Local marketers of global brands have a really hard time convincing their international head offices of the power of radio in South Africa. The reason for this is likely because the European and American concepts of what radio does is just that, European or American, says Justine Cullinan.
South African radio figures are so good that they aren’t easily accepted or believed by international counterparts. There must be something wrong with a country of approximately 50 million people where 33 million are active radio listeners. There surely can’t be truth in the fact that over 13 000 permanent jobs exist and almost 5 000 freelancers work in radio. It seems insane to think that radio alone has generated R4.5-billion in revenue in the past year. But these are all true, and as such are yet more reasons that make South Africa a unique and exciting media landscape.
I had a look at some well-known international brands that enjoy very successful South African market traction and revenues. These are brands that range from clothing and footwear to fast-moving consumer goods, energy drinks and common household products. Local media agencies, which generate media strategy and control buying and planning, are on-board when it comes to the power of radio and their clients, as active radio listeners themselves, are keen to allocate budgets to radio but their head offices simply don’t approve their budget line item if it refers to radio. This results in one of two actions being taken by the local brand office. The easy way out is to accept that “my international HQ just doesn’t understand what South African radio audiences can offer” or there’s the integrated approach which allows the local brand office to incorporate radio into a holistic campaign that utilises radio elements to support the core objectives rather than as a straightforward advertising platform.
American brand Converse focuses their strategy on digital and activation elements. They approach traditional media owners for partnerships in order to drive online talkability and create buzz around their activations. An aligned radio station can successfully position itself to support Converse’s goals by generating on-air and online content to mirror and defend space in an organic way through competitions, teasers, gig guides and message reinforcement.
Energy drink, Red Bull, is known for their support of alternative sports and music events and own a beautiful broadcast and recording studio in Cape Town. An aligned radio station can offer valuable partnership to drive their goals of generating online traffic, supporting their alternative sport brand ambassadors through interviews and utilising their studio to promote live music. These brands have succeeded in securing budget for radio despite the headoffice naysayers in Amsterdam, Vienna and Boston by integrating their spend into their eventing and activation budgets. They also showcase radio as a PR machine.
The beauty of radio is that it delivers content live moment by moment. Of course there is a lot of planning involved (and as one who has to deal with a large number of BCCSA complaints, I am a big fan of planning) but there is nothing that TV, print or out-of-home media can do to compare with what can happen live on-air. Radio can make magic that lasts in the minds and hearts of listeners for weeks and months to come. The advent and uptake of social media has only enhanced this for radio, giving longevity and visibility to what happens in the studio. Most commercial radio stations already offer digital exposure for sale (as either integrated or stand-alone packages) for brands looking for more than a bunch of generic 30 second adverts. Those who don’t are catching on quick and doing all they can to build their online communities. These ‘listeners’ I suspect will constitute part of the audience count of RAMS in the near future.
If local brands are going to convince Western mindsets of why they need budget for radio marketing, they are going to have to work with stations on developing fully integrated campaigns. Brands need to utilise the specialisations and competitive advantages of the stations that suit their markets. Their ability to interpret the emotive storytelling and music playing power of South African radio is going to be tested, but the return will be worth it when these brands benefit from the depth of live radio and its seamless ability to integrate with all forms of digital media.
Justine Cullinan is station manager for 5FM (@5FM). Follow her on Twitter @shoeshanista
IMAGE: Zaki Ibrahim at the Red Bull Studio in Cape Town