FM radio stations win by offering a face to the voice

By Dhaleta Surender Kumar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | July 28, 2008
Radio jockeys, traditionally restricted to studios, are now moving out to interact with listeners. This is leading to not only increased brand recall, but also greater moolah for the radio stations

Remember & #BANNER1 & # Jaggu, Pintu, Chunnu, Munnu, Chintu, Mintu and family from Jhumri Tallaiya? The radio jockey (then called the announcer) often announced these names as those desirous of hearing a particular song and read out their letters. In fact, till a few years ago, this was the only interaction between the radio jockey and his listeners. Then came phone-ins, followed by emails and SMSes. However, there never was a face to the radio jockey (RJ) and listeners often wondered what their favourite RJ looked like.

But not any more. RJs are now moving out of the studio to interact with listeners. In countries such as South Africa and the US, the trend of outdoor broadcasting is quite popular. But here in India, the trend is just catching on.

Tapas Sen

Gowri S Kapre

Raj Gopal Iyer
Radio Mirchi, one of the first private FM stations in the country, adopted the concept of outdoor broadcasting in 2001, but these were just one-off initiatives. Outdoor broadcasting has now become an integral part of the programming of practically every radio station in the country.

Recently, during the Delhi University admissions, Radio Mirchi took Volvo buses around the campuses, counselling students and addressing their doubts and queries. Radio One's College Radio show has been hosted from the city's college campuses for some time now by its popular RJ, Rahul.

Outdoor broadcasting increases brand recall, which is certainly a deciding factor for radio stations in these days of clutter and identical content. Besides, FM radio jockeys are semi-celebrities and such initiatives provide them an opportunity to interact with the listeners and further boost their popularity.

Tapas Sen, chief programming officer, Radio Mirchi believes that outdoor broadcasting has more to do with connecting listeners to the brand or radio station than with the RJ. But the popularity element can't be ruled out completely. RJs have a large fan following and often play a crucial role in building loyalty for the radio station among listeners.

A senior programming executive for a radio station says, "There are certain shows on radio in which the listener has intimate discussions with the radio jockey on personal issues. Such interactions help increase the trust factor with radio jockeys."

The initiatives seem to be working for the radio stations, but the fact is that increasing brand recall and trust in RJs is just a by-product; more importantly, the radio stations are making serious money from these initiatives.

A Radio Mirchi bus in
Delhi University campus
Radio Mirchi's programme, Brand on Streets (BOS), has the RJs going out to malls and residential societies in Mumbai and Delhi for breakfast meets. These breakfasts are sponsored by FMCG brands, which is a great opportunity for brand activation.

At times, special programmes are planned for advertisers. Fever 104 tied up with Nepal Tourism and the station's RJ, Lokesh, went to Nepal for live broadcast of its morning show, Balle Balle in Nepal. Lokesh visited Kathmandu, Bhakatpur and Gokarma, flew over Mount Everest and participated in adventure sports such as bungee jumping and rappelling up a mountain through a waterfall. He interviewed people on the streets of Nepal and even attended a Nepali wedding.

RJ Lokesh of Fever 104 FM rappelling
up a mountain through a waterfall
Gowri Satyamoorthy Kapre, national head, marketing and promotions, Fever 104, defines the Nepal initiative as an endeavour to create engaging content. Kapre says Fever is looking forward to more such opportunities to interact with listeners in an innovative manner.

Such initiatives seem to work wonders for the advertisers, too. For instance, Radio City had done some brand activations in Garuda Mall in Bengaluru and City Centre Mall in Hyderabad. Entire studios were set up for a month, which allowed listeners to experience how a radio station functions. Listeners were also allowed on air with the RJs. As a result, both malls saw a major increase in footfalls.

Recently, Cadbury launched a new version of its popular brand, Eclairs, with the tagline 'Slow, Slow Mazze Lo'. Radio City did a spoof of the TV reality show, Indian Idol (Slow Mix Idol), to promote the brand. In the spoof, the RJs went out on the streets and made people sing songs slowly, but perfectly.

Such initiatives are being extended across categories and movie marketing is one of them. Radio One recently did a promotion for the soon to be released movie, Ugly Aur Pagli, in Mumbai. It chose 60 listeners from a contest to meet the film's stars, Mallika Sherawat and Ranvir Shorey.

Raj Gopal Iyer, station head, West, Radio One, says, "OB is an experiential platform for both the stations and the listeners. It is also an experiential platform for brands to reach out to a wider audience."

Iyer feels that radio, which was an aloof medium, is getting "two-way" now. Radio executives feel that such initiatives allow them to score over their richer cousin, television. "Radio is a local medium and, with such initiatives, one can turn this quality in its favour," says Iyer.

Television has a national reach, so local events are not featured too often on it. But radio, which is a local medium, talks to listeners in the local lingo and they can relate to it easily. And that is what radio seems to be cashing in on.