On Sept. 5, local Ottawa radio station, Hot 89.9, launched a contest that was, I must say, shocking to hear, at first.
That big, booming radio advertisement voice we’re all accustomed to hearing announce local superbowl parties and pub crawls had a different statement. Over the airwaves it was announced, “Hot 89.9 is giving you a chance to, Win… A… Baby.”
The initial details were somewhat ambiguous, not really explaining what exactly they meant by win a baby. Were winners going to be handed a screaming, blinking child “presto!” just like that? Was the radio station going to launch a hundred storks into the skies of Ottawa, destined to find those that had successfully completed the online application? Skipping the adoption line was a very probable and controversial explanation until finally it was indicated that “win a baby” meant being granted three free fertility treatments – something that is a very expensive procedure.
Initially I chuckled to myself when I heard about the contest, “Those Hot 89.9 folks are genius!” I mean seriously, it is such an outlandish sounding contest that, as a journalist, I know media outlets would pick this story up in a hot second.
I was even more impressed when in the second wave of advertisements the radio station included voice clips from people both praising and condemning the contest. Some callers were choked up expressing how wonderful they thought this was for people they knew who have been struggling to conceive, others said, “I think this should be illegal”, insinuating that the contest was inappropriate and inhumane.
On my part, I thought the contest seemed more amusing than anything else. I am (just barely) young enough to not have any friends trying to conceive a baby at this time, and so I didn’t really give it much thought other than a very smart marketing tactic on the radio’s part.
That was until I interviewed one of the couples that won and my perspective of the contest completely changed.
It was the most touching interview I have ever done, which had me on the other end of the recorder saying “wow” over and over again.
Marie, the winner I spoke to, is only two years older than I am and spoke to me about her and her husbands struggle to conceive. How it had consumed their lives and how fertility treatments were something they considered only as a dream “if we had the money”.
“When you’re told by a doctor you have absolutely no chance at having a baby, it’s devastating,” she told me.
She then described the whole process. How her friend and coworker burst into work one day, almost knocking Marie off the ladder she was standing on, to tell her about the contest. How she went home that very night and dedicated her entire evening to perfecting her application. Then the month of waiting, wishing and hoping that followed. The anticipation that she and her husband experienced as the contest got delayed due to the overwhelming 400 applicants. Hot 89.9 announced that they wanted to take extra time to sift through the applications to make sure the top five couples were deserving. Marie explained how she walked around with her phone in her pocket on vibrate from that point forward until, finally, they got that call and she was one step closer to her dream coming true.
“That began the most nervous and exciting week of my life,” she said. “We had more of a chance than we’d ever had before. There was new hope.”
The top five contestants were then placed on the stations website and people could vote on who they felt deserved it the most. Marie said she felt like she was running her own voting campaign, using social media to reach out to people and getting support from friends and relatives all over the world.
It wasn’t until she was sitting in the boardroom at the Hot 89.9 headquarters the morning of the announcement that she realized she wouldn’t be satisfied if her and Chris were the only winners.
Meeting and hearing the stories of the other couples she thought to herself that everybody in that room deserved a baby. She wouldn’t feel right being the only one walking away with that unimaginable prize.
Until that moment, Marie had never met any other couple who were going through the same fertility difficulty that she and her husband had experienced, despite the shocking statistic that one in six couples have trouble conceiving. Today, they are all still in touch. A bond created out of a contest that unified their individual struggles.
Marie said she almost felt sick waiting for the announcement to come. Hot 89.9 host, Mauler, stood before the group, that was barely breathing, with an envelope. On air he read, “The winner is… all of you. You’re all getting up to three fertility treatments. Congratulations.”
Marie said that the emotions she experienced at that moment are impossible to describe, saying that it was the most emotional day of her life, including her wedding day.
Critics condemned the contest saying the contestants were emotionally exploited, but Marie whole heartedly disagrees. She knew it was going to be an emotional process; how could it not? It was the one thing her and her husband desired more than anything.
At the end of our conversation she left me with this, “(Hot 89.9) did the best thing I could have ever imagined. They gave us hope.”
… and if that doesn’t make you a believer in the contest, I don’t know what will. In a nutshell.
** all images via Google
Different caller opinions on Win a Baby:
Reactions from the winners as they’re told they’ve all won (Choked up watching this after speaking to Marie):
Do you agree or disagree with Hot 89.9’s “Win a baby” contest? Did this article change your mind? Leave us a comment!