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Clients are looking for experiential solutions beyond radio or print: Abraham Thomas, Radio City 91.1 FM

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Clients are looking for experiential solutions beyond radio or print: Abraham Thomas, Radio City 91.1 FM

From entering new markets to launching large format events, Radio City 91.1FM has been on a roll. The radio channel recently announced the launch of India’s biggest singing talent hunt-Radio City Super Singer Season 8. Earlier this year, the channel set up its own creative-cum-media agency Audacity which is setting a new benchmark in audio creative solutions.

“Clients are looking for experiential solutions. They are not looking for radio or print. So if you can give them something that goes beyond radio, it works. Interestingly, a lot of agencies have been approaching us to make use of our expertise in radio,” says Abraham Thomas, CEO, Radio City.

In an exclusive chat, Thomas talks about the brand’s future plans, the importance of being future ready and the changing radio advertising environment.


How has the year been so far for Radio City?
The year for us has been as per plans. There have been some changes in the sense that some categories like e-commerce has gone down but at the same time some other categories have come up. So, overall we are optimistic about this year and the coming 2-3 years. There is a lot of competition in the market. In 22 out of our 28 cities, we are ready to welcome competition. On the other hand, we are getting ready to get into new markets.

Can you tell us when these launches are likely to take place? Could you also provide us with a glimpse of what to expect from the new stations?

These launches might happen between October and December. We have also worked to refresh our brand and programming. This includes launching some unique large format events like the first concert on radio. In the second quarter, we did Super Singer, which is now a huge property that reaches out to all cities. We are doing is to create one breakthrough format in every quarter that breathes new life into radio. We are a very research and data-led company. We have not rushed into launching anything in interim setup. We wanted to be very sure before we launched the new channels. We did not want to compromise on quality so we are very clear that when we launch it will be the perfect product. Every market has its own key content drivers, and basis this, the programming will be figured out. Our big launches are planned in Kanpur, Patna, and markets in Rajasthan, UP and Maharashtra.

How is Audacity doing?

Audacity is doing really well. We are very happy with the kind of work they are doing. Audacity comes with solutions based in radio but not limited to radio. We almost thought that radio creativity had kind of plateaued but we have done some interesting work that goes beyond radio. Clients are looking for experiential solutions. They are not looking for radio or print. So if you can give them something that goes beyond radio, it works. Interestingly, a lot of agencies have been approaching us to make use of our expertise in radio.

You mentioned earlier about e-commerce spends dropping this year. Has this had a major impact on radio ad revenues?

E-commerce was a top-5 category for us. It is possibly dropped to the Top 10 in Q1’16. Categories like real estate and government continue to be in the top 5. Then there is real estate, FMCG, etc.; apart from e-commerce, we have not seen much of a change.

You have recently expanded your music portfolio on What is the strategic direction for it going forward?

The way we see it is that we are one of the early investors in web radio with  We have built a very solid and sure base through which we can keep on growing. There is a lot of independent music, a lot of independent artists on the platform. It has lot of web radio stations and playlists. We also have a deal with SaReGaMa through which we have launched their entire archive in the online space. The world over, we are seeing a revival of retro music. The typical conventional wisdom was that you would identify with music that you grew up with but nowadays we find that people are even listening to music much before their time. We have a really great archive of music and the challenge is to package and present it to the current generation. This is why we thought that online was also a great way to do this (reach the younger generation). It is growing quickly but the quantum is still low.

We are expecting it to reach critical mass and then suddenly start growing very quickly. Again, the way we look at digital is that we have built a lot of digital assets around Radio City on social media, etc. and then we have our destinations on and we are seeing the overlap between the two increasing. 

What lies ahead for Radio City as a brand?

As a brand, it is about getting future ready. Radio is a local medium and this local medium is growing. When we started, around 70-75 per cent of advertisement was national but now it is about 50-50 per cent split between national and local. In some markets, it is even 60 per cent in favour of local. The other thing that is happening is that even the national advertisers have started to use radio for local advertising because more and more of their business is coming from local markets and a single communication across all markets does not necessarily work. Therefore, we see the future of radio as very bright because it will be driven by both local and national advertisers. We have always treated radio as a local medium. We have always tried to be as locally focused in each city as possible.

The other thinking is that as consumer consumption to habits are changing, for us it is about taking the brand to the consumer through multiple touchpoints; whether it is through mobile apps, online, on-ground, etc. For us, competition is not just about other radio stations but wherever audio content is being consumed. Therefore, the content is being created keeping this thinking in mind. So, going forward you will see a lot more in terms of developing multiple touchpoints for the brand.

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