Can Capital Radio persuade listeners it isstill a leader?

When I was a kid, I really loved watching Dallas on BBC 1. My favourite character wasn't either of the swaggering Ewing brothers, but their arch-rival, Cliff Barnes. I wanted to be Cliff because he ate Chinese food from cardboard cartons every night and always had beautiful women draped all over his amazing apartment. It was a 12-year-old's idea of heaven.

Then the scales fell from my eyes. Dallas was glamorous, but poor Cliff, despite these trappings of success, always seemed to fall flat on his arse. A bit like Capital Radio in recent times. It maintained a glamorous veneer, but scratch the surface and it appeared directionless amid uncertainty over the future of its parent GCap Media.

Then we learn that Capital Radio has been wooing Karren Brady, the managing director of Birmingham City Football Club, to fill the role of managing director. This post has been vacant since the departure of Keith Pringle, who fared only marginally better in the role than his predecessor, Andria Vidler. This can be no reflection on Vidler, because she's since gone on to do a cracking job at Magic, which has overtaken Capital as the number one station in London. So, as we've asked elsewhere about the ITV chief executive job, is running Capital Radio a thankless task?

Probably not. Brady is a lively, strong candidate with both radio and ad industry experience. Capital's pursuit of Brady at least sends out the right signals. It's an aggressive, ambitious move, and shows that GCap is serious about reinvigorating its flagship London station.

The station has endured a bad time since the GCap merger more than 18 months ago. Ad revenues are down, contributing heavily to a 9 per cent slide in GCap's overall ad revenues for the six months to the end of September, and it has been slammed for lacking a clear on-air identity and music policy. Capital's underperformance has also contributed, perhaps disproportionately, to the large slide in GCap's share price.

At long last, this is being addressed. The truth will eventually emerge in listener figures for the final quarter, but Capital's recent "who's doing who?" ad campaign went some way to building awareness among a disillusioned audience, and there are signs that the station has its music policy in hand. Its "never more than two ads in a row" strategy also seemed a move in the right direction and was a brave step at a difficult time.

Capital is also reaching out to the agency community with a series of more "experiential" events rather than the usual presentations. In short, it's finally acting like a market leader. It's just a shame that, in London at least, it no longer is. Still, Brady or anybody else who takes the Capital job will have more chance of success than poor Cliff ever did.

ian.darby@haynet.com.

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