Picture: Unsplash
Picture: Unsplash

Radio in SA continues to offer a unique platform, characterised by its agility, flexibility and ability to connect with listeners in their mother tongue. This was the overriding message from a recent Radio Awards digital event facilitated by its moderator, Arye Kellman. The panel included Lloyd Madurai, station manager of the award-winning Hot 91.9FM; Nada Wotshela, head of radio at the SABC; and Chris Botha, group MD of Park Advertising.

The biggest benefits of radio, pointed out Botha, include  its huge reach and relatively affordable production costs, coupled with the fact that for many South Africans it’s the only medium they have and acts as a companion of sorts.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown in response to it has been an opportunity for the SABC to really live its public broadcasting mandate, commented Wotshela, adding that the corporation’s radio stations have stepped up to the plate in terms of offering curriculum-appropriate content during the national lockdown, which has at the same time resulted in its listeners growing even closer to the stations they support. She conceded, however, that the crisis caused by Covid-19 has affected  advertising revenue for the SABC’s radio stations despite the broadcaster offering some of the only African-language stations in the country.

Explaining that there are numerous opportunities for advertisers to take advantage of African-language stations, including the potential offered by dramas, which boast high listener numbers, Wotshela said the SABC had focused a significant amount of research on the value of African-language stations. While these stations have traditionally been undervalued, Wotshela pointed out that as they have  significant numbers of upwardly mobile listeners, there was no reason for advertisers to sideline them. 

Botha agreed, adding that content that was created in a listener’s home language would be the messages that would really resonate with audiences.

The pandemic has forced stations – particularly community stations – to think innovatively and out of the box. Hot 91.9FM, for instance, has introduced a novel  “Locked ‘n Loaded“ sales offering to SMEs in an effort to offer a quick and easy approach to radio advertising. Potential advertisers access the offering via the station’s website, select the number of advertising spots they require and the days on which they require them and then pay by credit card. A station representative contacts the advertiser within 20 minutes and writes the script. The ad is typically on air within two hours. “We’ve had a phenomenal response to the Lock ’n Load offering, primarily because it is affordable, quick and easy,” reported Madurai.

The big take-out:

The big take-out: Radio stations need to approach declining advertising spend with innovative solutions.

Radio advertising in SA can be overpriced, said Botha, adding that Hot’s offering is exactly what is required right now. He explained that to an extent radio has been stuck in a rut. However, business as usual is a thing of the past.

While radio station rate cards have traditionally relied on audience numbers, that’s no longer the case. Clients right now are looking for results and return on investment, rather than creativity, said Madurai.

The Covid-19 crisis has affected all media platforms, including radio. As businesses continue to struggle, advertising spend will be reduced, pointed out Botha, revealing that adspend in April this year was down 35%-55% compared with April 2019, making it all the more urgent that radio stations fight for an equitable share of the advertising pie.

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