estimating broadcast rates (Bates, 1983; Rust, 1985; and Cannon, 1986). An
effort to find academic research into the area of radio remotes did not produce
results. From the radio industry, there have been a few descriptive articles
about the uses of remotes by stations. Most of these articles focused on the
equipment, locations and activities of remotes. Of all the articles, the main
theme centered on the idea that radio stations can use radio remotes as revenue
generators. For example, radio stations can sell sponsorships on station
promotional vehicles (boom box, van, balloons, etc_) (Pear, 1995, p. 33).
According to the industry, radio stations rely on radio remotes for revenue
generation. Before examining the actual relationships among radio stations,
listeners and advertisers, one must understand the mechanics of a radio remote.
According to Sissors and Bumba (1989), a remote is "a broadcast originating
outside the regular studio" (p. 436). Although premised as a revenue generator,
stations can use remotes for non-profit promotional events. A radio remote
evolves from three major functions: the pre-sell, the event, and the post-sell.
During the 'pre-sell,' the sales and programming departments work together.
Through commercial announcements or promotional announcements, the radio station
'pre-promotes' the actual remote event. Usually, the announcements contain the
'who, what, when and where' information. The placement and frequency of the
pre-sell announcements are arbitrary and based on individual station policies
and procedures. The 'event' is the actual remote. Usually, station personnel -
an account executive, dj and engineer (based on market/station) - arrive at the
location early to set up for the event. The advertiser provides the air
personality with information that will be used during the event. According to
the advertising agreement, the advertiser and the copy information will receive
a specific number of pre-determined 'live' announcements. To achieve the live
announcements, stations utilize telephones, cellular phones, dedicated phone
lines and microwave broadcasting. During the live announcements, the air
personality will usually offer promotional incentives to entice listeners to
stop by the event. The final function of the remote is the 'post-sell' period.
Minutes, hours, days or weeks after the radio remote, an advertiser may continue
to enjoy the results of the remote with increased sales. Depending on station
policy, procedure and advertising agreement, an air personality may 'ad-lib'
about the event and invite more listeners to stop by the advertiser's place of
From the mom and pop grocery store, to regional restaurants to big
corporations, small, medium and large advertisers utilize remotes. Although
some national advertisers purchase remotes for local chain stores, the majority
of remote sales can be counted as local revenue. According to the Radio
Advertising Bureau (RAB), the "radio industry posted its 35th consecutive month
of revenue growth in July 1995" (Radiogram, August 30, 1995, p.1). The RAB
continued, "local revenue led the gains with a 7 percent increase_.(p. 1).
Apparently radio stations are selling more advertising time and may be selling
more remotes as well.
Radio remotes involve three key components - the radio station, the
business/advertiser/non-profit organization and the audience. The three
components are interdependent; without one of the participants, the radio remote
will fail to meet the client's expectations. Based on these descriptions, a
graphic model might better explain the processes of a radio remote.
The Radio Remote Model
The radio remote model is composed of the three participants - the business or
event, the radio station and the audience. Traditional retail businesses and
non-profit organizations use radio remotes for various reasons. Businesses
might use a radio remote to satisfy particular marketing needs. Like other
radio advertising, a radio remote can generate awareness and provide frequency
for both retail businesses and non-profit organizations. For instance, a local
or national retailer might use a radio remote to publicize a grand opening or
the establishment of a new product line. On the other hand, non-profit
organizations might use a radio remote to generate awareness about an event.
Before applying the model to radio remotes, exploratory research into the
efficacy of radio remotes generated specific expectations from a radio station,
a business and an audience perspective (Wilkinson, et al., 1997). In
particular, surveys were sent to stations and businesses in five separate radio
markets. In addition, audience members were surveyed at various remote
Overall, 26 stations, 14 businesses and 432 audience members participated in
the study. Based on the responses, specific generalizations about radio remotes
were identified. Specifically, this research study focused on the expectations
of a radio remote from a station, a business and an audience perspective.
