Brand integration has become one of the essential components for the radio industry with advertisers customising various shows to align them with their brands. This integration is seen in print and television as well. Embedded advertising has changed the way ads are brought to their target audience, hence radio, which has the highest penetration in India, cannot be singled out in the era of brand integration.
Increasing advertiser demands, scattered target audience and sparse attention spans have made content-brand marriage the new buzzword for advertisers and media owners. While brand integration or branded content is often discussed in terms of the television medium, this mode has taken off for radio, too, and is currently one of the key revenue generation streams for the radio medium.
Red FM has gone all out in support of IPL team of Mumbai Indians; Radio Mirchi celebrates five-day brand integration where they turned the entire station pink when Hutch was going from orange to pink, its breakfast show ‘Hello Mumbai’ became ‘Hello Pink’, ‘Khubsoorat’ became ‘Pinksoorat’, etc. For Big FM, one of its best brand integrations was the ‘Hyundai i10 se Chipak Ke Jeeto’ contest – wherein the station attempted to strike a perfect balance between the launch of Hyundai’s new car i10 and Big FM’s ‘Life Banaao’ positioning. These are but a few instances of radio playing the brand ‘baja’.
exchange4media spoke to some leading FM stations to find out how they meet the challenge of maintaining content sanctity while integrating a brand, and what kinds of revenues this generates for the station.
Giving his take on brand integration Tapas Sen, Chief Programming Officer, Radio Mirchi, said, “Brand integration is only a technicality, what concerns us is the impact of the brand on the listeners, keeping in mind our target audience.” Commenting on the revenue aspect, he said, “You have to think of innovative ways on revenue generation because one has to contribute to the growth of the company and the shareholders, and brand integration is one such mechanism. The main question for all programmers is will listeners view this as a sell-out, if the answer is yes, then we don’t do it. Listeners come first and that is the reason why we are doing very well on the revenue aspect.”
Speaking on how brand integrations help Red FM, its Station Head Anuj Singh said, “Innovative advertising solutions for clients is a part of our corporate strategy and one of our key focus areas. Towards this purpose, Red FM was the first station to pioneer dedicated creative solutions, whose main purpose is to deliver radio promotion solutions to various clients. The business model capitalises on this need for advertisers to add value to their promotional campaigns. We offer customised solutions, which utilise both FCT and non-FCT components along with web and mobile. With Red Activ, Red FM’s activation unit, we go beyond radio to on-ground activations and activities across media, thus giving advertisers complete 360-degree solutions.”
When asked about the challenges before the station with the entry of brand integration, Praveen Malhotra, National Sales Head-Integrated Sales Unit, Big FM, said, “As a radio station, one of the biggest challenges we face is that at times the station’s brand gets diluted due to the kind of integration that is executed. Hence, at Big 7 FM, we ensure that all the brand integrations are done keeping in mind the station’s positioning and further, by setting a proper synergy between the programming content and customer’s requirement.”
Malhotra is of the opinion that brand integration should be open to those advertisers who enhanced the station’s brand value. “As a radio station, one should not jump at any opportunity that comes its way, but should analyse the alliance and measure the key value additions that come as part of the partnership,” he added.
Fever FM Business Head S Keertivasan spoke more on the challenges that came with brand integrations. He said, “The inherent challenge is in the design of the activity – both off-air and on-air. The design should have entertaining programming content, which is relevant for listeners, should amplify the core values of the radio station, and have a strong client fit. We are open to and welcome all advertisers on Fever FM as long as there is a fit with the advertiser’s target group and intended messaging.”
Radio City’s Asit Kukian said, “For Radio City, innovations are jointly structured by our teams based on the ‘proposition fit’, which is the advertiser proposition delivering value to our audience and our innovation delivering value to the advertiser. These innovations are devised by our sales and programming teams in close conjunction in each other. Consequently, we can seamlessly integrate the advertisers’ brand propositions into our programming to convey the value added benefits of our client’s offerings in an engaging manner.”
According to Shyju Varkey, Station Head, Radio One, the challenge was radio specific, but held good for any brand integration across any medium. He believes that the challenge is not just for radio, but for the brand as well. “We’re very particular that integrations are in sync with the young urban cool massive audiences that the programming caters to. Brand integrations work best with long term association so that the brand can connect well, impacting the target audience,” he added.
On whether brand integration was open to a select few advertisers, Varkey said, “As far as brand integration per se is concerned, we’re open to all advertisers. We’re choosy about who or what we select, not just in the interests of the station, but also of the brand concerned. The term brand integration becomes a misnomer if it’s a force fit. In short, the brand must seamlessly integrate with Radio One, then there is no problem.”
Brand integration is still in its infancy as far as the radio industry is concerned, however, one thing is clear that demand for brand integration is catching up fast and though the ratio of integrating the brands into the revenue stream is still less, with rising demand the scenario is going to change soon.