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LONG COMMERCIAL BREAKS

QUESTION FOR DAN:

I am the owner of an FM radio station in the country of Colombia. We have one commercial break every hour at the :30. Each brake lasts from 10 to 12 minutes. The announcers don't complain, but here in Colombia a commercial is always 10, 15, 20 or 30 seconds. In this situation, would you recommend making two breaks (even though the announcers don't complain)... and at what time would you start those breaks?

DAN REPLIES:

Although at heart I am still "just a DJ," I must say that it really doesn't matter whether or not the announcers complain or how they will react if you change things. The important questions are:

1) How do our listeners feel about 12 minutes of non-stop commercials?

2) How would their listening habits be effected if were were to change the way in which we present commercials?

Having visited Colombia (I was a guest speaker at a radio conference there a few years ago), I am aware that the method you describe is standard for Colombian radio stations.

If your major competitors also schedule 10-12 minutes of commercials at the :30 break each hour, it might be a very smart competitive move to change this to two breaks of 5-6 minutes each....at :12 and :48. This way, when ALL of your competitors are playing commercials, you will be playing music...And, hopefully, your HOTTEST music to "hook" the listeners who tune you in as an escape from the other stations' commercials. This would also enable you, when you reach the halfway point of a 5-minute commercial break, run a quick recorded liner: "You're just 2 and a half minutes away from more music on Estereo 98.9!"

In the U.S., you wouldn't want to air such a liner, because the listener thinks, "2 and a half minutes? Why, I could hear an entire song on another station during that time!" But to Colombian listeners who are accustomed to as much as 15 minutes of commercials at a time, "2 and a half minutes" of commercials is pretty short.

Of course, the ideal competitive tactic would be to lower the total number of commercials you play each hour...by raising your advertising rates enough to lose your bottom-end advertisers (perhaps 20% of your total advertising) but also enough so that the increased rates the other 80% pay cover what you lose from the 20%.

Result? You achieve the same hourly advertising income in 9.6 minutes that you had been earning from 12 minutes of commercial time. NOW you can run two five-minute commercial breaks per hour...freeing up more time for programming (that is, for things the listeners tune in to hear) and allowing you to run frequent sweepers that proclaim, "You always get more music per hour on Estereo 98.9!" (Or, during the 10-12 minutes your competitors are running of their commercials: "If you just joined us from another station because you got sick of all their commercials, you've made the right choice! You always get more music per hour on Estereo 98.9!"

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