In general, radio station personnel expected a radio remote to benefit the
station, the client and the audience. For radio stations, the most important
element of the remote process was the station's relationship with the audience.
The most common 'benefit' for a radio station doing a remote was the ability of
station personalities to 'meet and greet' the audience. A general manager of a
'triopoly' station group maintained that the radio remote represented an
opportunity for the station to serve the client and the listener. However, the
general manager added that a successful radio remote required the right mix -
product, station, disc jockey and price. A promotions director of a
contemporary hit music station in a medium-size market discussed his philosophy
of a radio remote: "FUN!" Most stations reported that clients liked remotes
because it turned an ordinary business day into an event. Likewise, a remote
can generate excitement and traffic for individual stores or events. In
summary, radio stations characterized a successful remote as depending on
location, attitude, appearance, attendance and the client offer.
From a business perspective, most clients noted that radio remotes were
successful in generating traffic and sales. When asked about what general
characteristics resulted in a successful radio remote, all of the businesses
pointed to the radio station's responsibility in creating a fun and exciting
event. One respondent, a general manager of a Chattanooga area car dealership
who uses radio remotes on a frequent basis, explained, "I don't care if there
are 300 people on this lot and not a single one of them buys a car today. That's
not why I have these stations out here today." In addition, the general
manager maintained that while he provides giveaways and activities for potential
car buyers, he depends on radio stations to add to the excitement.
"My goal here is to create a 'buzz'. See, when people drive by and see five
radio station vans, hamburger grills, balloons, and people wandering all over
the place, they get curious, and may even pull in to see what's going on. If
they have the radio on in their car, chances are one of the five stations on the
lot will let them know that we're having a good time here. It sure beats the
hell out of driving past a car lot and seeing either nothing, or a sales rep
cleaning his fingernails with his pocket knife. People remember that. And when
it comes time to buy a car, they remember where they had a good time, and that's
why we do what we do. It's a buzz"
Some of the respondents agreed that active, enthusiastic and friendly
station personalities were required elements of a successful radio remote. In
particular, it seemed that the clients wanted the radio station to foster a
social event with a high degree of station-audience (potential consumer)
interaction. In the Myrtle Beach market, business owners rely on radio stations
to provide exciting events to attract the tourist as well as the local
listeners. An owner of an entertainment park in Myrtle Beach explained, "It's
part of the overall plan. I mean it's not the only thing we do, but here at the
beach, competition for the tourist dollar is really tough. We do remotes
because we don't want to miss the people who are in their cars driving around
looking for something to do."
Finally, the audience appeared to desire a high degree of station
interaction as well. According to the results of the audience survey, 34
percent of the respondents liked the atmosphere surrounding a radio remote. On
the other hand, only 7.3 percent liked the sponsor's special offers. The
results also showed two types of people who come to a radio remote - listeners
and non-listeners. More than half (58.2%) of the respondents indicated that
they did not come to the business or event because of the remote. This result
supports the radio station contention that a remote alone without a good offer
from the client is not enough to make the event successful.
Overall, the station, client, and audience surveys indicated that a
successful radio remote would include a high level of interactivity between the
station and the audience, an exciting atmosphere surrounding the event and a
degree of interdependence among the station, client and audience to foster the
success of a radio remote. Based on these characteristics, the following
research question was developed:
"What factors make a successful radio remote?"
As part of the radio remote study (Wilkinson, et al., 1997), the researchers
used a field observation method at 30 radio remotes in six markets - Atlanta,
Georgia, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, Lubbock, Texas, Myrtle
Beach, South Carolina, and Tri-Cities, Tennessee. These markets were selected
on a non-random basis due to market characteristics, level of competition and
accessibility. Although this study did not use a random sample of radio markets
and the fact that there are inherent 'observer bias' problems with the field
observation method, the goal of this study was an exploration into the processes
of a communication phenomenon. The lack of research in this area allows the
researchers to search for starting points.
The observers were attempting to evaluate the success of a radio remote.
