Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Sponsored by...

How well does your station do sponsorships?

Take a listen to this...


Sound remotely familiar? Unfortunately, I can name plenty of stations where this is not comedy, but reality.

There are 2 reasons to play you that clip.

First, I was in a meeting today discussing a sponsorship for a station property and was reminded that sponsorships and sponsor tags can be an enormously creative tool for clients, providing the station has the balls to do something different and memorable... and providing the client has trust in the station, and allows it the creative freedom with its brand. Not all sponsorships have to be creative masterpieces... but plenty could be far more interesting and entertaining than they are. Not all sponsor tags have to sound like they do on ‘The Bash Breakfast’!

The second reason to play the clip was to highlight a great show currently on BBC Radio 4, called ‘Listen Against’. It can loosely be described as a ‘satire of Radio 4’, and it’s very, very well written and presented by Alice Arnold and the lovely Jon Holmes. (This particular sketch was written by Carl Carter). Now if you’re not familiar with Radio 4, its style and its output, it may wash over you a little... but it’s a very well targeted show, aiming exactly at Radio 4 listeners and poking fun at their network. The clip was from a fake debate they were having about creeping commercialism within the BBC, and they had a clip of some commercial radio to compare and to see if as Dr Fox puts it, “you hardly notice the sponsorships”.

Catch it on the iPlayer while you can!

“This blog post was brought to you by Lushy Bath and Shower Gel... Nothing cleans you more than Lushy”

Monday, 20 September 2010

Conference Call

Every year, there’s a slew of radio and media conferences to attend all around the world... some of which I’m asked to speak at, and some of which I’m a willing delegate.

In October, I have one of each. On October 2nd I shall be hosting a session at Radiodays Denmark where I will discussing with my colleague from the UK, Drivetime presenter Greg Burns from Capital FM, what goes into making a radio show on a music driven format in 2010, and how the role of the presenter has developed and changed over the years.

And between 18th -20th October, I shall set up camp in Manchester for the UK’s Radio Festival, which this year looks like it’s going to be an excellent conference debating and discussing everything from the ‘Art of Creativity’ to the business of making some money!

Finally, I should give a little plug to Radiodays Europe, which had its debut in Copenhagen last year, where over 400 delegates from 35 countries attended, what I believe, was a really good starting point for a new European radio conference to take the place of the old NAB Europe.

Well, good news. It’s returning on 17th / 18th March 2011 in Copenhagen, and I attended a networking meeting in London last week to discuss ideas on taking it forward. As you can see from the photo, lots of ‘post its’ were involved!

Radio is at such an interesting point in its evolution... perhaps the most interesting point there has ever been, that getting together and discussing, debating and dissecting the issues has never been more important. The more radio stations can learn about the way the industry is moving, the more they can lead in their own particular market... and not follow; the more they can profit... and not miss out on new revenue opportunities; and the more they understand the importance of the changing nature of the consumer, and what ‘content’ they actually want... and not believe all the old models of the past will apply in the future.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Capital UK

So as the ‘Army of Networking’ marches inexorably on, and a whole raft of stations become Capital FM, what are we to make of this latest move by Global? Is it another dark day for local radio or is it a brave move designed purely to simplify an offering to advertisers and maximise audience?

The answer is of course both.

We wave goodbye to the Galaxy brand, which has served audiences across the country well, and when it launched, provided listeners with a real alternative to their heritage ILR station. The local and regional stations Galaxy stations delivered some great shows and you felt instantly in touch with the areas they broadcast too anytime you tuned in. Over time and with increased networking, this sense of identity was diluted somewhat, but you can’t help feeling that a perfectly good brand has been ‘put to sleep before its time’.

And of course, the station that was the very essence of what is was to be Welsh... Red Dragon FM, is another brand casualty. It was and has always has been a station that’s proud of its nation, and used its ‘Welshness’ as a strong identifying factor. How will it fare by having some of its programming piped in from ‘over the bridge’?

There are of course many other cases to cite; Trent FM – another strong heritage brand going, and let’s spare a thought for the ‘Scottish station’... I hardly know what to call it now, after it has gone through more rebrands in a decade than most stations have in a lifetime!

So, laying the sentiment aside for a moment, is this a smart move? Well there’s no doubt that creating a strong single CHR brand makes it far easier to sell, and far easier to manage. Advertisers and agencies will instantly ‘get’ a pseudo-national Capital FM. And that’s the main reason behind this when all is said and done. They want to make more money, which is a perfectly noble ambition in business. It’s just that we get more attached to radio brands than we do to say, toilet roll or cleaning products... so there’s more of an outcry when it comes to rebranding to maximise profit in radio.

Of course the other argument used is about bringing a better product to listeners, and the theory behind that is perfectly sound... however as good as they are, bringing Roberto and 'The Bassman' on to replace you local offering during the day isn’t exactly going to have people skipping work just so they can stay home and listen all day.

The line touted to the media yesterday evening was very much along the lines of “this will be a station to rival Radio 1”. And sure enough the papers have bought that PR line, and reprinted old photos of Kenny Everett and Chris Tarrant to illustrate the ‘power of Capital’. Well yes – except that was the Capital of old, and the only real national star that Capital has now is Johnny Vaughan. So as it stands at the moment, Capital isn’t exactly a real rival to Radio 1 in terms of content. It’s just a very different offering indeed targetting a similar demo. (In the same way as Heart is touted as an alternative to Radio 2 - “Chalk and Cheese” anyone?)

Which brings us on to Johnny / breakfast. You get the sense that if the rules allowed it now, all local programming would be put to the knife, and Johnny and Lisa would be rolled out across the country. Surely it’s only a matter of time before the requirement for any local programming is quietly put to one side, and the true reason for all of this can be final made clear; Johnny Vaughan on Capital Breakfast and Jamie Theakston on Heart Breakfast... nationwide.

And once we have that, the plan will be complete... and then we can truly mark the demise of much of UK local radio as we used to know it. (There are of course notable exceptions and they continue to perform well... Key 103, Radio City, Wave 105 etc...)

Is it a ‘sad’ thing to see these latest stations disappear? Yes.

Is it a sensible move in a changing media environment? Yes.

So there we have it. The harsh reality of the ‘business’ of media ruling over sentimentality of it all.

A lesson for us all.