Suppliers Stepping Up Internet Radio Promos

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Internet radio will play a key role in the promotional plans of select car audio suppliers and retailers in the coming months now that the technology is hitting mainstream price points and becoming available in a broad selection of head units from key suppliers.

Alpine, JVC, and Kenwood will give Internet radio a prominent role in their planned promotions, and Pioneer already has. Suppliers such as Alpine and JVC are also stressing the technology in their regional dealer-training meetings to further stimulate sellthrough. For their part, many retailers have begun to emphasize Internet radio on their web sites, social-network feeds, and other advertising venues, suppliers said.

The promotions could boost the fortunes of pureplay Internet radio stations and services. Consulting company FutureSource said streaming through smartphone apps already “accounts for around half of listening hours for pure-play [Internet-only radio stations and services].” Because 70 percent of conventional radio listening in the U.S. takes place in vehicles, the company said, the “increasing use of smartphone apps, connected devices and the march of mobile broadband are all key to a sustainable future [for pure-play Internet radio].”

To boost awareness, JVC is making its iHeart Radio app for iPhones the centerpiece of its fourth annual Turn Me On online video campaign, which will be co-promoted for 52 weeks beginning in May on the web sites of hundreds of radio stations owned by iHeart developer Clear Channel, which operates more than 750 stations. Clear Channel stations will also promote contests in which JVC and partner companies Gibson Guitar, Pearl Drums, and energy-drink supplier Monster Energy will give away products, said Chad Vogelsong, JVC Mobile’s marketing GM. The partner companies will also promote the video.

With a “massive amount of partners,” Vogelsong said, the new campaign will gain a lot more visibility than previous online video campaigns, which have nonetheless attracted a cumulative total of more than 35 million views.

JVC will also promote the app and video on its Times Square electronic billboard, an in-app ad in the iHeart app, and in print media.

The app and video, which will appear once again on male-lifestyle web site

, will also be promoted on the web sites of musicians appearing in the video. They include Lita Ford, who launched a solo career in the 1980s after playing with Joan Jett and the Runaways in the 1970s; Candlebox lead singer Kevin Martin, whose band became famous in the 1990s; Puddle of Mud lead singer Wes Scantlin, whose band rocketed to fame in the 2000s; and Rich Luzzi, the lead singer of the up-and-coming band Rev Theory, Vogelsong said.

The musicians and video will take consumers through four decades of car audio technology, music, and clothing styles, Vogelsong said.

JVC is also preparing in-store POP materials for the iHeart Radio app and for Full Power’s Motion X cloudbased iPhone navigation app, which displays maps and turn-by-turn driving instructions with voice prompts on JVC’s large-screen in-dash A/V head units.

At Alpine, the company plans to advertise its expanded selection of Pandora-ready head units and supply in-store materials, said a spokesperson who declined to provide details. The company is also conducting hands-on demonstrations during its 12-city training tour to help dealers promote and demonstrate the technology.

“In 2010, we were the first to market with an integrated Pandora-ready head unit, the iDA-X305S,” the spokesperson said. “We were pleased with its success and how it raised awareness for an integrated, head-unit controlled Pandora solution in the car.”

For its part, Kenwood is creating in-store marketing tools that use QR codes that users scan with their smartphone to access additional information about Kenwood’s Internet radio technology, said senior VP Keith Lehmann. The codes access video demonstrations, explain how to connect a Pandora-equipped iPhone to the radio, and how to better enjoy the experience through upgraded amplifiers and speakers, he said.

Competitor Pioneer expanded its selection of Pandoraready offerings to nine models starting at $150 and has run ads on Pandora’s web site and and iPhone application through March 3 to coincide with Verizon’s iPhone launch. The campaign exceeded expectation, said Ted Cardenas, marketing director for Pioneer’s car electronics department.

To supplement the Pandora ad campaign, Pioneer created the Barry series of videos for its consumer website and for viral distribution on Facebook. The series of ads features an audiophile named Barry, said to take his passion for sound quality too far.

Other Pioneer marketing activities include in-store POP and on-board feature tags for retailers as well as heavy PR outreach to automotive and consumer media.

For now, Audiovox plans no special Internet-radio promotions because it offers only two Jensen-brand head units that control a Jensen-provided iPhone app that accesses more than 35,000 Internet radio stations. But the company will discuss potential promotions later this year with dealers when it launches it first couple of Pandoraready Jensen-brand head units in the next six months, said Audiovox Electronics president Tom Malone.

Malone also expects promotions from suppliers and from retailers to pick up during the summer and grow from there as this year’s expanded selection of Internet-radio head units get shipped to dealers.

For now, most Internet-radio is occurring at the grassroots level by dealers promoting the technology on their web sites, social-media feeds, and ads, Malone said. Retailers already promoting Internet-ready head units include Mickey Shorr’s and ABC Warehouse, said JVC’s Vogelsong.


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