FORUM: Will Xfm attract advertisers as well as listeners? [SH] With its Xfm decision, the Radio Authority wins its first street cred points ever. Xfm will provide young Londoners with the best in indie rock and Britpop. It will be genuinely leading edge -

When news of Chris Evans’s resignation from Radio 1 began circulating last Thursday morning, people automatically assumed he knew something the rest of us didn’t. Evans, bidding with FM104.9 The Edge, had obviously won the last London FM radio licence, hadn’t he? The Radio Authority wasn’t due to announce its decision until 5pm, but surely Evans had an inside track and was preparing to focus all his energies on this new project.

When news of Chris Evans’s resignation from Radio 1 began

circulating last Thursday morning, people automatically assumed he knew

something the rest of us didn’t. Evans, bidding with FM104.9 The Edge,

had obviously won the last London FM radio licence, hadn’t he? The Radio

Authority wasn’t due to announce its decision until 5pm, but surely

Evans had an inside track and was preparing to focus all his energies on

this new project.



So much for jumping to conclusions. Xfm, twice previously the

bridesmaid, losing out to Heart in 1993 and Virgin in 1994, has made it

to the altar at last. Xfm will be an indie rock station - music with

guitar, bass, drums and attitude - targeted at the under 35s. The music

industry was understandably cock-a-hoop at the news - Xfm is backed by

the Cure’s manager, Chris Parry, the veteran rock promoter Harvey

Goldsmith, as well as the European media giant, CLT. It started life as

an on-site station at music festivals and in its various other temporary

guises it has played a big part in breaking bands like Pulp, Oasis and

Supergrass.



The decision was a pleasant surprise. Most of the Radio Authority’s

franchise decisions have been either safe and boring or just plain naff.

This time, though, we have yet another boost for Swinging Britain 90s

style and a showcase for the next generation of Britpop superstars.



Exciting stuff. But will it work? Xfm may be cool, but will it be too

cool for advertisers? This is likely to be a different audience from the

one that reads men’s style magazines in ever-increasing numbers. Xfm

will surely attract an audience similar to the readership of NME in its

heyday - bags of attitude but, from an advertising point of view, the

wrong attitude. And, while the rest of the world may be taking its cue

from them, art students at Central St Martin’s and people living in

squats in Hackney don’t exactly have a lot of disposable income, do

they?



David Fletcher, head of radio at CIA Medianetwork, says it’s hard to get

excited about franchise awards these days, but he’ll make an exception

in this case. ’There aren’t many desirable audiences that can’t be

reached in radio already. Few formats add tangibly to all but the most

esoteric of niches,’ he points out.



’Xfm, however, is different in that it has just about the best

combination of ingredients. A young, studenty audience will always be

attractive to advertisers. Musically, Xfm’s format will bring something

new to the existing commercial radio output.’



Fletcher argues that it has several other factors going for it - the

backing of CLT, for a start. Its persistence also counts in its favour,

as does the fact that it has developed the tone of its output at

festivals and in limited-reach trials. ’The important thing, however, is

that the output will be hugely popular in adland, guaranteeing an

attention span within agencies. In today’s greatly fragmented market,

that counts for more than any worthy judgment of the proposition.’



Robert Ray, the deputy managing director of the Media Centre, is also

delighted at the award. ’Xfm isn’t too niche and it has a real chance of

expanding the overall reach of commercial radio in London, albeit at the

margins,’ he states. ’To some extent, it will pick up listeners from

existing commercial stations but I’d expect it to be gunning for Radio

1, particularly its evening output. It isn’t beyond the realms of

possibility for Xfm to achieve a reach against all adults of between 8

and 10 per cent and a reach of between 15 and 20 per cent against 15- to

34-year-olds.’



Ray agrees the station should be a hit with advertisers. ’Inflation is

rife in certain sectors of the radio market and using Xfm in conjunction

with other stations could help to counter that,’ he explains. ’It will

have an immediate credibility as a brand among 15- to 34-year-olds and

will be more relevant at the leading edge of the listening market than

other so-called rock services. Advertisers will want to capitalise on

these brand values and harness the full potential of radio, including

things like sponsorships, concert tie-ins and student promotions.’



Rupert Garrett, the head of radio at BBJ Media Services, echoes much of

that. ’Who says perseverance doesn’t pay?’ he asks. ’The Radio Authority

should be applauded for awarding the licence to one of the more exciting

applications. One of BBJ’s larger-spending radio clients, Buena Vista

International, will welcome the opportunity of an additional vehicle to

target its core cinema-going audience.’



Garrett says that it will be refreshing to hear something different from

the Simply Red, Sting or George Michael blandness that dominates the

current output of the major London commercial stations. ’Even the

recently relaunched Liberty 963 has drifted towards a middle-of-the-road

playlist. Current new bands and indie music tend to be played by Radio

1, GLR or one of the smaller minority stations. I see no reason why Xfm

cannot provide listeners with something new and fresh. Let’s hope it can

bring new listeners to commercial radio rather than taking audience away

from the existing commercial sector.’



Neil Jones, a director of TMD Carat, says he’s impressed with what he’s

heard so far. ’Xfm means business and already has all the infrastructure

in place,’ he says. ’The right decision has been made. In its submission

document, the station states that 75 per cent of its music will be less

than three months old.



’I understand that Xfm now intends to change that to less than two

months old. Some people may think that’s a bit restrictive, but the

point is that Britain leads the world in new music and that’s going to

be the cornerstone in the station’s success. It will be a tremendous

showcase for new bands. Xfm believes it can attract a loyal listening

base of 350,000 and claims it has the potential to go as high as 800,000

to one million. Record companies will love it but so will other

advertisers - from beer, through fashion to consumer electronics.’



Become a member of Campaign from just £45 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off the inaugural issue of Campaign's monthly print offering than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).