Alasdair Reid on whether greater transparency can take radio to new
Who says the recent Dublin radio convention was no more than a jolly for
the radio industry? By all accounts, there was a lot more than Guinness
on the agenda. And the industry made real progress in one area - the
decision to launch an industry-wide post-campaign analysis system next
month (Campaign, 3 November).
Agencies and advertisers will now receive confirmation that all the
spots they asked for were actually transmitted. And the system will
confirm the time when each ad was broadcast. Cynics say that it should
have been done years ago. They have a point, too. Simple matters like
whether you’ve been given what you’ve paid for shouldn’t really involve
an act of faith.
But radio is a very diffuse medium and collating this sort of
information from hundreds of stations is a daunting task. It’s easy for
national stations - Classic and Virgin have been doing it for some time
- but getting ILR stations to agree to the scheme is a coup.
Finding a way of making the initiative work will be an even bigger
achievement. The Association of Independent Radio Contractors is
currently thrashing out the practical details.
But what difference will it make to the way that radio is bought and
sold? Andrew Oldham, the sales director of Media Sales and Marketing,
says that the main benefit will be increased confidence in the medium.
‘Advertisers have been pumping more revenue into radio,’ he points out.
‘Transparency and accountability will help them feel more comfortable.
But I don’t think it has radical implications for the way that airtime
is traded. I don’t think it will make radio more like a TV sell. On TV
you buy against specific programmes. On radio it’s the general
relationship between the station and the audience that’s more
Robert Ray, deputy managing director of the Media Centre, agrees that
radio won’t become like the TV market in the near future, but it will
certainly begin to move in that direction.
‘The ratings data is derived on a quarterly basis, so in that respect it
will still be very different from TV,’ he argues. ‘But there will
certainly be a greater pressure on sales houses to guarantee where they
will place spots.
‘Greater accountability could lead to far more sophisticated trading
systems. It wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of possibility to see them
developed, though there might be resistance from some of the smaller