When radio stations invest in pricey billboard campaigns, they typically focus on the station’s slogan or its morning show.
But Wild 105.7, a station which plays dance-pop and hip hop, went a different route last fall: it gave evening disc jockey Mami Chula a starring role. Her face towered over highways, paired with key artists such as Eminem, Lady Gaga and Usher.
“It was,” said Mami Chula in an interview last week, ”a dream come true.”
The campaign seems to have helped. Wild’s ratings have climbed steadily this year. Ranked in 11th place among 18 to 34 year olds in December from 7 p.m. to midnight, Wild’s ratings have more than doubled since. Last month, in that demo, they ranked third behind rivals V-103 and Hot 107.9 in the evenings.
“We did our research,” said Melissa Forest, market manager for Clear Channel Atlanta, a hip-hop fan who will debate a song’s merits with Mami Chula. (Forrest predicted Lupe Fiasco’s “The Show Goes On” would be a hit, something Mami Chula disagreed with. The boss was right.). “People didn’t know who we were. But they knew her. You have to go with your strengths.”
Mami Chula, her professional name, earned that recognition from nine years at Hot 107.9 and two more at 95.5/The Beat.
Her radio delivery is loud and brash, yet warmly energetic and chipper. Whether she’s hyping a contest or introducing a new song, she unleashes her sentences with staccato speed. ”I call it ‘word vomit’,” she said. She also does her own nightly mix show, a rarity for women in this business.
During her show, she has no producer, no company at all, save for callers. She talks to herself. She’ll laugh at her own jokes to fill the void. “I need to entertain myself,” she said, while a cut blared in the background. Chris Brown.
A Wichita, Kan., native, she fell in love with mixing music on turntables in college, so much so that she quit school to get into radio. She pawned a CD burner for $200 to afford gas money to come to Atlanta where a guy had promised her a job.
The job didn’t exist, but he did introduce her to Marsha Meadows, a jock and promotions director at what was then Hot 97.5, which catered to a black audience.
Meadows saw a kindred spirit, a person hungry to learn. Mami Chula became her intern. Soon enough, she was doing her own shifts, usually overnights.As a half-white, half Mexican, she said she felt welcome even on a station that targeted a black audience. She became a regular DJ at Fuel in Buckhead Village and toured with R&B group Jagged Edge as their resident DJ.
In 2008, she joined 95.5/The Beat, which drew a more diverse audience than Hot, and played more pop songs. There, she said she gained more confidence under the wings of program director Lee Cagle. “We helped make her more mass appeal,” he said, with a greater focus on show prep and conciseness.”I got stupid and funny,” she added.
Cox Media Group last year ended The Beat to give AM 750 a simulcast outlet on 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB. But Wild, which took over the Beat format, grabbed Mami Chula almost immediately and within weeks had her on billboards.
By Rodney Ho, firstname.lastname@example.org, AJCRadioTV blog