Media: Double Standards - 'It's great to have a reason for noise in the office'

Radio sales directors talk trading systems, insist size doesn't matter and get all sarcastic about Chris Moyles.

NICK HEWAT - SALES DIRECTOR, VIRGIN RADIO

- What can the radio industry do to market itself better to advertisers?

In the early days, it was about providing education and information to a sceptical advertising community. Now that we're a mature medium, we need to build more effective solutions, provide clients with better ideas. We need to show individual advertisers that we understand their brand and can develop customised packages to deliver their messages to audiences.

- The Radio Advertising Bureau has said the radio trading system needs to be looked at. What would you change about it?

We could change to a yield-management system - much like airlines use - where prices are more attractive the further out from deadline you are and increase the closer you get to transmission date. Or, possibly, more dynamic pricing, where a currently fixed price changes according to the health of that monthly market forecast. Or, finally, a move from selling all adult prices to sub-demographic pricing. It is 2006, after all.

- Is it damaging for advertiser and consumer choice that 80 per cent of the commercial market is controlled by the top three?

No - quite the opposite, as the larger owners need to maintain diversity to avoid bastardisation of audiences. Commercial radio has been a bit like British politics during the recent media recession, with everyone wanting to occupy the safety of the middle ground. I'm really encouraged by the diversity of radio output from the big three, with all musical tastes catered for, from Classic to Disney via Kerrang! and Galaxy.

- Should there be a cap on the BBC's investment in its radio stations? If so, how would this help commercial radio?

The BBC is an acknowledged market distortion, with a fixed income for individual station investment and free cross-promotion. Chris Moyles was interviewed recently and bemoaned the fact that his show wasn't advertised in the centre break of Coronation Street. Chris, is the end "break" of EastEnders not enough for you?

- What's the most imaginative use an advertiser has made of commercial radio in the past year?

COI's continued use of community messaging has been consistently innovative. Watch out for Orange's sponsorship of Christian O'Connell's breakfast show too; it's going to get better and better.

- What's your favourite radio show and why?

Part of my job is to listen to competitor radio stations, but I'm finding it hard to switch off Christian, as I've been a fan of his since his Xfm days.

- Generally, is there too much commercial clutter on radio?

Consumers accept that there's a commercial contract between them and the broadcaster, but we must be careful to respect this contract with a strict minutage and relevance policy for advertising content.

- A great deal of radio specialist talent has left agencies recently. How much is this a problem?

There is still great talent left out there, but we do miss some of the people who have left recently. They were as passionate and adept as we are at selling the medium to clients.

- How much have group buying propositions such as Group M and OPera and merged broadcast buying teams changed things for you?

My missus tells me that size doesn't matter, so this doesn't concern me at all. Anyway, I know they all embrace the words of Warren Buffet: "Price is what you pay, value is what you get."

- What do you most love about working in radio?

It brings out the anorak in me and I can't stand silence, so it's great to have a legitimate reason for noise in the office.

JOHN MCGEOUGH - GROUP SALES DIRECTOR, GCAP MEDIA

- What can the radio industry do to market itself better to advertisers?

The qualities and effectiveness of radio have long been established. What has changed in recent years is the emergence of new-media opportunities, in particular the internet, at a time when radio's growth has slowed. The strengths are the same but the perceptions of them may have dimmed. The answer is to tell people of these strengths, tell them again and then tell them once more.

- The Radio Advertising Bureau has said the radio trading system needs to be looked at. What would you change about it?

A successful trading system should be flexible and transparent in order to reflect market demand. Because radio has traditionally worked with either fixed cost-per-thousands or fixed spot rates, it has arguably been neither. It would benefit us all if a system could be agreed that was more responsive to market conditions.

- Is it damaging for advertiser and consumer choice that 80 per cent of the commercial market is controlled by the top three?

Every medium (every industry) has moved forward via consolidation. In the 80s and 90s most markets were served by a single station per total survey area. Now, all key markets are fiercely contested. Which state of affairs is best for consumers and advertisers?

- Should there be a cap on the BBC's investment in its radio stations? If so, how would this help commercial radio?

Chris Moyles recently complained that he was losing out because he wasn't allowed to advertise on commercial radio. I'll offer him a deal. He can advertise on our stations (at reasonable rates!) as long as all of our stations can have an amount of free promotion equal to that which he currently receives on the BBC stations.

- What's the most imaginative use an advertiser has made of commercial radio in the past year?

A multiplatform Choice FM promotion for the UIP movie Hustle & Flow in November last year. The promotion invited budding urban music artists to send in their own tracks for a chance to win music-based prizes, mirroring the plot of the film.

- What's your favourite radio show and why?

Lauren Laverne on Xfm breakfast, because she is young, female, sharp, warm and engaging. Yes, literally everything I'm not.

- Generally, is there too much commercial clutter on radio?

Generally, no; specifically, on certain stations, yes. On Capital Radio there are only ever two ads in a row and a maximum of 12 in an hour. Early listener feedback seems very positive and if this model increases listening, it will provide food for thought for commercial radio in general.

- A great deal of radio specialist talent has left agencies recently. How much is this a problem?

We would like there to be more radio specialisation in agencies, as we believe that agency specialists are often the greatest advocates for our medium, especially if we can provide them with powerful and compelling material to deliver to their clients.

- How much have group buying propositions such as Group M and OPera and merged broadcast buying teams changed things for you?

Your question implies that those two have got merged broadcast buying teams. They haven't. I am less perturbed by agencies that pay a great deal of attention to the quality and cost of their radio than I am by those who don't invest in the medium at all.

- What do you most love about working in radio?

I'm going to say it, I can't believe I've come to this ... but, yes, it is the people.

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