CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/LINDA GRANT - Capital Radio's marketer sends out strong signals. Linda Grant must increase Capital's profile and that of the medium

The most recent Capital Radio profile written by Campaign featured

Chris Tarrant as he mulled over a new multimillion-pound contract from

the station. Taking a stab in the dark, it is unlikely that Capital's

latest signing - the strategic marketing director, Linda Grant -

commands such a salary. However, her appointment is a vital one as

Capital demonstrates its continued commitment to building its own

profile, and that of radio as a medium, despite the downturn in

advertising revenue.



Grant has an impeccable background in newspaper sales and marketing. She

spent several years developing sales at the regional publisher Newsquest

before taking an ad manager role at The Daily Record and The

Scotsman.



Associated Newspapers clearly recognised her talent and she joined Metro

soon after its launch as head of planning.



The initial role was to develop Metro's positioning to agencies and

advertisers as it entered the market as the first London freesheet.



Mike Anderson, Metro's managing director, says: "There's no doubt that

Linda played a role in the success of Metro. Her technical skills are

very good and she's able to paint pictures with figures and capture

people's imagination."



Grant was elevated to the role of marketing director last year as Metro

moved into a second stage in its growth - one that, unfortunately,

coincided with the downturn in advertising revenue. Metro was rightly

applauded for its forthright response to the slowdown, running a series

of trade ad campaigns that emphasised the good performance of the paper.

It was applauded as a rare example of a media owner putting its money

where its mouth was during a recession - and some of the credit must go

to Grant.



The move to Capital will involve the Scot in a similar role, building

awareness of the broadcaster's offer and place in the market. As the

head of Capital Advertising's 16-strong strategic unit, Grant will build

on the job of her predecessor, Nikki Mendonca, in pushing the virtues of

both the radio medium and Capital's own offer.



Jonathan Gillespie, the director of radio at OMD UK, says: "Historically

Capital has been the market leader and it has taken the view that it is

important to be seen leading from the front. Increased competition has

made it more important to offer a rounded service. Its strategic unit is

like a mini-Radio Advertising Bureau; as a one-stop shop for all radio

needs it's a pretty good answer. They have got a good mix of evangelism

and commercialism."



Gillespie's views are echoed at other agencies. Capital has put time in

educating on issues including digital radio and the Government White

Paper on media ownership.



The concern was that, following Mendonca's departure to the agency side

at OMD Europe, Capital's commitment to strategic marketing and planning

would slip.



Grant's appointment allays these fears but an initial concern might be

her lack of radio experience. She is not worried: "I've never worked in

radio and it's a big change but there was a huge attraction to the role.

Radio is gaining share and growing as a medium and the future looks very

bright."



The long-term future might be bright but despite the robust activity by

the RAB, radio had a pretty bad time in terms of ad revenue last

year.



Capital was not insulated from this and saw its full-year profits to the

end of September fall 27 per cent. However, its chief executive, David

Mansfield, attracted plaudits for his honesty in speaking of a downturn

as early as November 2000, well before its 2001 profits warnings.



Grant has a big job developing Capital's commercial offering across its

19 stations. Analysts have identified several key areas of concern,

including an over-dependence on the key London FM licence and falling

share among younger listeners (last year Kiss and others in London made

inroads). However, the general view is that Capital is doing well in

addressing these issues (a recent restructure of its general management

and marketing teams to add focus in the regions and London will help)

and that in employing Grant it has continued its commitment to acting

responsibly as a media owner.



Gillespie says: "The role is one that I see as necessary for all serious

media owners in the future. Capital's policy has been that it should

sustain this through the bad times. Hopefully she'll (Grant) be given

time and space to get to know the medium. It's a good move because she's

moving to a medium that has done well in taking revenue from print."



Grant will report to Linda Smith, Capital Advertising's managing

director.



Smith says: "Linda has a great pedigree and it's a coup for us to get

her. She'll offer a different perspective and it's great to have fresh

blood with fresh ideas."



Although it is not Grant's direct responsibility, Capital's continued

commitment to advertising (its hiring of Delaney Lund Knox Warren &

Partners last year is now bearing its first fruits) should help in

building consumer awareness of its offering. Equally vital, given the

massive changes in radio ownership which are likely to occur, will be

Grant's role. Capital has already stated its interest in buying Emap's

radio operations. In the coming months, its senior management team may

be as important as its on-air talent.



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