Radio firms look beyond jingles for ad revenue

Radio firms are working closely with brands for content, providing brand integration options and RJ mentions


Media buyer estimates suggest that radio firms charge double or triple the normal advertisement rates for brand integration, depending on the intensity of the campaign. Photo: HT
Media buyer estimates suggest that radio firms charge double or triple the normal advertisement rates for brand integration, depending on the intensity of the campaign. Photo: HT

New Delhi: Vodafone’s recent Hakke Bakke anthem, part of its Super Cheer campaign created exclusively for the ninth season of Indian Premier League (IPL), was unique. This anthem, which managed to drive high consumer engagement across social media, was actually created by a private FM radio company—conceptualized, written and produced in-house by the Sun Group-owned 93.5 Red FM.

“We composed and wrote Hakke Bakke for radio, but Vodafone liked it so much that it went on to being used on television and digital platforms. Vodafone made television commercials and videos using our composition,” said Rajat Uppal, national marketing head at Red FM.

Clearly, radio companies like Red FM are looking beyond traditional jingles for increasing their advertising revenue. They are driving up their income by working closely with brands— making content for them, providing advertisers brand integration options that include changing the name of the station during the promo period or getting radio jockeys (RJs) to endorse the brands as well as offering other creative solutions.

For instance, Fever 104 FM’s Saturday show Good Crazy Fun Hour promotes the fruit wine-based drink Bacardi Breezer. The hour-long show associates the colours of the drink with music in a “unique music show format”.

Fever 104 FM is owned by HT Media Ltd which publishes Mint.

“Our effort is to present a brand’s content to listeners in the most engaging manner, such that it is not seen as a commercial message but a conversation,” said Harshad Jain, chief executive, radio and entertainment, HT Media.

HT Media currently operates 15 radio stations, including the newly launched Radio Nasha—its second station in Delhi and Mumbai. In the last phase 3 FM auctions, it won 10 new frequencies.

Jain added that the company has assigned a creative solutions team to every Fever station, in its pursuit of innovating and integrating content for brands.

“We advise clients (brands) to not only play spots, but also strike high engagement conversations with listeners through integrations with Fever’s properties, shows, promotions, utilities and RJ mentions,” he said.

RJ mentions is a unique exercise where the RJ mention the brands as part of their conversations. “An RJ is the emotional barometer of the city. The influence, rapport and following an RJ enjoys with listeners makes him a great spokesperson for a brand,” Jain said.

The practice is prevalent across FM radio brands with a few exceptions like Radio Mirchi which is owned by the Times Group’s Entertainment Network India Ltd (ENIL).

“We think that jocks have a very intimate and strong relationship with the listeners. They should not have a commercial agenda behind what they say. We don’t want to turn them into salesmen,” said Tapas Sen, chief programming officer at Radio Mirchi. “Even without RJ mentions, brands are happy to integrate with us,” he added.

Radio Mirchi partnered with Hero Cycles Ltd for a campaign during odd-even road rationing plan in Delhi. The firm roped in cyclists from all over the city to promote the cause and brand. The campaign titled “Odd pe bhi chalegi, even pe bhi chalegi—Dilli ab Hero Cycles pe chalegi” was carried across media, including print advertisements.

Clearly, FM radio stations also offer off-air solutions for brand integration. This includes on- ground promotions for brands involving RJs as well as digital solutions to enhance the brand visibility across platforms.

For instance, Radio City 91.1, the FM brand of Music Broadcast Ltd, in January had its RJs perform stunts to promote the stunt-based reality show Khatron Ke Khiladi on Hindi general entertainment channel Colors.

These stunts were covered on social media and on radio and were branded as “Radio ka sabse bada stunt”.

Kartik Kalla, executive vice- president and national head of programming, marketing and audacity at Radio City 91.1, said that the network tries to pull in support from other media depending on the need of the advertiser.

“Once the client goal is clear, we brainstorm without any preset boundaries/constraints of radio as a medium,” he said.

“Sometimes we centre the activity around an RJ, sometimes it’s about motivating the listener to participate with a compelling gratification,” Kalla added.

According to media buyers, brands like to promote their products on radio because radio channels have a high-level of consumer engagement. With creative solutions and brand-dedicated programming, radio channels are offering exclusivity to the advertisers in promotion of a product or service.

“Advertisers know the value of consumer engagement these days. These kinds of innovations are becoming very valuable for the advertisers and advertising agencies,”said Kumar Deb Sinha, head at Wavemaker, the content arm of the media agency MEC India.

Siddharth Banerjee, national head (brand, consumer insights) at Vodafone India, agrees, attributing the success of the Super Cheer campaign to Red FM. “We conceptualised the Hakke Bakke Super Cheer anthem along with Red FM, our radio partner, which helped amplify this across its0 stations,” Banerjee said, adding that their efforts resulted in massive consumer engagement during IPL 9.

Why FM radio firms offer creative solutions is easy to comprehend. The ad rates for commercial spots on radio have not gone up in the past few years. Currently, depending on the city, the station and time, radio firms charge anywhere between Rs.200 and Rs.2,000 for a 10-second commercial.

Clearly, such brand integration spells financial benefits.

Media buyer estimates suggest that radio firms charge double or triple the normal advertisement rates from advertisers for brand integration, depending on the intensity of the campaign.

“The premium that the advertisers pay for brand integrations is almost 100-150%,” said Sinha of MEC.

FM radio, which is likely to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.9% between 2015 and 2020 to become a Rs.4,330-crore industry, according to a FICCI-KPMG report, will get a further boost when the government auctions the second batch of frequencies under phase 3. Currently, the radio industry is valued at Rs.1,700 crore.

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