Kolkata was the concluding leg of the four-city exchange4media Conclave 2008. After extensively covering Print (in Delhi), Television (in Mumbai) and Digital (in Bangalore), the Conclave in Kolkata put ‘Radio 2.0’ under the scanner. NDTV Media is the Presenting Sponsor for this four-city mega industry event.
Radio: A poor cousin
Considering that radio is still treated as a poor cousin to virtually all other media, what followed was an unusually interesting, informative, textured, and free-wheeling discourse, less of a debate.
Moderator and keynote speaker, Shashi Sinha of Lodestar, set the pace with an overview of the radio medium. He blamed the neglect of radio on inattention to available data. Far from being down-market, radio covers the SECs advertisers seek. The engagement metrics also show that compared to the 30-40 hours per week the youth spend on print media, 250 hours are spent on radio.
Radio has high credibility precisely because it is pure audio. It bonds listeners to RJs, allowing the power of imagination to create their own equation with RJs. However, advertisers don’t appreciate this. TV viewers surf channels during commercial breaks, radio listeners don’t. Radio is that much more involving – not a passive, secondary medium as it is made out. In the interactivity scenario, FM has made great progress, yet advertising on it is low-cost. Sinha called for differentiation of content to address multiple audience segments.
Remember ‘Binaca Geetmala’?
The first panelist, Abraham Thomas of Red FM, deplored the ignorance and lack of awareness of even top ad agency executives about radio today. Radio’s ability to build powerful brand stories was proven decades back, by memorable jingles, programmes like ‘Binaca Geetmala’ and ‘Bournvita Quiz’, presenters like Amin Sayani, AFS Talyarkhan and Melville de Mello.
For the Indian consumer, radio is very much on the menu – 45 per cent of cell phones have FM radio. It is now possible for multiple media to synergise and give brands an integrated, 360-degree dimension.
Marketers then knew radio better than now. They must understand radio’s unique properties and make long term commitment to the medium.
In his brief opening remarks, Sunil Kumar of Big River Radio, confirmed the prevailing lack of awareness and interest among marketing/advertising institutions as well as the medium’s proven strengths.
The opportunity to create brand stories, already large, would be enormous as TRAI’s plan to scale up FM radio coverage from the current 300-odd to 3,000 FM stations in the next one to one and half years takes off – three per district, and 11-15 FM stations per metro. Would brand builders be up to it? As the session warmed up, Kumar was to make several important interventions.
Sandip Chaudhuri of Saregama recalled the days of ‘Binaca Geetmala’ and strong brand properties on radio, and past anxieties over TV’s competitive threat. Yet, radio continued to provide context and salience to brands and had a great future. He added that music companies and radio channels must work together.
Saregama enables music channels to let listeners sample new releases before taking purchase decisions. RPG has devised a master-brand strategy based on two serial programmes, one a ‘Music Café’ to feature assorted music, the other, with one music star at a time on the lines of a ‘Coffee with Karan’.
Radio needs to be taken seriously
However, ad agencies are reluctant to take radio as seriously as they do TV. If TV is off the menu, creative becomes apathetic and output suffers. Ad Clubs hold workshops on print and TV, never on radio. This mindset needs to be changed. Marketers sensitised to the potential of radio through quality work would scale up their radio spends, and strong brand stories could again be created.
Monica Nayyar Patnaik of the recently launched Oriya FM channel Radio Choklate in Bhubaneswar recounted her own experience in launching the channel as creation of a brand story. The strategic need to maximise the impact of the launch governed everything from the name of the channel to its tagline. The strategy was founded on the currency of popular expressions and connotations.
‘Choklate’ predictably derives from its popular taste. The tagline, ‘Dhoom Meetha’, derives from a vogue word for a good thing as ‘dhoom’ and ‘meetha’ connects the channel name and its positioning. The channel’s jingle became so successful that it was plagiarised, as was the FM channel’s name.
Metrics must justify the spends
Harish Bhatia of Bhaskar Group’s My FM channel, which has 17 licenses in 17 states, opened with the popular dictum, “if you offer peanuts, you catch monkeys”. To build brand stories, marketers must allocate funds large enough for the job.
Content integration for branding is easier on radio, which, unlike other media, does not monopolise attention: the reason messages can be more easily received. On the question of persuading the national marketers to spend on radio, Bhatia felt that the present bottom up approach would not get enough traction, it must be top down. Big agencies had to take the lead.
Thomas said that metrics must justify the spends. Operational efficiency in media buying currently trumps thoughtful planning. However, as spends on radio have grown from 2.5 per cent of total spend to 4 per cent, there is some growth. The 360-degree branding scenario is helping radio to grow.
For Sunil Kumar, the FM channels themselves have built brand stories often stronger than the brands advertised. There is a need to sensitise marketers to the three-cornered dynamics between the listener, the radio brand and the marketer’s brand, and the possibilities. A brand has both image and character, and character goes deeper than image. This also must figure in the media-message fit. There is lack of differentiation, but it is still early days for brand building via FM radio. Differentiation will come, but buyers must demand it.
Asked why Saregama’s TV spends are larger than radio spends, Chaudhuri explained that TV was targeted for distributors to stock up on new music prior to film releases, samplers on radio are sales multipliers targeted at consumers of music CDs.
Serious pursuit of creative quality is lacking
Reverting to his earlier point on agency apathy, Chaudhuri felt serious pursuit of creative quality was lacking. He pointed out that Ad Club Calcutta awards for radio are usually won by radio channels themselves.
Thomas added that dynamics of spending had also changed. Digital media had saved radio.
On the question of national to local advertiser ratio, Patnaik said that she had 220 local advertisers, making up 70 per cent of revenue, while only 30 per cent came from national advertisers. Thomas reported the reverse ratio in metros – about 50:50 in Tier II towns, and 30:70 in Tier III towns.
Bhatia pointed out that his group, having built its identity in non-metro territory, didn’t depend on national advertisers, and did not bundle radio with print to advertisers.
‘Buy smart, and radio will work for you’
Thomas felt that the power of the medium must be pushed by the radio stations themselves.
Kumar also highlighted the power of local FM stations to do direct marketing, as realtors in Delhi did. He felt that radio could not build a brand by itself, but it could support other media, maintain a brand and share of mind. It could give a brand attitude, bring it closer, and generate response.
On the way forward, Bhatia asked for a closer look at radio. Patnaik sought more ad spend on local stations. Chaudhuri looked for radio to be made more fashionable for agency creatives. Thomas felt that co-creation of content would enable greater consumption across media. Kumar’s advice to the advertisers was, “Buy smart, and radio will work for you”.
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