Airwaves alive to sound of brand collaboration

New rules allowing brands to become part of a radio show’s content, the growth of online stations and rising numbers of listeners tuning in are why the wireless is well on the road to recovery.


The latest forecast from the Radio Advertising Bureau appears to show that the wireless is on the road to recovery. The RAB predicts a 7% lift in spend for the first quarter of this year, which follows double-digit falls in quarterly spend right after the credit crunch.

There are two main reasons for radio’s recovery, according to RAB managing director Simon Redican. Marketers are realising how to build a brand in a multichannel world and commercial stations are grasping how to best position themselves to help them do that.

“Despite the excitement of online advertising, you can’t build a brand in just one medium,” he says. “At the same time, there are now multiple national networks that have clearly defined audiences, which simply weren’t there just a few years ago. They offer brands the option of going national or going local. Stations have now invested so much in their programming and their presenters, the overall quality of content has massively improved and so audiences have gone up too.”

Brands can also actively participate in programming as well as advertising spots following the revision of the Broadcast Code 18 months ago. Previously, stations had to keep a clear line between editorial content and advertising but now brands can aim to form deeper and longer associations with shows and their audiences, according to Steve Taylor, creative commercial director at Bauer.

/b/k/i/CONFUSED_NECTAR_GRAB.jpg Welcomes radio’s flexibility

The ability to go beyond ad spots and become part of a programme is what encouraged Cadbury to work with five Bauer stations to promote its London 2012 Olympic sponsorship.

It has been working on a campaign to ‘Keep Team GB Pumped’, which gets fans to sing workout songs, such as Tina Turner’s Simply the Best and Gold by Spandau Ballet.

For the final song of the campaign, Cadbury turned to Bauer to run promotions to recruit listeners from London, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield to be part of a group that went on to sing the Rocky movie theme tune Eye of the Tiger.

Cadbury senior campaign manager Maxine McKenzie says: “We really wanted to tap in to the public’s passion for wanting to see Team GB do well and keep them training hard, and radio was the perfect medium.”

“The beauty for us was that the presenters were able to talk about the previous videos we’d done and could also talk about the Rocky one and help recruit singers for it. It helped greatly with the numbers viewing it on YouTube. We’ve had more than 250,000 views.”

Presenters also talked about a campaign where people buying a special chocolate bar pack could send in a postcard to Team GB, while Cadbury also ran advertorial in Bauer’s print titles Bella and Take A Break.

Laura Wade, talkSport’s head of creative strategy, agrees that using brands in editorial content provides more engagement with listeners.

“Being part of the actual show allows brands to work with us in new ways and is great for generating social media content, which can then be used as part of the show to keep a topic, and brand, in front of our audience,” she says.

This hunger for radio stations to work closely with brands is one of the main reasons why Mike Hoban, chief marketing officer at, believes brands are using radio as an integral part of multichannel campaigns. “The radio companies could teach TV people a lot about how to deal with advertisers,” he says.

“Radio people are far more willing to work to your objectives, they work alongside you. They’re no longer just young trendy people in T-shirts, they’re more business oriented. Because radio is number two to TV in broadcast media, it has to try harder.”

While this makes the channel attractive to deal with, uses radio largely due to its flexibility, being able to make ads at short notice or tweak a message in response to research. It uses radio to not only repeat a message but also steer it in a new direction at the times it knows its audience will be in a receptive frame of mind.

Being part of the actual show allows brands to work with us in new ways and is great for generating social media content Laura Wade, talkSport

The timeliness and flexibility of radio has combined with the relaxation in the Broadcast Code to allow online brand Foxy Bingo fulfil two major criteria. Like any bingo brand, it faces the same problem every year – in the summer people tend to be outdoors and take holidays rather than go online to join in a game of bingo.

At the same time, it felt it could develop its Foxy character, used as the face of the brand, in an inexpensive way, so it sponsored the David Jensen show on Smooth Radio last summer.

“We managed to maintain our revenue across summer,” says Foxy Bingo’s marketing director Mark Segal, adding that it took over two-minute ad breaks on Friday. These ‘buyouts’ helped to drive registrations. “Smooth was good at bringing our sponsorship to life. We had a two-minute buyout period every Friday where we had Foxy chatting to real-life bingo players and celebs. It was great content, which not only kept our position through summer but also led to a spike in new registrations coinciding with the Friday buyout periods.”

Vauxhall: Uses talkSport to leverage its sponsorship of the four home nations

In fact, radio’s appeal for Foxy Bingo goes beyond commercial stations. It commissions its own radio show, from producers Somethin’ Else, which is broadcast live online for three hours every Tuesday and Thursday night.

Online radio is starting to make an impression, with RAB and Internet Advertising Bureau research suggesting that half of broadband users have listened to radio online within the past week and 22% will be listening at any one time.

Katy Ellis, marketing manager at artist management company Anglo Management, believes there is good value in advertising through online radio, because there is an immediate path for listeners to take to interact with the artists it promotes online. Perhaps more importantly, there is a direct route to guide listeners to buy tickets for the company’s biggest event, Fatboy Slim’s Big Beach Boutique, which Anglo has been working with Gaydar Radio to promote.

Crucially for Ellis, the budgets involved in radio allow Anglo to promote the event for a longer period than the brand could afford in television and with greater presenter and audience interaction. She feels that by combining radio with online the brand gets a relationship with a listener’s favourite station and the interactivity of online.

“Gaydar Radio has created a promo box on its website homepage that links to All on-air activity always pushes listeners to the website, then, once online, they can click on the promo box to buy tickets.”

Such use of online radio to provide links alongside the content is likely to become far more common as penetration of RadioPlayer increases. It is an application for the PC or Mac to tune in to any UK radio station. The RAB claims that after the software had been available for a year, in mid-March, it had already doubled the 3-4 million expected users.

However, the RAB’s Redican believes the real turning point will come when it is made available on Apple and Android mobile devices this summer. “Once people realise their mobile phone is also a radio, we’re going to see a huge turning point,” he predicts.

“Having a radio in your pocket at all times is going to be the biggest driver for brands to use radio to interact with audiences in a new way that we’ll have seen in generations.”



Simon Culley
Football sponsorship marketing manager, Vauxhall

Marketing Week (MW): Why are you working with radio station talkSport to promote the Euro 2012 football championship this summer?

Simon Culley (SC): We’ve been trying to get the conversation about the brand away from the past issues around our parent company’s [General Motors] financial position. As cars and football are the nation’s top passions, there was always a good fit for us in sponsoring the home nation football teams. We were looking for a way of getting into the hearts of football fans and the talkSport work has been perfect for that.

MW: Why are you turning to radio so heavily, and why a sports station?

SC: You can go so much deeper with a radio station by being a part of presenters’ conversations with fans over a sustained period. You can’t do that in television.
We wanted to be associated with sport, and particularly football, because there’s always a lot of passion and banter around the country’s favourite game. That led us to talkSport because it’s a great station for bringing out that passion in fans in lively debates which we wanted to be a part of.

MW: How will you build awareness of your Euro 2012 association beyond the airwaves?

SC: We’re using our relationship with talkSport to be a central part of its social media discussions, which have had massive reach – a recent debate about England team selections reached around 4 million Twitter users, we believe.

Much of the time it’s on talkSport hashtags but we also get comments read out from our England Facebook page. The concentration’s been on England because they were the only home nation to qualify for the finals.


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