Magazine article Marketing

In Tune with Brand Response

Magazine article Marketing

In Tune with Brand Response

Article excerpt

Last month, the commercial radio industry's marketing body, the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB), published a document called The Future of Commercial Radio, which predicted that by the year 2000 the medium would take 487m [pounds sterling] a year in ad revenue. This translates into a 5.1% share of the national cake.

The RAB also argued that the recent explosion in listener choice has not significantly affected loyalty to radio stations. It claims that "there are few signs that listener loyalty will erode". With digital audio broadcasting set to further fragment the medium, that's the sort of reassuring message that advertisers would want to hear.

For anyone familiar with commercial radio such encouraging forecasts from the RAB will come as no great surprise. Ever since UK commercial radio emerged from the doldrums in 1992/93, the RAB has been beating its drum relentlessly, and to great effect. Few would doubt the RAB's role in attracting new advertisers.

Yet the medium has reached a watershed. Recently it has become clear that if radio is to continue to grow it must offer advertisers a more compelling case than it has done to date. The RAB itself admits that radio's impressive growth "has displayed the characteristics of an emerging economy". It follows that there must come a time when the volume of listening peaks and the real marketing job begins.

There are indications that the industry is waking up to such concerns. In recent months, the debate has primarily concerned the need to meet the brand objectives of advertisers. Brand response advertising, sponsorship and radio creativity now top the agenda, as shown by the wave of research papers that have been published recently. The RAB is currently working on all three areas simultaneously.

Brand response advertising has been a buzzword in television circles for some time. Nurtured largely by Channel 4, the concept of direct response was revisited and redefined to incorporate brand-building disciplines and inspire direct dialogue between client and consumer.

Channel 4 has done much to show that direct-response television can, if handled sensitively, contribute to the customer's perception of brand attributes.

The question of whether radio could adopt such an approach was tackled at this year's Commercial Radio Convention by Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury (HHCL) managing director Rupert Howell, who has shown that if anyone can, Tango can.

HHCL has pioneered the use of direct response mechanisms on television and recently introduced its Apple Tango Helpline to radio "for two reasons", says Howell: "First, radio is associated with intimate phone-ins, and secondly, people are used to responding to radio."

The Apple Tango campaign not only won the industry's Ariel Awards but it achieved massive response, pushing the total of calls to the Tango Helpline as high as 2.6 million.

That experience suggests that radio, like TV, can perform a dual branding and response role, as long as the execution is right. "Younger people in particular want to interact with media and the brands associated with them," says Howell. "But radio should not be have as television's poor relation. You can't make radio do the same thing as television."

That view is shared by Diane Maxwell, of Michaelidis and Bednash, who says: "We have to explore the relationship with the listener. Radio can do good brand response ads but it can't play TV rules."

For Maxwell, radio's key propositions are intimacy and interactivity. She claims that over a quarter of local radio listeners have some interaction with their stations. That position appears to be borne out by the Direct Response Radio Research (DRRR) consortium, which claims that radio achieves higher response rates than its television counterparts.

The DRRR consortium, BT, Classic FM, GWR and the Direct Marketing Association found that two thirds of radio ads had a direct-response mechanism and that retail and finance were the heaviest users of such an approach. …

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