Radio stars (Dec 1938)

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Professional judging services, such as the Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation, are hired by sponsors to take care of the thousands of contest entries. BY RITA LOWE DIALING dollars has become one of America's favorite pastimes. Tune in almost any station, day or night, and you will find some golden opportunity to enter a contest and win a prize of a thousand dollars, a trip to Honolulu, an automobile, or even a coffee percolator. It was in the depression year of 1932 that people began to wake up to the possibilities of over- night riches by air and jotted down requirements from their loud-speakers to make, draw, write or solve some- thing which would bring them prizes running into thousands of dollars in cash or merchandise. Since then, the radio contest has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds, until there are now more than fifty thousand people in the United States—clever, unusually intelligent, with the time to devote to it—who are making extra money out of contests. They even have their own magazines, which list the contests of the month, publish letters from winners and critical reviews of contest entries which did not win prizes. In 1936, when the sponsors of Amos V Andy ap- pealed to their listeners for a name for Amos' and Ruby's baby, they received more than 2,250,000 entries, each entry representing a purchase of the sponsor's product. A soap contest brought in about one million soap wrappers (Camay) ; a cigar sponsor (Cremo) ran a contest for seven months on the air, at the rate of eight thousand entries per day, twenty cigar bands per entry, and so on, which proves without a doubt the value to sales increase of these promotional events, and the enthusiasm with which the public receives them. ' This year, a banner year for contestants, has brought them richer returns than ever, with one sponsor (Ivory Flakes) offering every week for five weeks a 1938 automobile, equipped with radio, plus a thousand gallons of gas and one hundred dollars vacation money; and with another sponsor (Royal Crown Cola) completing a contest of several weeks for which fifty thousand dollars was paid to 1,525 persons, whose names were published with a grand flourish in a full-page magazine advertisement. From the beginning, skeptics have maintained that these contests were an out-and-out racket. People who philosophically swallow their losses in the stock market look upon their failure in a radio contest as a result of fraud. But, even if the advertising agencies and their clients were disposed to run a dishonest contest, and certainly they are not, they must keep themselves beyond reproach because of the danger of indefensible lawsuits. The broadcasting companies, the Federal Radio Com- mission and the Post Office Department maintain a stern lookout for anything shady. Then, of course, no advertiser wants to sponsor a contest which would be run in such a fashion that he would lose customers and gain everlasting ill-will for his product. It is only natural that there was confusion when contests first became a fad. A sponsor would find that he was unprepared to handle the inordinate quantity of mail which poured in upon him after a prize announcement, and unintentional oversights would result. For example, there would be duplication of prize-winning answers, failure to publish the list of winners, or to acknowledge every entry. But, today, radio contests are run on a large scale, with a carefully-worked-out efficiency technique for the handling of mail and judging of entries—large staffs of workers who do nothing but read and sort out the letters, specialists from appropriate fields of business or the arts to select the winners, so that there couldn't be the slightest suspicion of fraud. In 1932, before the running of contests was so reg-