Specifically, the researchers noted time, date, station information (staff,
equipment, promotion, promotional items), business information (location,
incentives, promotion), audience (demographics, purchasing behavior) and remote
success (interactivity, atmosphere). For the purposes of this study, the
observation notes were analyzed for four areas that could gauge the 'success' of
a radio remote:
y The existence of a store giveaway or special offer by the client
y Station giveaways
y Station interaction with the audience, and
y The presence of an station activity for the audience.
These variables should relate to the responses provided by the business, survey
and audience respondents.
The researchers observed two types of remotes - retail and promotional. The
retail remote locations included grocery stores, car dealerships, restaurants,
nightclubs, zoos, amusement parks, spa dealerships and other locations.
Promotional remote locations included concerts, 4th of July festivals and other
public events. The majority of the remotes could be classified as retail
remotes. In addition, each observed remote occurred on either a Friday,
Saturday or Sunday.
Since there is no set formula for what constitutes a radio remote, the
two-person research team observed varying types of live broadcasts among the 30
different remotes. Typically, the radio station sent an announcer and a sales
representative to the business location, where the announcer met with the
business sales staff and determined what information was to be presented to the
audience. In larger markets, often the engineer was responsible for the
equipment set-up, in smaller markets that duty fell on the announcers'
In most instances, the announcer was responsible for the organization for the
on-site broadcast, and in a sense, ran the show. In larger markets, the
announcer was accompanied by a promotions director, who served as a producer to
ensure that all loose ends with the business and audience were satisfied before
actually airing any information. And of course, the station staff was
responsible for audience participation incentives such as "freebies" like bumper
stickers, tee-shirts, caps, boxer shorts, concert tickets, compact discs, and
other prizes donated by the remote location business.
Table 1 provides a summary of the categories. Using the four categories of
store giveaways/special offers, station giveaways, audience interaction and
station events for the audience, there were some interesting results. In
particular, 56 percent of the remotes had a store giveaway or a special offer
from the client. Most of these giveaways or special offers centered on store
based promotions. For example, a grocery store chain in Lubbock, Texas was
giving away a car. The grocery store chain used a variety of radio stations to
promote this giveaway and provided radio stations doing remotes with entry forms
for listeners. During the weekend of the observation, the researchers were able
to observe two radio stations doing remotes for this grocery store chain. One
of the stations appeared to have successful remotes; the other station did not.
The 'successful' radio station had several activities for its listeners - free
hot dogs, free soda, and other free giveaways for its listeners. On the other
hand, the 'unsuccessful' radio station lacked activities for its listeners. For
this station, the only activity for listeners was the entry forms and box
provided by the grocery store chain.
Table 1. Classifications of Radio Remotes.
Number of Remotes
Percentage of Remotes
Store Giveaway/Special Offer
Activity for Audience
The majority of the radio stations provided giveaways at their remotes.
According to the results, 76 percent of the remotes had some type of radio
station giveaway. The types of giveaways ranged from cds, cassettes and concert
tickets to home entertainment systems and automobiles. In Chattanooga,
Tennessee, a contemporary hit music radio station combined a soft drink
promotion with a grocery store remote. At this 'successful' remote, the disc
jockey and promotion director interacted with the audience and made sure no one
went away without some type of prize. While the researchers were at the
location, dozens of listeners could claim a t-shirt, cap, boxer shorts, a free
soft drink or other prizes. In Atlanta, Georgia, a radio station promoting a
community event had solicited two automobiles to be given away at the event.
This 'Halloween' promotion also included food and candy giveaways for hundreds,
possibly thousands, of children.
Generally, radio station personnel interacted with the audience. The
results indicated that 70 percent of the remotes included some level of
interaction between the station personnel and the audience. Although the
majority of remotes had a degree of interaction, there were some remotes where
the disc jockey isolated himself/herself from the listeners (staying in the van,
inside the store, etc_). However, the majority of disc jockeys and other
station personnel did interact with the audience. At a Myrtle Beach restaurant
remote, the disc jockey talked to each customer walking into the establishment.
