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Radio advertising: Who are the real drivers?

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 30, 2003
Though the medium attracts only a fraction of the monies that big sister TV does, radio advertising is slowly but steadily coming into its own

Picture this. Your favourite Bollywood number is playing on the local FM station. You listen in anticipation, expecting more, but what you get is a crude commercial break, begging for your attention. The tedious roll that follows would have you switch off the station altogether, but wait, was that a really funny ad that whizzed past in the clutter?

It's been two years that private FM tottered into operation with the launch of Radio City's Bangalore station. Subsequently, the medium has spread its tentacles in selective cities across the country, including Lucknow and Delhi in the north, Kolkata in the east, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad as well as Indore in the west and Chennai and Bangalore in the south. Collectively, advertising on the medium - taking into account both All India Radio (AIR) and private FM - is approximately 1.9 per cent of the total ad pie, points out the KPMG Report on the entertainment sector, released at the FRAMES convention in Mumbai in March this year.

Small sums no doubt, but the heartening bit is that despite the crippling licence fees and standard formats in programming, advertisers are seeing merit in the power of the medium. As Chetan Shasital, renowned voice-over artist and head of Chatterbox India, indicates, "The power of the medium lies in its ability to reach out to the listener directly. It is, in other words, a very direct medium."

Which is why more and more advertisers, corporate as well as retail, are turning to radio with creatives designed for the medium. Gone are the days when the audio from TV ads would play on a radio station, indicating what an afterthought the medium was for the respective advertiser. "Yes, those days are more or less over," points out a creative head in a Top 10 agency.

What has thus emerged is a scenario where not only the agency provides the creatives but FM players too are jumping onto the bandwagon providing "cost-effective" solutions to clients on the lookout to exploit the medium. "Among corporate clients, eight out of the 10 creatives will be from agencies while two will be provided by FM players. In the retail sector, the scenario is just the reverse," explains Akansha Gupta, corporate sales manager, 93.5 Red FM.

According to industry estimates, an average radio spot, depending on the script, could work out to anywhere between Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000. A good one could cost even higher, approximately Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000. "And this is the amount an advertiser would have to pay for the first cut," explains an executive with a radio station. "He again incurs a similar expense for the second cut. Since the FM player has the studio facility and the in-house staff, overheads could be curtailed and the costing brought down," he says.

Says Vishnu Athreya, manager, programme and brand, GO 92.5 FM, "Corporate clients have a decided strategy and a plan by which they use radio. Retail clients, more often than not, have no agency to devise or execute strategies and have severe budget constraints. We double up as their agency, educating them and providing the necessary expertise in executing an ad."

Not everyone, though, is thrilled with this trend. At least not Josy Paul, head of rmd david, which has an in-house radio cell called Radioactive, and, whose agency bagged an Abby last year for the hilarious radio spot 'Rang Barse' for Benetton. "It is a cheap and cheerful way for clients, but, in the long run, it does not help radio. Such quick-fix solutions become an equal-fix after a point, killing the medium in the process."

Agrees Hrishikesh Kannan, consultant radio jockey with Radio Mirchi, freelance radio producer and voice-over artist, "Stations are limited by their in-house talent whereas independent producers can draw from a bigger circle as far as talent goes."

In fact, the third link in the agency-FM connect, are producers such as Kannan who could either be approached by clients directly or source work through an agency. Many have reasonable experience in the business of producing or executing commercials or could be involved with the production of a commercial as a voice-over artist, sound editor and so on. "It's not just the stations but a number of other professionals who dabble in the business of producing commercials and not all of them are the most talented of the lot," explains a programming executive with a radio station.

Kannan, however, maintains that stations are not specialists in making spots for radio. "Their area of expertise is programming, and, radio jockeys essentially converse and play music," he says.

Shasital of Chatterbox makes an interesting point, "Radio is here to stay and the ones who will survive will be the talented lot, not the fly-by-night operators." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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