Nicola Thomson, the newly appointed group director of marketing at Global Radio, is in an enviable position. She has bagged the top marketing job at the UK’s biggest commercial radio company and now has a portfolio of some of radio’s most high-profile brands.
But, on the other hand, she faces a challenge that has already beaten many other marketers – making 95.8 Capital FM, once the market leader, relevant to London listeners again. Thomson, the former marketing director at London’s current number one station Magic 105.4, shrugs off suggestions that she might feel the weight of the brand’s heritage and recent struggles.
“It goes without saying that because of Capital’s recent history, it will be looked at very, very closely, but I am not worried about that. I feel very confident moving it forwards,” she says.
Thomson, who was marketing director at Global, prior to its merger with GCap Media, took over her new role on November 1 and will officially take up residence at its new headquarters in Leicester Square at the end of this month.
Despite that, she is already immersed in the national roll-out of Heart, which begins on January 5, and has centralised the company’s marketing division, bringing together the brand marketers with the commercial marketing team, events and a press team.
She adds: “The model is a head of [department], a brand manager and a cross-brand executive. The marketing team, whether they are brand, consumer or trade, will be working on the fourth floor with me. I believe by doing this, it will make for better marketing opportunities for the whole group.”
As part of the restructure, the group’s station brands will now be clustered together. Heart, 95.8 Capital FM and the Hit Music Network have been grouped together under Susan Brown, who has joined from GMG Radio as head of marketing (MW last week).
Meanwhile, Classic FM and LBC have been brought together under Charlotte Rosier, previously head of marketing for Classic FM, and Becky Earley becomes senior marketing manager for Galaxy, Choice and Xfm on her return from maternity leave.
The changes aim to support the seven brand pillars that Global Group chief executive Ashley Tabor announced earlier in the autumn.
While Thomson admits that she does not have the luxury of being able to handle marketing on a brand-by-brand basis, it may still surprise industry observers that long-term rivals Heart and Capital will now sit side by side.
“One might question that fact, because people think they are in competition,” she says. “But they are absolutely not. We need to define what they represent and not ever overlap.”
There has already been an overhaul of the 95.8 Capital logo, and Johnny Vaughn and new co-host Lisa Snowdon have recaptured the number one breakfast spot in the Rajar figures for the third quarter. The station is also hosting the Jingle Bell Ball at London’s The 02 in December. All of these initiatives make 95.8 Capital a “fabulous place to be”, according to Thomson.
She firmly believes that despite its turbulent recent past, 95.8 Capital can be relevant again, but she adds: “You should never presume there is an audience there, you have to work very hard for that.”
Thomson will report to Global Group executive director Richard Park, who she has previously worked with at Magic. Working closely with Park, she says, is important to her because her confidence in his programming gives her confidence in the product she is marketing.
“Richard has a creative ability to work with the brands we have and to deliver the best brands we could possibly have in the national market.”
Her move to Global, she explains, was a natural progression of her career. She started out at Carlton Screen Advertising, but later moved to Jazz FM as head of marketing. She left in October 2004 after having her first son, William (MW December 8, 2005). She later started working with Magic – then owned by EMAP – as a consultant, before having her second son, Sidney. In March 2005, she joined full time as marketing director (MW December 8, 2005).
“Magic was a wonderful ride, but we had got to the stage where we had successes as a team, and I really wanted to further explore my career development, and that involves working on more than one brand. Obviously, the way in which Global was positioning itself moving forwards, it felt like a natural progression.”
Just weeks into her new role, Thomson has plans to look at all the brands in the group, but Heart and the national roll-out is currently her top priority. The strategy is to create a national brand with a focus on local content, which Tabor presented to the industry at a recent RadioCentre event.
The recently launched “Give it Some Heart” campaign, created by The Law Firm, will continue to be used to promote the brand, with local press and partnerships supporting the rebrand of the 32 local stations that are coming into the Heart portfolio. The expansion of the network will give it a weekly reach of 6.86 million listeners across the UK as it rolls out over next year.
With seven brands now under her control, Thomson is in her biggest role to date and faces working on some challenging brands. Once the final pieces of the Global jigsaw are put in place, with the arrival of the new chief executive, the former Mail on Sunday managing director Stephen Miron, on December 1, Global and its performance will be under close industry scrutiny.