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CBS Radio Takes Advertisers To Mobile Phone Subscribers

The new text-messaging platform is powered by Vibes Media and available through CBS stations in New York, Los Angeles, and 16 other U.S. markets.
CBS Radio on Wednesday launched a mobile-marketing platform that would give 25 U.S. stations a way to engage cellular phone subscribers in ad-driven promotions.

The new text-messaging platform is powered by Vibes Media and available through CBS stations in New York, Los Angeles and 16 other U.S. markets. The idea is to lure listeners into contacting the radio stations via the messaging capabilities of their mobile phones. Once contacted, the stations can begin a two-way communication that could prove attractive to advertisers.

"People who listen to the radio are inherently mobile. They're out and about," Jack Philbin, co-founder and president of Vibes, said. "This is really a marriage between two mobile mediums."

The radio deal is the biggest for Chicago-based Vibes, which also has pacts with stations owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc., Emmis Communications Corp., Citadel Broadcasting Corp., and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

The attractiveness of the platform is in its potential to move radio from a traditionally passive medium to one that engages a significant number of listeners. For example, a station could offer free concert tickets to the 100th person who sent a text message. Once the message is received, the station could reply telling people who loss that they can get a discount at the local restaurant or retailer that sponsored the promotion.

In order for stations to begin a two-way communication with mobile-phone subscribers, the latter would have to respond to an on-air promotion first. Stations could not send unsolicited bulk text-messages to subscribers, which would fall under the label of spam, and would violate Vibes's arrangement with wireless carriers, Philbin said. Vibes has licenses with carriers to run its closed network.

In partnering with Vibes, CBS Radio, a unit of CBS Corp., is showing some confidence in technology's ability to introduce new business models within radio.

"We were looking for a vehicle to easily interact with our audiences on a one-to-one basis, even during large-scale contests, and Vibes' iRadio platform fits that bill perfectly," Joel Hollander, chairman and chief executive of CBS Radio, said in a statement. "By delivering this new content we are able to build loyalty through direct contact with our listeners and add tremendous value for our advertisers."

Vibes-generated marketing campaigns will be launched by WNEW-FM and WFNY-FM in New York, KROQ-FM in Los Angeles, and WSCR-AM, WBBM-FM, and WCKG-FM in Chicago. Other participating stations are in San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington, D.C.; Detroit, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, Phoenix, San Diego, Tampa, Fla.; Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Cleveland.

In addition to contests and other promotions, CBS Radio also plans to launch mobile clubs that give listeners access to ring tones and wallpaper downloads.

Besides radio stations, Vibes has also worked directly with advertisers. The company, for example, ran a Super Bowl promotion with Burger King in which mobile phone subscribers messaged a number code from a package of fries for a chance to win tickets to the national football championship, Philbin said.

Started in 1998, privately held Vibes has executed more than 5,000 text-messaging programs in every U.S. market, the company said. More than 9.5 million people have participated in Vibes programs, generating more than 95 million text messages.