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Radio Interviews

Neelu Sawhny

General Manager | 26 Nov 2003

“We encourage innovation but not on the lines of the Morepen deal. That is not our station call; in such a case, the clients may dictate the programming content, which is not acceptable.”

Having worked in various industries and worn varied hats: those of media, advertising and corporate, Neelu Sawhny has experienced Client Servicing, HTA; Manager, Sales & Marketing, Oberoi; Manager, Ad Sales, Sarvottam, Readers Digest; GM/ VP, Bride & Home; Business Development Head, NBC/ CNBC and DGM Ad Sales.

In this session of Radio Speak, Neelu Sawhny, General Manager , Ad Sales, Radio Today (RED FM) speaks to Jasmeen Dugal about how she plans to recreate the success of Aaj Tak in RED, the challenges in radio ad sales viz-a-viz television ad sales and the concept of tailoring programmes to suit a particular advertiser’s needs.

Q. What prompted you to step down from Aaj Tak to RED?

Television is a big industry, and having made it in Aaj Tak, I had a cushy job in a 200-cr-turnover company. So the decision to step down within the group was not very easy.

I was helping radio while I was working with Aaj Tak. And to my surprise, I found that radio excited me. All my apprehensions and negatives vanished, and I found it quite exciting; there was so much energy within the team. And I was determined to make RED the winner in this genre. The challenge was to make radio happen, and to recreate the success of Aaj Tak in RED.

Contrary to public perception, radio is no second fiddle; the government has been very supportive in opening up this sector for us by introducing revenue sharing. This will prompt people to invest in niche channels; advertisers can reach out directly to their target audience. Today, all the stations have taken the mass appeal route to play safe; very soon, they can traverse the TG-specific route. Radio as an industry is poised on the verge of a giant leap.

Q. Tell us about your responsibilities at RED.

As GM, Ad Sales, I will be heading the corporate and retail sales on a national scale. My main concern was to position the brand with the advertisers; this has been accomplished largely and the process carries on. My duties involved endorsing that advertising on RED is not just about buying spots, but is a total experience, tailored to their needs.

My second priority was to leverage one station with the other, use their strengths and improve co-ordination between the three stations; this was an important task in terms of helping the advertiser.

Q. So how do you plan to ‘recreate the success of Aaj Tak in RED?’

Well, we have this concept of ‘phata-phat’ news at Aaj Tak i.e. we don’t dwell forever on a particular issue, and like to deal with it in a short, crisp manner. I have brought this concept on to RED, and it has worked quite well – a recent survey showed us that listeners surfing out of the station are far less than other stations.

Q. What are the challenges in radio ad sales viz-a-viz television ad sales?

Television is an established medium; people have long accepted it as a medium for advertising. On the other hand, radio is a relatively new medium, and you have to make that effort in convincing people that it is an effective medium, which can cover large population packets within low cost and in short span of time.

Q. Do you think radio renders itself well to all product categories?

Yes. Everybody loves the same genre of music, whether it is SEC ABC; you hear the same genre of Hindi music at the disco, and it blares from the paanwallah’s shop too. So radio cuts across SEC, which in turn renders itself well to all product categories.

Q. Which are the categories best suited for radio?

If you choose to talk about categories, real estate is showing a shine to radio; so are corporates. And because it cuts across SEC, you could have LG advertising on radio and conversely, you could have a sari shop; the only difference is the time band. Moreover, new launches are being announced on our medium extensively, as it’s a direct way of reaching out to the desired TG.

Q. What is the station’s current advertiser profile?

Retail clients and corporates form a healthy percentage of advertisers. Our current advertiser profile includes Sony Entertainment, Zee, LG, Coke, Hutch, Idea, HT, ICICI Prudential, Kotak Mahindra and Dabur among others.

Launched six months late, we faced a major drawback in terms of losing out on a number of corporates. However, none of them have refused to consider us in their media plan; the shortcoming is only in terms of delay, as they had already freezeed their media budget for the year.

Q. Do you sometimes tailor your programmes to suit the advertisers’ needs?

We do encourage innovation on the lines of a 30-40 second slot, but never on the lines of the Dr. Morepen deal. That is not our station call. The reasoning is simple – in such a case, the clients may dictate the programming content, and such a scenario would then take away what we envision.

Q. What is your definition of a good radio advertisement?

A good advertisement is one, which brings a smile to your face and answers your information needs without launching into a sermon. It is simple and straight to the point communication.

Q. Would you say radio is a good enough medium for brand building? It is usually considered to be a reminder medium …

Though radio is more of a frequency medium, if used properly, it can enhance the brand proposition and keep it top-of-the-mind. How do you think JK Tyres built their brand? The values they stood for and services offered came across through radio on the JK Tyre hour; Maruti Traffic Beat is a similar example.

Q. How do you tackle the problem of finding out which programme/ time slot works for a particular advertiser?

There are several questions we identify before making a time-band suggestion. Is it a women’s product? Is it male-oriented? Is it a retailer? If it is a retailer, we could slot it in the 11–6 time band when people are going to the market or when a housewife might be listening to the radio while cooking.

If there were a programme on beauty tips, we would advise a cosmetics brand to advertise on that programme; similarly, if there were a cookery show, there would be food-related brands advertising on it. For male dominated products, we would advise the drive time hours or the late night show; surveys reveal that a number of men like tuning in to radio just before sleeping.

Q. Do you think your current ad rates are justified?

The current ad rates are more than justified! The DRS Research shows that RED is the leader in Kolkata and is vying for top spot in Delhi, at the moment neck-to-neck with the leader.

However, even in the light of such data, we are carrying on with the same rates because we want the advertisers to sample our station and check out the benefits. So we will continue with affordable rates till April 2003, and then we will review on a affordable hike, based on what the market can or cannot afford.

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