Billboard Boys: The Greatest Radio Contest of All Time
The year was 1982, and in the small city of Allentown on the eastern edge of Pennsylvania sat an AM radio station called WSAN. For years, it had broadcast country music to the surrounding Lehigh Valley -- an area known for malls, manufacturing and Mack Trucks.
WSAN was about to undergo a complete identity change, from a country station and to a "nostalgia" station -- meaning Big Band, and soft hits from the 1950’s. They wanted a gimmick to hook new listeners, so WSAN decided to launch a good old-fashioned endurance contest, reminiscent of the pole sitting stunts or dance marathons popular in the 1920’s. They secured a local sponsor, Love Homes, to donate a prize: a single-wide modular home worth $18,000.
It seemed like a simple marketing strategy, but WSAN had grossly underestimated just how much people would endure for a little economic security.