Capital needs to press Button for results

Nick Button, Capital Radio’s new marketing director, acknowledges that his role comes with a certain amount of pressure but, three-and-a-half weeks into the job, he claims not to be feeling it.

Button joins GCap Media’s flagship London station at a crucial time. In the Rajar results for the third quarter of 2006, the station recorded its lowest reach and share after losing a fifth of its audience over the 12 months to September. Its share of the London market dipped below 5% for the first time and listeners fell from 1.8 million in 2005 to just 1.46 million last year.

Capital’s losses came despite a major overhaul of the station’s music policy and a cut in advertising inventory to just two ads per break in a bid to reduce on-air clutter. GCap chief executive Ralph Bernard said in an interview with Marketing Week last year that he would not promote the station – which he described as being in “intensive care” – until he was happy with it (MW May 4, 2006). Apart from a low-level ambient and outdoor campaign, which broke last October to support a promotion, he has been true to his word.

“I am aware of the pressure,” Button says, “but I am very considered about what we need to do.” Button, who describes himself as the “old man of commercial radio marketing”, has worked in radio since 1993. He spent six years at Chrysalis Radio, first as marketing controller for its Galaxy brand, before becoming its brand director. At the start of 2006, he joined Kiss ahead of its relaunch but resigned in September.

Button is seen as an experienced marketer who will bring a steady hand to the station’s marketing team. One radio industry insider says he is the kind of person that can get results without needing to spend. Button says Capital needs to reconnect with its target listeners – broadly 25to 34-year-olds, but specifically 27and 28-year-old females – and also with London.

“We need to be about London, but it has got to be the ‘real’ London – not the tourist view and not the view of the 40-year-old who lives out in St Albans,” he says. “We have got to be part of the buzz.”

In need of a boost
The need to inject energy into Capital is a point with which many in the industry agree. One source says: “Heart and Magic are relaxed and laid back – Capital needs to be the one that provides excitement. It should lift people.” Button has moved the station’s advertising account out of Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners and into its below-the-line shop Dialogue DLKW, signalling that he plans take a more tactical approach. But industry sources are becoming impatient for Capital to act.

Howard Bareham, head of radio at MindShare, says it is time the station “came out and made some serious noise”. Others point out that Button’s progress may be hampered by the uncertainty hanging over breakfast show host Johnny Vaughan’s future. Button says the station is still in negotiations with Vaughan, and declines to comment on rumours that Capital weekend DJ Craig Doyle is in talks to take over the show.

Getting sharper
But despite there being no creative idea ready and a plan for TV only “at some point in 2007”, Button is confident that Capital is on the mend. He says Scott Muller, the new programme director, has already made the station sound sharper.

Button is confident that listeners will return and predicts that Capital will show improved Rajar results by the second quarter of 2007, and that the station will be number one again before the end of the year.

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