Media: Double Standards - Broadcast media battens down the hatches

Commercial radio and TV are ready to ride out the recession with the promise of effectiveness and accountability, the bosses of Radio Centre and Thinkbox claim.

ANDREW HARRISON - CHIEF EXECUTIVE, RADIO CENTRE

- We're hearing calls to advertisers not to shelve their marketing spend during the downturn. Will your members be similarly brave when spending to support their medium?

Yes. We are fortunate to have a new generation of private owners in radio at Global, Bauer and Absolute who have - collectively - spent more than £1 billion in 2008 buying the old GCap, Chrysalis, Emap and Virgin businesses. They've each committed multimillion marketing campaigns for 2009 behind those acquisitions.

- What key messages will you hope to get out to advertisers in the coming months?

"Radio Adds Bite" - put simply, radio multiplies your TV or search investment. This message is particularly pertinent in a recession, when media budgets are under pressure but targets remain demandingly high. Advertisers are looking for a media spend that delivers their reach and frequency targets cost-effectively, and adding radio to the schedule is a clever way to achieve this.

- How worried are you that economic conditions could put paid to the growth of innovative solutions for advertisers in areas such as advertiser-funded programming and other content creation?

I think for advertisers and media owners, the priority will be effectiveness and proven media mixes rather than experimentation and "media firsts". In that context, we'll remind advertisers that radio does advertiser-funded programming better than any other medium. Integrated programming with advertisers in the context of live shows with real DJs has existed since the birth of commercial radio and we have seen continued growth in this area.

- What regulatory changes or developments could most help your medium in 2009?

Commercial radio is heavily regulated in terms of ownership rules, station formats, obligations on content and studio location. These anachronistic regulations from an analogue media world are holding back our investment in digital media and new content. We will be pushing hard to see deregulation in these areas.

- Are there any lessons the UK media industry, and your medium especially, could learn from overseas markets?

Yes. In most major markets, radio is a much bigger medium than in the UK. That's partly because of the disproportionately high public funding for the BBC, which distorts the UK market - but we're always looking at the advertiser messages and case studies from abroad that have persuaded multinational clients to invest more heavily in radio elsewhere than they do in the UK, as powerful evidence to change behaviour in the UK.

- Which single piece of technology will have the most impact on your medium in the coming years?

One of radio's unique strengths is that it is ubiquitous. It has always been mobile, but in recent years we have seen radio appearing in all sorts of gadgets and devices: iPods, mobile phones, digital tellies - whatever new technology brings, you can be sure that radio will be part of it.

- Which radio/TV shows will most enliven a dark, cold January?

Any of the breakfast shows are perfect for helping you get out of the house and to work in a fairly human frame of mind on those cold dark January mornings when it feels like you will never see sunlight again. For other times of the day, I'd particularly recommend: Samanthi on Q Radio and Alex James on Classic FM. I'll also be following Newcastle United's climb up the Premiership and its FA Cup run on talkSPORT, of course!

TESS ALPS - CHIEF EXECUTIVE, THINKBOX

- We're hearing calls to advertisers not to shelve their marketing spend during the downturn. Will your members be similarly brave when spending to support their medium?

I sincerely hope so, but the latter is rather dependent on the former. Thinkbox couldn't expect any more financial and emotional support from our shareholders than we get. They realise that what we do is even more crucial right now. We will continue to urge companies to maintain their advertising, because it's the right advice to give, and we will keep producing robust and independent evidence to prove that those companies which do keep spending on TV will win in the longer term.

- What key messages will you hope to get out to advertisers in the coming months?

We have just one killer message: TV is the biggest profit-generator of any medium. It's both true in absolute volume terms but also proportionately - 4.5 times net return for any investment. I get hoarse from reminding people that "accountability" does not equal effectiveness. Our other messages all spin off from that; explaining how and why TV is so effective, advising how to make your investment more effective, guiding people through the exciting expansion of TV on to new platforms while reminding them these deserve additional investment because broadcast TV is growing at the same time.

- How worried are you that economic conditions could put paid to the growth of innovative solutions for advertisers in areas such as advertiser-funded programming and other content creation?

A few will turn to innovative TV solutions because of tighter budgets. On the other hand, TV spot and sponsorship will benefit because advertisers are looking for proven investments and a safe haven for their marketing money.

- What regulatory changes or developments could most help your medium in 2009?

Thinkbox has no regulatory remit - my letter on page 20 explains more. Let me just say that we'd welcome Ofcom trusting broadcasters to use their own judgment more. They're hardly going to do anything that jeopardises viewing.

- Are there any lessons the UK media industry, and your medium especially, could learn from overseas markets?

Look at the answer above. There's lots I'd like to say, about TV trading in particular, but you don't want the Office of Fair Trading to lock me up, do you?

- Which single piece of technology will have the most impact on your medium in the coming years?

Any technology that helps people watch TV on demand, and in new places and at new times, is exciting and positive for us. That's anything from digital TV recorders, web TV, internet protocol TV to mobile I guess. And expanding HD content offers a cinematic experience, but with the scale and impact of broadcast TV.

- Which radio/TV shows will most enliven a dark, cold January?

In addition to my regular favourites (River Cottage, House, Dexter, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Gladiators, IT Crowd etc), I'm enjoying Philip Glenister's ghoul-smiting in Demons and watching Liverpool have a decent spell. But there's more to come: Rupert Penry-Jones in Whitechapel; the contrast of Christianity, a History and Derren Brown: Evening of Wonder; the new versions of Krypton Factor (an ad-funded initiative) and Minder.