I realize that some people haven’t put away their Halloween pumpkin décor and that Thanksgiving turkey leftovers may still fill the frig, but on November 11th my next door neighbor lit up the front of her house for the holidays and she wasn’t alone.
I actually enjoy the sight of it when I come home from work and have to admit I’m a little jealous that I still have all that work ahead of me. So inspired was I, that I went to my “happy place” on Sunday morning, a holiday décor warehouse outlet store just around the corner from my house. It’s not very fancy and it can be a little chilly inside, but I find myself more often than not stopping by to just unwind during the holiday season. But Sunday’s trip was different and I couldn’t put my finger on it right away.
Then it dawned on me that I have never been so early in the season that my favorite holiday-only music station was not broadcasting yet and the store was eerily quiet. For the first time in the past 10 years, I left empty handed. I felt uninspired…un-holiday-ish. Then on Monday morning, November 19 at 7:30 am B101 in Philadelphia started playing holiday music and only holiday music! I can shop again! For those who believe that radio is a strictly background medium, think again. You don’t realize how in tune you are with radio until it’s not there.
The holidays are the one time of year when the “soundtrack” of your life is in sync with the world around you and thanks to those stations that flip format to all holiday music this time of year, not just your car or shower or office benefit from it, but your local retailers, too. Radio advertisers love it because listeners are already in a “purchasing” mind-set. I worked in the shopping center industry for 10 years and the timing of the holiday music launch was like a strategic battle maneuver…not too early…not too late. But we always made sure it coincided with the music the retailers were playing, making for a seamless transition from store to mall common area with holiday spirit intact.
Last year, between 300 and 400 (out of 11,500 U.S. commercial AM and FM stations) made the holiday format switch, said Mark Fratrik, a vice president, analyst and economist with BIA/Kelsey.
“It can be a nice little boost for a station that may not be in the top rung of the high-revenue stations,” he said.
“Most of the stations that have taken the deep dive into holiday music are the adult contemporary stations,” Jacobs said. “Women find holiday music programming more appealing, and a lot of men get dragged along.”
The broader Christmas radio trend is only about a decade old.
Sept. 11, 2001 “turbocharged this phenomenon,” said Fred Jacobs, president of Southfield-based Jacobs Media Inc., which does marketing and consulting for radio stations. “We were in a vulnerable and emotional state. The holiday music was sort of like comfort food.”
“It becomes a bit of gamesmanship; it becomes a little dicey with the audience. When is the right time?” Jacobs asks. “There is a lot of complaining in November when stations jump in early. The ratings reality counters that.”
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I’ll be the one loaded up with shopping bags!
Monica Caraffa is a Senior Account Manager at The Radio Agency. Please follow The Radio Agency’s Blog “Sounding Board” by subscribing to the email or RSS links above. Visit our website TheRadioAgency.com