Broadcasting the Radio Message

By McArthur, Douglas | Marketing, June 3, 1993 | Go to article overview

Broadcasting the Radio Message


McArthur, Douglas, Marketing


Brand and sales distribution system fragmentation are just two of the difficulties in radio marketing, explains Douglas McArthur

As the new head of the Radio Advertising Bureau the prospect of marketing radio as an advertising medium did not daunt me because of my experience in brand management. This included stints at consumer goods companies like P&G, plus the marketing of food, beer and financial services.

I decided to ignore the repeated stories about how the three previous marketing initiatives for radio were considered as unsuccessful.

A comment from the editor of Campaign that this was one of the most difficult jobs in the media came too late for me -- I was already appointed. The same expression of difficulty was expressed towards John Spearman and his task of launching Classic FM.

To be truthful there are considerable difficulties marketing radio advertising. One of the biggest is its fragmented brand structure and sales distribution system. If an advertiser wants a fully national campaign, they have to employ over 100 radio stations with a total of nine buying points.

Let's draw a comparison with my consumer goods days working on Ariel. Instead of having one detergent salesforce with a homogeneous sales policy tailored to the marketing plan of one brand owner, my plan for marketing radio has at least nine independent sales teams -- each with different sales policies, ownership and commitment to the marketing plan for the total brand.

However, we are now beginning to see the creation of simpler ways of accessing the radio advertising brand. One of my initiatives is a Radio Customer Charter which I hope will be supported by all parts of the industry. It will harmonise conflicting sales policies, with the objective of attracting and keeping new advertisers.

On the formation of the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) we instituted one marketing tactic, while we have been developing the full marketing plan. The tactic was to put in place a team of media and account planners to give advertising advice on how radio can be professionally considered as an accountable part of the media mix. I'm a great believer in thoroughly researching the brand's problems and opportunities, developing a marketing strategy to develop the brand, and then sticking to the strategy with zeal.

Our research phase is now virtually complete, and the U&A studies of media planners, creatives and advertisers show that a great opportunity lies ahead. Significantly, radio advertising is a brand where perception lags behind reality. That reality is that the radio advertising brand is seriously undervalued by the marketing manager.

Equally, radio's performance as an advertising vehicle, its capability to execute targeted promotions and its mass audience coverage, is not properly understood. Somehow, it seems a great secret that radio advertising has 22 million listeners per week. …

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