Content is the Beef

David Borean is a Managing Partner – Waterfront Entertainment and Marketing

Latest CRA research suggests people are ‘six times more likely to go to an advertiser’s website if they have heard the advertisement on radio’, according to latest research by Colmar Brunton (here).

A huge opportunity for radio!

Given radio’s cost effectiveness and ability to target narrow audiences, and now with further evidence of its power in driving online traffic, what could possibly stand in the way?

Old thinking, poor selling, lack of innovation?

Research might get you part the way to selling more radio, but ultimately it’s about harnessing what advertisers really want – involvement in content-creation, and deeper and more meaningful audience-engagement.

How many radio programs have been built from the ground up, with the clients objectives fully ensconced in the core fabric of the idea? Ah…let me think about that for a moment……ah, ah, none? Does programming still rule the world in terms of ideas, with the client only being bought into the conversation at the end of the development process?

Let me give you this analogy –  For hamburger lovers, the beef matters – the fact that it’s got a fresh bun, the right amount and quality of salad and is delivered on time is taken for granted by the consumer. What really matters is the beef – is it a great-tasting burger that leaves a lasting impression or something generic that just fills my stomach for a couple of hours?

We might therefore consider that for brand marketers, content is the beef – the higher the quality, the better the connection with the consumer.

Okay, so why does content still matter in real terms and why is the client led radio idea still such a big challenge?

Right now, program and content directors think of creating content in terms of the audience, not the client. While this divide continues to exist, little will progress.

Sure on weekends, AM and FM stations run ‘Brand Funded’ programs, but with limited audience penetration, and let’s face it, clients are largely an add on credit to the content.

There’s no doubt that quality content creates meaningful brand connections with consumers – the kind of connections that ultimately lead to long-term affinities and relationships between these consumers and the products that brands hope to put in their hands.

Let’s firstly consider the concept of association. Whilst I’m not a neuroscientist, I know that when a consumer associates a great content experience with a great brand, there’s a connection.

EG Television has been doing it successfully for years. Gilmore Girls originated in the USA as fully brand funded by Proctor and Gamble and J&J. Virgin Mobile created great credibility when they live streamed from Splendour in the Grass last year. Then of course, there were the awesome brand spots for Nike during the last World Cup.

Content creators (program directors, producers, announcers) need to be mindful of how they enable these associations – literally creating the opportunities for these associations to exist so that the audience can experience the brand alongside great content. This may be achievable online, but can radio truly find its place in the media mix and become famous for connecting brands to content, without it being a blatant promotion?

Interestingly, the “sponsor” model is a widely accepted approach in sports content that increasingly finds its way being extended into other content verticals like entertainment, music as well as business and finance.

Secondly, we often forget about the power of emotion (or as the digital media industry likes to call it, “engagement”). If association gets a brand noticed by a consumer in the context of content, emotion is what really gets that neuro pathway firing and it’s this connection that radio has the potential to leverage.

Every morning, announcers have people laughing, crying, thinking about their content. But is the client’s investment or sponsorship as ‘emotionally’ connected to the audience as the content?

Sports and entertainment related properties in general may benefit most in this regard amongst all content genres – the passion with which you follow your favourite team in League, AFL, Soccer, Cricket or Rugby, or the way you worship an artist is tied to the emotional relationship a brand creates with those sports. This only solidifies the brand’s place in the psyche of consumers – so long as there is a sustained relationship between the brand and the fan.

Radio announcers also have emotional connections with their audience, but do the clients really benefit by this association? A content driven radio idea, integrating client messaging, targeting audiences across multiple devices has as much, or arguably more, opportunity to emotionally connect with an audience than a TV spot.

Developing experiences with fun, cool and memorable brand messages creates emotional connections with consumers just like content experiences do.

Can the power of radio and online really create the great brand experience? Some might suggest its happening right now, but I would argue cool content and brand interaction is still an afterthought.

David Borean is a Managing Partner with Waterfront Entertainment & Marketing, and has worked with DMG Radio Australia and the Austereo networks.

David can be contacted through the Waterfront website

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