During a sojourn in women’s magazine publishing, I was frequently berated by aesthetically touchy editors on the matter of the ugliness, or perceived “inappropriateness” of the material which had arrived to fill the space that the ad team had sold.
While some of the diatribes were a bit over the top, the experience made me aware of how close the best editorial content creators are to their particular audiences.
Radio has been at the forefront of my mind recently, so I decided to ask some commercial station programming managers about their views on “the necessary commercial evil of advertising”.
Alastair Teeling-Smith, programme manager for 702, offered a powerful view of advertising as “an enabler” saying that without advertising and advertisers, 702 wouldn’t exist.
“We wouldn’t be able to hire the best off-air and on-air talent we have, or broadcast to our audience… Good advertising… should also be of interest and address the needs of the audience in the same way that our programming does.”
Smile 90.4FM programming manager, Naveen Singh, said he is “a big believer in that advertising plays an important role for the listener. If you are looking for a car, phone, computer, house or lounge suite – you are naturally looking out for information (read advertising) regarding those items… Well placed advertising works both for the client and the station”. He suggested that as advertising is still part of the station and of the host’s show, it should be “in keeping with the ‘stationality’ and style of both the show and the station”.
Perhaps a bit more cautiously, Zane Derbyshire, programming manager at East Coast Radio, pointed out that while “ads that are fun to listen to enhance the listener experience, similarly boring ads diminish it and when you have an ad break with three bad ads in a row, it’s really not great”.
All three pointed out the intimate knowledge the broadcasters have of their audiences, with Teeling-Smith saying, “We programme 702 to meet and fulfil the needs of our target audience, which we have researched and understand… Once an advertiser has decided on their target market, our insights team can assist them in deciding where to place adverts on 702 to reach the right audience at the right time. We can also conduct online surveys with our audience to demonstrate the interest that our audience has in an advertiser’s product or service.”
Derbyshire realistically acknowledged that “not every single ad can be discussed with stations, but for major campaigns, I think that there is room for conversation and a need for media owners to advise around messaging and tonality of their campaigns… Another area of conversation that could drive efficacy is around scheduling of campaigns, where media owners should advise around timings, taking other brands’ campaigns into consideration”.
Smile 90.4 FM has a unique positioning: Singh says it speaks to “the optimistic value in everyone. Our listeners share the same sense of empathy, positivity and love for community as we do… Advertisers should use this value to appeal to the national pride and unifying quality of optimism to connect with the listeners on Smile 90.4FM. Advertisers that evokes these emotions will stand out and be remembered. As always, price promo works, as everyone is looking for a good/great deal”.
Format should be acknowledged too. As Teeling-Smith puts it: “Part of the magic and power of radio is about connecting with the listener, and the relationship the listener develops with the radio station. In the case of 702, this relationship is established and maintained by our talk show hosts. Our audience has a deep relationship with the station through curating Gauteng’s (and the nation’s) big conversations. The other part of the magic and power radio is the painting of word pictures… Creatives and media planners can tap into 702’s relationship with the listener through targeted campaigns and bespoke solutions targeting the 702 audience. Copy should ideally tell a story, have an emotional connection, and the language should be singular, addressed to the individual not the group.”
The 30” commercial remains the most commonly used format, of which Derbyshire says, “If you are playing in the generic ad space, I think there is still a lot to be said for frequency when planning.” However, he believes that “a fully integrated campaign is however the way to go, including sponsorships and competitions (where appropriate), live presenter mentions and supporting it with online and social media to get full 360˚ exposure for your brand, placing it in different spaces where your target market spends time”.
He suggests that “programmers should spend more time co-creating branded content and native advertising with clients, because we know our audiences best and can help craft the message in a way that delivers maximum impact for clients”.
Teeling-Smith encourages advertisers “to consider a converged radio and digital campaign. In our experience, radio and digital are a natural fit. We can also co-create content that will be of interest to our radio and digital audiences, and will reap dividends for the advertisers”.
Certainly for committed radio advertisers, time spent with programming and insights managers will enable them to enhance campaign performance.
Having spent some decades working in the media agencies, Britta Reid now relishes the opportunity to take an independent perspective on the South African media world, especially during this time of radical research transformation.
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