Turned on, Tuned In

By Mills, Dominic | Management Today, July 1997 | Go to article overview

Turned on, Tuned In


Mills, Dominic, Management Today


Once dubbed as the Cinderella of media, radio advertising has seen events move in its favour. The challenge now is for radio advertisers to produce decent publicity

Back in the 1980s, a group called The Buggies had a huge hit with a song called Video Killed the Radio Star. But here we are in the 1990s and radio is alive and well, while The Buggies have not been heard of since. Indeed, it is one of the paradoxes of modern media that the more people talk about new media - and they do, waxing lyrical about everything from digital TV to the Internet - the more the old media, particularly posters and radio, prosper.

Over the five years to end-1996, total display revenue on outdoor poster advertising grew by nearly 60%. This is impressive in itself, but nothing compared to the growth in radio advertising. Over the same period, display revenue grew by 140% - a phenomenal achievement (even if from a low base).

Radio has long been dubbed the Cinderella of media. It has been dismissed as a '2% medium' (it was common practice for those advertisers who used it to chuck 2% of their budgets into radio). But now this figure is close on 5%.

Some of the country's most dedicated TV and poster advertisers have switched money into the medium. Led by an award-winning Army recruitment campaign, the Central Office of Information is now radio's biggest advertiser - spending [pounds]8.7 million in 1996, an increase of 145% on a year earlier. Other blue-chip clients like Coca-Cola, Ford, Vauxhall and McDonald's have also switched money out of TV and into radio.

Events have been certainly moving in favour of radio advertising. First, the launch of national stations from Classic through to Virgin and now Talk Radio turned commercial radio from a local medium into a national one. For advertisers, it became an easy buy. At a stroke, an advertiser wishing to reach a national audience could do so with one phone call. In the bad old days, this could have taken weeks of planning or a dozen phone calls.

Second, the early '90s saw commercial radio invaded by a clutch of talented managers who spoke the same language as media buyers and advertisers. Richard Eyre, chief executive of Capital Radio, was one of the first. Eyre was a former TV airtime sales executive and latterly head of media at the advertising agency Bartie Bogle Hegarty.

Third, for many clients, radio was pushing at an open door. With budgets squeezed by the recession, at a time of ongoing inflation in the price of TV airtime, they were desperate for a low-cost alternative that could reach large audiences. …

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