In fact, the disc jockey was on a 'first-name' basis with some of the listeners.
Granted, Myrtle Beach is a small radio market, but this type of interaction
appears to be beneficial for the radio station and the client.
The final area of remote evaluation was the provision of some type of event
for audience participation. According to the results, only 30 percent of the
remotes had an 'event' or activity for audience participation. For the 9 radio
stations that had an event, the activities included the opportunity to win a
prize. For example, a Chattanooga radio station provided a 'wind box' where
various certificates and cash was circulated for a listener to try to grab. A
Lubbock radio station used a prize wheel to provide the audience with an
opportunity to win food products and station giveaways. However, most radio
stations did not bring an 'activity' for listeners to participate in while at
Using this analysis, the remotes can be analyzed in terms of each of these
factors. Table 2 provides a breakdown of the four factor categories - meeting
all four, three of four, two of four, one of four or none. Based on these
classifications, only 8 remotes met all four criteria. Of these remotes, 3 were
in Chattanooga, 3 were in Lubbock and 2 were in Atlanta. At these remotes, the
radio station personnel were interacting with the audience with giveaways, the
client was providing some type of giveaway and/or a special offer, and there was
some type of event for audience participation. Table 2 indicates that the
majority of radio remotes met two criteria. For the most part, these criteria
included store giveaways and station interaction with the audience or station
giveaways and station interaction with audience. Using the classifications,
Table 2 showed that 50 percent of the remotes included at least two factors.
Although there were limits inherent to the field observation method, one
could make the argument that these factors could be used as evaluative
techniques for judging the success of remotes. If one were to equate the
existence of more factors to the relative success of a radio remote, the results
found in Table 2 indicate that the majority of remotes are marginally
successful. Almost 30 percent of the remotes have at least three of the four
factors; however, the majority of remotes meet just two of the four criteria.
Table 2. Success of Radio Remotes.
Number of Remotes
Percentage of Remotes
All 4 factors
3of 4 factors
2 of 4 factors
1 of 4 factors
This exploratory study sought to answer a simple research question. Based on
what radio stations, clients and audience members have said in a previous
survey, radio remotes operate under a specific model. According to the results,
it appears that radio remotes do exist in a model such as 'the radio remote
model.' It also appears as if the model requires a degree of interdependence
among all three elements. Finally, each component of the model devotes specific
factors that could be used as barometers of remote success. If one of the
components fails to meet its expectations, the remote process does not operate
as it should. For example, if a radio station fails to interact with the
audience, the degree of success for the remote suffers. Likewise, it is
apparent that a successful remote requires some type of client giveaway or
special offer. Overall, the audience is probably the most important component
of the process. If the audience does not attend the radio remote, then the
process cannot operate. Therefore, the station and the client must devise
specific appeals and incentives for the audience.
This dependence on the audience leads this exploratory study into the area of
future research. What does the radio remote represent in terms of
communication? At its core, the radio remote model can be likened to the
traditional model of communication and feedback (Schramm, 1954 cited in McQuail
& Windahl, 1993). A radio remote provides an opportunity for the immediate
evaluation of feedback - if the audience does not react and attend a radio
remote, there is not feedback to the station's and/or the advertiser's message.
Future research should explore the processes of the radio remote in terms of its
immediate evaluation ability. Two immediate areas of research include
persuasion and management theory.
From an advertising perspective, radio remotes involve several levels of
audience persuasion. Future studies need to explore the actual incentives radio
stations use to solicit listeners to become consumers of a product or service.
In addition to advertising research, management scholars could explore the
processes and relationships between the radio station employee, the client and
the audience. If a 'successful' model of remote etiquette can be designed,
radio stations will be able to solicit more revenue by providing clients with
In conclusion, this paper represents a beginning for future research in the
area of radio. As telecommunication policy continues to allow local radio
owners to develop 'megaopolies,' more research is needed into the effectiveness
of radio as an advertising medium. Until that time, clients and radio stations
must continue to balance their needs with the needs of the audience to make
successful radio remotes.
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