Anyone living outside Yorkshire could be forgiven for not having
heard of Magic AM. Aside from being one of the UK’s newest radio
stations, it broadcasts from Leeds, Sheffield and Hull, plays golden
oldies and is on the hugely unfashionable AM frequency.
Yet Malcolm Cox, marketing director of Magic’s parent company, Emap
Radio, talks glowingly about its future. ’Magic is a national brand. It
just happens to be available only in the North,’ he says. And from the
man whose last Emap job was marketing director of Kiss FM, such fighting
talk should not be taken lightly.
A complex multi-media campaign by the creative communications company,
Mother, and the media shop, Rocket, was launched last month to promote
the station, backed by a pounds 1 million spend.
The aim is to build a strong AM brand delivering an audience of affluent
post-baby boomers, with a format that can roll out nationally, possibly
by franchise. It was an achievement Cox managed with Kiss and he wants
to repeat it. He says: ’We’re evaluating other AM services to see if
they are ready for the Magic touch, and looking for appropriate
Yet just a few months ago, Magic was just a gleam in Cox’s eye. The fact
that the first station is now running, backed by a comprehensive
marketing campaign, says a great deal about the closeness between Emap
and its agencies. Because, in the best tradition of integrated
communications, Mother and Rocket were asked to come up first with the
nature of the brand itself and then a campaign delivered to a uniquely
The two got involved earlier this year after Emap had commissioned
extensive market research. The company wanted to revamp its existing AM
licences, beginning with Great Yorkshire Gold, and had asked what 35- to
44-year-olds wanted. It discovered that hits from the late 80s and early
90s, two ad breaks an hour and regional variations would be popular.
Emap then developed a station name, format and projected audience before
asking agencies for what Mother’s Stef Calcraft calls: ’the brand
thought for a station’. The two companies identified the lifestyle of
the projected audience, through demographic surveys such as TGI. ’We
found they indexed heavily against shopping and motoring,’ John Harlow,
the media director of Rocket, says.
The creative idea began to appear. ’Music makes you feel good, as if by
magic,’ Calcraft says. The line became the central force of a campaign,
written by Mark Waites and Libby Brockhoff, which has a fun, slightly
The agencies then developed a campaign. Building awareness through TV
spots was the first step, using unlikely stars - such as dancing kittens
and drumming toddlers - and the line ’As if ... by Magic’. In one spot,
a dog’s ears begin flapping to the chorus of I Believe I Can Fly by R.
But perhaps the more notable aspect of the strategy was its use of
ambient media in a way that the agencies claim a non-fmcg product had
never done before. Rocket and Mother exploited every media opportunity.
’We treated ambient media with equal, if not greater, respect than TV,’
Harlow says. Promotions included competitions where shoppers sent in
till receipts for ’Free food as if ... by Magic’, incentivising them to
listen to Magic to hear if they had won a refund.
Other ads and promotions appeared on petrol-pump nozzles, supermarket
trolleys and Superlite poster sites. Swat teams ambushed cars to retune
radios in return for goodie bags.
Delivering the strategy was complex because Magic was replacing Great
Yorkshire Gold on three frequencies - Magic 828 in Leeds, Magic 1161 in
Hull and Magic AM in Sheffield - making three campaigns necessary.
Rocket made a map of the geographical reach of the stations,
distribution of retail outlets and population densities, to identify
where each campaign would appear. It then worked with the ambient media
specialist, Media Initiatives, and supermarket trolley buyer, the Media
Vehicle, to deliver the plan. ’It broke new ground and was a real
headache but we insisted it happened,’ Harlow says.
After less than a month it is still too early to say how successful the
campaign has been. However, Magic says it has been inundated with till
receipts from listeners and everyone is in buoyant mood.
Cox puts his early optimism down to a team that implemented an
incredibly complex plan. ’The devil was in the detail, but Rocket and
Mother fitted together brilliantly,’ he says. ’If they hadn’t, we’d have
come out with something, but it wouldn’t have been as good.’ If the
station is a success, it seems that magic will have had little to do