“Content on radio should reflect local culture”

Ashwin Padmanabhan of Big FM speaks about Phase III, playing on radio’s local strength & Big FM’s marketing focus areas

e4m by Saloni Surti
Published: Jan 31, 2013 7:54 PM  | 5 min read
“Content on radio should reflect local culture”

Radio listeners have now evolved. They are no longer on the receiving end of content but are active counterparts who chose the content they want to listen. In such a scenario, the need for differentiated content has become stronger than ever before.

Ashwin Padmanabhan, Business Head, Big FM explains that differentiated content can be created amidst Bollywoodisation as well…only if networks change the way of presenting the same.

In conversation with exchange4media, Padmanabhan speaks about Phase III, playing on radio’s local strength and Big FM’s marketing focus areas, among other things…

With the concerns in the base price and less number of frequencies available in A class cities, do you think Phase III will deliver the kind of expansion opportunity it promises?
At this point of time there are a number of apprehensions and concerns, but we expect that a large number of frequencies will be a relief at one level. Broadcasters are working together on how Phase III can benefit all – government, broadcasters and the listeners. We aim to progress in a manner that radio, which is now a smaller part of a marketer’s media plan, grabs a much larger share.

What kind of content, do you think, is the Indian audience looking for? Is it time that broadcasters look beyond Bollywoodisation?
Radio is a very local medium and thus, content has to be created on radio keeping this in mind. It is imperative for brands to reflect the culture of the market it is advertising in. Listeners want to hear and discuss what is happening around them.

Secondly, listeners look at radio as an interactive medium – as a platform to express their views, opinions and even talent. Thus, broadcasters need to give listeners a chance to create their own content.

Thirdly, Bollywood and movies play an integral role in the radio ecosystem because that is where the music comes from. Everybody plays this music, but how a station presents the music is important. Networks should portray a side of stars and movies that listeners might not be able to get a glimpse of otherwise. 

What was the thought process behind creating retro content for the Delhi station? Was any study conducted that helped in this decision? Please describe your core target audience now.
We did a study to understand Delhi audiences’ choices. We got different kind of data from RAM on what listeners like and which age group they fall in. In Delhi, major radio listeners fall in the age group of 25-45 years. They fall in the mature age group and like mature content. Also, All India Radio’s FM Gold always performed well in Delhi across all age groups and classes and thus, was a major data point in pointing out the like for retro music. We also did research within retro music to fine-tune what kind of content, music and artists our listeners like.
What are your key marketing focus areas and how do you plan to tap them?
Our retro station is called ‘Hit the hit rahenge’. Thus, we want to take the on-air perspective of timeless music through various touch-points. We will do series of concerts that will become sort of the calendar of our content. We will design concerts that will flow with the culture of Delhi.
On an overall basis, we have very clearly seen growth coming in from Hindi speaking markets. However, we believe every market has its own unique identity. Thus, we will create content and marketing strategies that are market-focussed for every city separately.

Big has been seen creating different content across all its stations. Mumbai saw shows such as Yaadon ka Idiotbox and Big Memsaab, Big FM Delhi also witnessed differentiation in content. Can you elaborate on your content strategy?  
To create good content, one has to understand the market really well. In our case, we divide our stations on the basis of three different types of contents. We have a group of retro stations, a group of contemporary hot music and a group of stations that play mix – contemporary plus retro. Thus, we understand what kind of music will be best suitable to a particular market and then allot them to either of the groups.

According to RAM’s week 2 data, Big FM is number one in Delhi (a spot that was occupied by another network for months now). What are the changes that were brought about to enable this?
About 18 months ago we conducted a research in Delhi and identified the market for retro. On the basis of that, we went on to become 100 per cent retro in Delhi during the end of 2011. We not only changed the nature of the content but also got new RJs. We changed the content to be in sync with the music. Thus, from frivolous content we went to relevant and mature content that matched our music.

We created special shows targeting women TG for the afternoon slot; in our morning shows, we tackle social issues and then there is Yaadon ka Idiotbox. Our early morning time band has received a good response. Thus, change in music and then creating content in line with the music helped us gain traction.

Radio always has a gradual growth or gradual decline. People may not tune in to a particular show but to a particular station. After becoming a retro station in 2011, it took almost eight weeks for our rating to get back on track.
Week 2 ratings have been specifically important for us because at that time services of Radio City, Radio Mirchi and Red FM were down due to the fire at Pitampura television tower. Thus, we were competing directly with Fever, which was number one, and we emerged as the leading station.

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