Christmas contest drives $9K revenue and 1,400+ opt-ins

The Southeast Missourian’s photo contest achieves advertiser goals of brand awareness and database growth


The Southeast Missourian is a 15,275 circulation publication out of Cape Girardeau, Mo. In this small market, it can be a challenge to create unique ideas for advertisers. Most of the paper's promotions begin with their team thinking about what might work well in their market and which of their advertisers would be a good fit.

The team had their eye on Southeast HEALTH. The hospital is very involved in the community, and they were excited to center the promotion around the hospital's pediatrics division. Southeast Health was looking to create brand superiority for their pediatrics department throughout the region and boost their email database. The Southeast Missourian knew a Scared of Santa style photo contest would meet those goals.

Scared of Santa contests always draw a great crowd! But the paper also knew some families might have a picture-perfect photo with Santa. Since they didn't want to exclude them from the fun, they named their contest Scared of Santa (or Not!).

They chose to split the photo contest into two distinct rounds for optimal engagement. The submission round ran for four weeks, and the voting stage ran for one week. To drive participation, they allowed users to vote once daily and gave away two $250 Visa gift cards. One gift card went to the photo with the most votes. And, to incentivize participation even more, they also gave one prize to one lucky random voter.

This campaign was as much Southeast HEALTH's as it was The Southeast Missourian, so the paper made sure this was communicated in the art and the language of the campaign. They ran ads in their print edition, digital ads on their website, and added dedicated widgets to their site which linked to the contest.

They also sent invitation emails to kick off the submission part of the promotion and another email to remind their audience when the deadline was approaching. Once they got to the voting period, they sent emails to all the entrants so they could rally their votes. At the same time, they encouraged everyone else to come vote.

After the winner was selected, they printed a special section that showcased the winner and shared many of the top-voted photos. There was also a page set aside for their sponsor to share their own message.

This campaign was a big success with the paper's audience: 175 fantastic Santa photos were submitted, and more than 2,730 votes were collected. The paper gained 835 opt-ins for its own email database and secured 655 opt-ins for the advertiser. To top it all off, The Southeast Missourian earned $9,000 in revenue from its partnership with Southeast HEALTH. Outside of the yearly ballot, nothing else has been even close to this successful.

The success of this promotion has already influenced some of the paper's other contests this year, and they've begun discussing what to do to either build off this or whether there is another idea to try!

Matt Coen is the president and co-founder of Second Street, a leading provider of private-label online promotions platforms and partner success services for media companies based in St. Louis, Mo. He can be reached at (314) 880-4902 or

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