WBEZ’ bold ads aimed at gaining younger audience

WBEZ bus shelter ad

Please pay attention.  WBEZ-FM (91.5), Chicago’s classy public radio station, is just doing what it needs to do.  And that is draw as much attention as possible to itself.

Every brand runs the risk of irrelevance — a fate to be avoided at all cost, of course — if it doesn’t constantly remind the public why attention needs to be paid.  

So, realizing this is no time in the evolution of the radio industry to be shy about itself as a brand, WBEZ and its ad agency Xi/Chicago, the digital arm of Energy BBDO, have decided to go bold. And ballsy.  And make a statement the radio station hopes will pique the curiosity of consumers in its target demo 

In essence, the new campaign wants to appeal to people who believe they are genuinely interesting folk.  Smart move.  After all, who among us doesn’t want to believe we are interesting?

But being interesting is only part of it.  WBEZ’s new campaign goes further.  It is all about encouraging interesting folk to hook up with other interesting folk and procreate in the hopes that such a union will produce more interesting folk to populate the planet and become WBEZ listeners.

For WBEZ, an outrageous campaign

A bus shelter ad in the new campaign couldn’t be more direct about the directive at the heart of the campaign:  “We want interesting people to hook up with interesting people and make interesting people.”

WBEZ marketing honcho Daniel Ash readily admits that WBEZ needed to do two things at this point in time.  Having had no ad campaign for a decade, WBEZ needed to raise its profile in Chicago’s radio marketplace, and, even more importantly, it needed to find ways to attract more listeners to the station.

So the station decided to try do both at once by introducing a campaign that was something WBEZ is not known for being — outrageous. “If you want people to be aware of your existence,make an outrageous request,” said Ash.

This campaign has done that by encouraging procreation among interesting people.  Yes, this campaign strokes the egos of potential WBEZ listeners even as it makes them aware of a station they may not have listened to much, if at all.

Aside from out-of-home messaging driving home the baby-making, ego-stroking themes of the campaign, there is a significant digital component aimed at millennials who haven’t previously given WBEZ a listen.

At the newly-created www.gomakebabies.com website, visitors can have fun ascertaining how interesting they are as people and find other people who may be just as interesting.

But more importantly, the new Website offers visitors a chance to sample WBEZ programming.  Ash said potential listeners in the younger demographics would be far more likely to listen to WBEZ if its programming were accessible through a website than they would be if required to turn on a traditional radio device.

Station actively working to skew younger listeners

And make no mistake, WBEZ’s outrageous exercise in advertising is, in the end, about developing the station’s audience of tomorrow.  In a sense, WBEZ is in better shape than many other public radio stations across the country where the median age  of listeners is between 50 and 60 and getting older all the time. 

Ash said the media age of WBEZ listeners today is 42.  But he is under no illusions that it will start to skew younger than that unless the station actively works to attract young adult demos.

So, WBEZ is actively doing just that. 

The radio station has earmarked around $400,000 to fund this advertising effort . The advertising tagline, “Radio for the Curious Class,” unfortunately, doesn’t feel especially connected to the rest of the campaign. Maybe “interesting” should have replaced “curious.”

But, in any event, with the launch of this new ad campaign, WBEZ will surely get some of the attention it is craving.  And if it is smart about what kind of programming it exposes to the curious people the campaign should attract, then WBEZ just might have a good shot at winning over new audiences. 

In which case, all this procreation-related outrageousness will not have been for naught.

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com