The Radio Advertising Bureau's relentless drum-banging about the attributes of radio appears to have reached the ears of marketers at some of the biggest FMCG companies in the land.
In the first six months of 2003, radio spend among these traditionally heavy TV users was up more than 9.5 per cent year on year, according to the RAB, which billed the results as a "breakthrough". According to Nielsen Media Research, Procter & Gamble increased its radio budget by 113 per cent to £5.3 million with campaigns for Olay, Max Factor, Daz, Pampers and Sunny D. Lever Faberge Home Care increased its spend by 195 per cent to £2.4 million, and Kimberly-Clark allocated £1.2 million -1,532 per cent more than last year- to the medium.
Of the top-five FMCG radio advertisers, only Nestle cut its spend - by 38 per cent to £1.5 million - and that, Stuart Cox, Nestle's media manager in the UK, says, is merely a matter of timing.
"It's more significant to look at our radio spend over the whole year," he says. "I'd anticipate that our investment in radio has increased by more than our total advertising budget, therefore I've put more share into radio spots, sponsorships and promotions. We've just signed a major breakfast sponsorship with Virgin and spent more on radio in one day than any other advertiser in history to promote Kit Kat's Britain's Biggest Break on 21 March."
David Walker, the marketing and media controller at Kellogg, the first advertiser to sponsor Capital FM's breakfast show in January, attributes this apparently sudden interest from FMCG advertisers to two main factors.
First, the concentration of the radio market so that through groups such as Capital, which has stations scattered across the UK, clients can reach consumers on a national level. Second, a more open attitude from sales forces - partly forced by bleak times - as to what they are willing to allow advertisers to do.
"Groups such as Capital are very flexible and open to ideas about how to make your brand part of the broadcast," Walker says. "They'll let you change an ad or sponsor an event and really get behind the campaign. The professionalism of the industry is now very strong."
But other FMCG clients are less willing to pinpoint concrete reasons for their increase in radio spend. Oliver Cleaver, the European media director for Kimberly-Clark, praises the versatility of radio, describing it as a "Swiss Army Knife kind of medium" but adds a noncommittal: "It's hard to say why this increase has happened but I don't believe that there is a macro reason for it. In 2003, we had a number of brands that could benefit more from radio and it's certainly part of our plans for 2004. This is a fast-moving business so you have to constantly refresh your thinking."
Justin Sampson, the managing director of the RAB, puts it partly down to the RAB's own research efforts but also to the end of a love affair between FMCG giants and television.
"We concentrated on building a more compelling body of evidence that radio can shift products," Sampson says. "This has made FMCGs realise that moving money out of TV won't harm their sales and might even make them better."
It would be natural to assume that TV is the casualty of radio's new-found popularity. However, figures from the RAB comparing radio spend with TV spend during the past three years demonstrate that, while radio's share of budgets from Kellogg, P&G and Kimberly-Clark has rocketed, TV's share has remained pretty static.
For example, Kimberly-Clark allocated £735,435 to radio between September 1999 and August 2000. This figure had risen to £1.6 million between September 2002 to August 2003 - an increase of 125 per cent. However, TV spend in the same three-year period fell only marginally from £20 million to £18 million. Therefore, TV has not suffered from radio's good fortune.
"We haven't been scared off TV because TV prices are down this year and radio prices are up," Cleaver confirms. "We'll use TV until it stops working."
P&G's radio expenditure has risen over the past three years by 200 per cent but TV spend has also risen, albeit far less dramati-cally, by 23 per cent so, again, it's a case of finding new money for radio rather than cannibalising TV.
"In broad terms, if you look at the spread during the past ten years, you'll see that we have spent somewhat less on TV than we were but it's still 85 per cent of our total spend," Bernard Balderston, the associate director of UK media at P&G, says. "The difference now is that we're finding reasons to spread our money across a wider range of media. This is partly because our brands have changed. For example, we've got more health and beauty brands so we're using more print. We're also working more with the trade, for instance, by linking up with Tesco, so radio is a very flexible means of flagging up promotions in particular local stores."
Balderston adds: "Creative has also improved as radio has attracted more national advertisers, although you still hear those dreadful local ads made by some managing director for four pence. I'd also like the RAB to press on with finding a way to apply electronic methods for audience research. I find it difficult to believe that the diary system can accurately record listenership."
Howard Bareham, the head of radio at MindShare, one of the UK's biggest buyers of radio, concludes that the radio industry has won extra FMCG support by being more flexible on promotions and sponsorships but argues that its success has been more of a gradual trend than a sudden success.
"This steady increase in radio spend has been a slow-burn process helped by the RAB's research. It didn't happen overnight," Bareham says. "There are only so many TV impacts you can have before you've got to find other ways to utilise your money. Radio has flexible lead times and is a good call to action compared with medium to upweight press and TV, but TV won't go away."
RADIO WORK BY TWO FMCG GIANTS
Client: Procter&Gamble/Max Factor
Title: "critics" Eire/generic version
Product: Smudge-proof mascara
Date: 12 June 2003
Length: 30 seconds
Male presenter: So, what did our guest critics think of the movie?
Critic 1 (woman): Oh, well, I liked it. Particularly the make-up
artist's use of Max Factor's range of smudge-proof mascaras.
Critic 2 (man): Oh yeah, and that scene where she says to Victor: "Don't
ever call me 'panda-eyes' again!"
Critic 1: (jumping in enthusiastically): And he says: "I can't. Because
now you've discovered Max Factor's range of incredible smudge-proof
Male presenter: Great dialogue ...
Critic 2: Stupendous!
Critic 1: Very ... very moving.
MVO: "No more panda-eyes." A smudge-proof mascara production: From Max
Factor ... the make-up of make-up artists.
Client: Lever Faberge
Date: 14 May 2003
Length: 30 seconds
VO: My name is Jurgen. For years, I was Alpine goat herder. Wunderba.
SFX: Goat bleats
VO: But was subject of scandalous rumours and hounded out. Now over
here, I still think back to the mountains. It made me sad until I
discover Domestos Mountain Fresh fragranced bleach. Now, in ze loo, I
close my eyes and I am back with my little bearded friends.
SFX: Huge sniff
Brand VO: Bring mountain freshness to your loo with new Domestos
fragranced bleach. Special offers in-store now.
VO: I love you Domestos.