There is much criticism that advertisers don’t support community radio. Trish Guilford, associate media director of The MediaShop, checks if this is true, or not.
Before anybody makes any judgement calls about community radio, let us have a look at the facts. Based on RAMS, the total community radio listenership for the last five RAMS waves has shown a very stable environment with minimal change in listenership. Statistically, 5% changes are irrelevant.
And when we look at ad spend, based on AdDynamix for the period January – December 2009, 2010 and 2011, the ad spend has increased significantly from R27-million to R37.1-million to R94.5-million. Please note that these ad spend figures exclude self promotion.
The huge increase from 2010 to 2011 is thanks to six specific radio stations. The stations that have shown large increases are Bush FM, Jozi FM, North West FM, Pulpit FM, Tygerberg FM and VOC FM. Their ad spend in 2011 ranges from just over R1-million for VOC FM to more that R22-million for Jozi FM. This significantly exceeds its range in 2010 between the same stations from R432 610 to R5 196 445.
There are many other community radio stations that have also seen a good increase year-on-year. Sure there are a couple that haven’t increased by such high margins, if at all, but nonetheless, the support is coming through.
So when the question of whether community radio stations get their fair share of advertising support that they rightly deserve is posed, we can safely answer ‘yes’, based on the above. The listenership figures are stable overall and they have got a lot more advertising support year-on-year. At a guess, we believe that there are a couple of specific advertisers that are accountable for the increased ad spend, and perhaps it is this that we need to interrogate. We would, however, prefer to look at the question of why more advertisers don’t use community radio stations.
Below are a couple of points that need to be considered and taken into account when the decisions need to be made. Many will seem obvious, but having asked for input from all the media strategists and planners at The MediaShop, it seems that these are the pressing issues:
- What are the client/campaign objectives? These will determine to what extent advertisers need to use regional radio stations. And then the debate of the consideration and inclusion/exclusion of community radio stations come into play.
- It’s easier to convince the converted to use a radio station that you all know than to use a station you or the client have never heard. It’s also easier to have six regional stations on schedule compared to 400 community stations! (Okay, perhaps that’s an exaggeration!)
- Top of mind awareness. It’s very true – the more exposure the community radio stations can get in the advertising industry, the better awareness of them is going to be. Without the majority of us hearing, seeing and knowing the stations, the less chance the stations will have to get a reasonable slice of any advertising budget. The MediaShop is one of the largest media agencies and the vast majority of us can not mention by name one representative from a community radio station. Yes, we all know that The Media Connection, Campus Media and Student Radio Network do a great job in terms of administrating campaigns on the community and campus stations they represent – but these are the only contacts we have. This is also not an invitation for every community radio station to contact us to now sell their station. The majority of clients, media strategists and planners simply do not have the time to see everybody. The stations will be required to do their homework so that they do not adopt the classic ‘shot gun’ approach.
- Nobody disagrees that if you have a specific message that needs to go out to a specific community that there would never be any question – a community radio station would be recommended and used. However, the community radio station should be prepared to show the comparison of what they can offer compared to the competitors. These competitors may well be other community radio stations and of course, the regional stations.
- Professionalism, honesty and accountability are key. Everybody knows that the regional and national radio stations broadcast as scheduled. We also have access to logs and tracking systems so that we can confirm that the commercials have been broadcast. We unfortunately have no way of knowing if Monte FM, Iscorian FM or KC FM are broadcasting today or not. In one instance, it took four months for the booking contracts to be issued from a community station. Not only does this scream ‘unprofessional’ but it also means that the radio station will not be paid for the airtime as the media agency needs contracts in order to load the airtime for billings. Do these stations have the systems in place to deal with direct bookings from clients?
- Added value. The community radio stations have a golden opportunity in this area. They are hungry for content and have the opportunity of giving advertisers a huge amount of exposure. This would not only help the station, but the advertisers would only be too happy to then continue supporting the stations in return. The downfall however seems to be in the administration area as well as follow through. What then ends up happening is that the traditional 30” radio commercial schedule is booked and the station ends up with nothing more.
There are currently moves afoot in parliament that ask for government advertising to put a large percentage of their ad spend into the community radio stations and in community newspapers. I have no doubt that this will assist in increasing the advertising support for these media owners, but the listeners do deserve to hear other advertising messages as well!
But as the land lies, the community radio stations are being supported. It’s not always the right choice for every advertiser, but the support is there. The radio stations will unfortunately never get to the point that their ad spend levels will be comparable with the likes of Primedia who have Highveld, KFM, 702 and Cape Talk. These stations have been around for a number of years and have the financial backing, the research and much larger footprints and listeners.
Good luck to the community radio stations. They all deserve the chance and they are, if we are lead to believe what little info we get from them, giving the communities another station to listen to that is relevant to the listener.
This story was first published in a special supplement of The Media magazine in April 2012.