Radio. Picture: THINKSTOCK
Radio. Picture: THINKSTOCK

Redzone recently hosted a discussion about the way brands can get the most out of radio.

Panellists included Greg Maloka, MD of Kaya FM, which was recently announced to be the 2019 Liberty Radio Awards Commercial Station of the Year; Lynn Joffe, the CEO of Creatrix; Tatiana Ndlovu, Nedbank head of group media; and Lance Rothschild, CEO of the Liberty Radio Awards.

Rothschild  said the awards have played a significant role in the radio industry by encouraging stations to raise their standards continually. “We’ve worked very hard to keep the adjudication process credible to ensure that these awards are the Oscars of the local radio industry,” he said. “We are very aware that the better the product, the more powerful the platform.”

Digital measures have allowed stations not to talk any longer about how many listeners they have but rather who their listeners are. “These days, radio stations know exactly who they are talking to,” said Rothschild.

He conceded that RAM radio research is not worth much, given that it measures only the number of listeners, and by the time the information is available, it’s outdated. However, he acknowledges that it’s the only research available at present.

Responding to a question, Maloka pointed out that digital research is neither easy nor cheap, and said a number of innovations are being considered and various trials are under way.

The culture of radio planning, he said, has not evolved sufficiently; many planners still believe black listeners are a homogenous group. Kaya, he said, has tried to become the go-to station, irrespective of what listeners want to know about. “We don’t ever forget that we’re talking to humans, and we ensure we respect our audience,” he said.

He agreed that there needs to be increased conversation between stations and creative agencies. “We know our listeners better than a creative or a media agency does, so to for us to create better content for them it’s incumbent on agencies to learn from us. Our philosophy is that if we care about people, the profits will follow.”

Listeners still turn to radio for the same reasons they have traditionally done so, said Ndlovu. “Radio is a very personal, and even an emotional, space. Listeners connect with radio hosts, which makes it more likely that they will buy into the products and services the station promotes.”

Ndlovu explained that Nedbank has stopped being obsessed with reach as a currency and instead focuses on relevance and resonance. Earlier this year the bank announced it had adopted an inclusive new way of working with media owners which utilised a partnership-driven, relationship-based methodology that the bank believes will help to unlock greater value and will add to its brand building, profiling and media exposure efforts. The aim of this new strategy is not just to ensure a greater return on investment but to enhance the reach and maximise the positive impact of the bank’s messaging.

The big take-out

Radio, as a real-time mass media, offers brands a unique opportunity.

Ndlovu said Nedbank always puts the consumer at the centre, and that this came before the decision about how radio will be incorporated into the media mix. “We consider the consumer’s pain points versus what we are trying to achieve, and then evaluate the role of each channel,” she said, adding that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.

While radio as a media platform has not changed significantly in the past three decades, what has changed is the way content is amplified, said Joffe. She said most SA agencies don’t really know how to create radio advertising; therefore it’s often a bolt-on offering. She said effective radio content is about storytelling and a narrative that resonates and touches people. She called for more discussion about effective radio advertising and radio content.

Rothschild pointed out that content has to fit the format and ethos of the station. “I was the first station manager in SA to reject an advertising campaign because it didn’t fit either of these,” he claimed.