Music to Mela, FM stations are betting big on radio activation...

From being identified with shows like "Binnaca Geet Maala", the medium of the masses quite literally and potentially has seen a lot of changes. As gradually the number of private radio stations started increasing, the medium gathered strength through increased reach and increased number of listeners.

As the radio station and its scheduled RJs started chattering at every tea stall, in every stranded car in the traffic and on every person's mobile phone irrespective of their age and sex, the medium started to be recognized as a brand. A brand in its own right, the radio channels started developing its very own flavoured style of programming.

The positioning of this very easily accessible and easy to understand medium changed very fast from being a unidirectional communication platform to a medium with an increased quality of "engaging the listeners".

Radio soon started being looked at as an important tool in every marketing mix, and in the initial stages it was used to substantiate a communication's reach. However over the years, more and more advertisers and clients are looking at radio as a medium to engage the audiences through a reformed platform of "radio activation'.

The radio activation platform has been increasingly used by the client and the radio stations to utilize each others brand value and at the same time to reach more audience with an innovative idea. With specialized activation units to undertake on-ground activities and other BTL activities of a similar nature, radio's utilization and independent potential in the marketing mix has amplified manifolds.

Adgully spoke to industry insiders and their clientele to understand the present market for radio activation and how much of an innovation does it allow to the client as well as the radio station.

Radio activation though has many ways to engage the listeners; it is intriguing to understand if it also influences the smaller pockets across the country. Talking about the influential reach of radio activation, Narendra Tripathi, Chief Operating Officer, Radio Mantra, says, "On ground activation is now being termed as radio activation. For the client, it is a huge add-on for the monies he's spending on radio. The penetration of radio activation is far more than any activation one can ever think of in terms of reach. Moreover, doing activation in rural areas will be a far costly affair than doing it in cities."

Echoing similar views, Shamik Talukder, National Head, Mirchi Activation, says that radio activation works in both urban and rural set up. The construct and design of the activity is different in urban and rural set up. "The potential of activation in tier 2 cities is huge and we have seen remarkable progress in that space this year," he adds.

But how open are clients to the idea of activation and investing some more on radio and Arjun Singgh Baran, Business Head, Intellectual Properties, BIG LIVE feels that clients keep coming back to them for more and more activation initiatives. "Some of the largest clients we have are generally FMCG brands, telecom and GECs. They all invest significantly on radio activation and also come back to us, because the ROI can be easily evaluated through TRP ratings or through the increase in sales," he adds.

While the clients are readily investing on the activation, the radio station's added brand value also introduces itself to the newer audience market that the brand caters to. So do the clients approach the radio stations often or is it a mutually partnered idea for better reach and more engagement. Talking about this, Talukder says, "The activation is initiated by Mirchi Activation right from ideation to execution. We have established properties and we create new properties which fit the requirement of the brand."

Deviating from Talukder's view, Tripathi says that though there have been times when a radio station does an on ground activity to do a brand building exercise. However 95 % time, it is the requirement of the client.

Spends on the activation initiatives depend on the number of cities, number of days and the type of radio activation proposed to the client. Moreover, spends can range from 1 lakh onwards to 20 lakh in a month, and sometimes the entire activation process can run into crores. So the big question here is as the investment rates go higher can the smaller brands take the activation route. Talukder explains that, "Activation works well for small as well as big brands, new as well as established brands. Yes we do approach small brands for radio activation and have seen success in that area especially in the Tier 2 cities."

However given the radio station's perspective it is very important to understand the client's thought on the new and appealing platform of radio activation. To understand this better Adgully spoke to Anupam Vasudev, Executive Vice President ' Marketing, Star Plus. The channel in the past has used radio activation to promote its shows like- Music ka Maha Muqabla and Sasural Genda Phool. Moreover when the channel changed its look and brand identity to- Rishta Wohi, sooch nayeeĤ it utilized the platform of activation.

Talking about including radio in the marketing mix, Vasudev, says, "Radio works as a media multiplier and in the case of our broadcast products i.e., programmes, we generate a certain engagement with our consumers. It helps tremendously in establishing the formats or concepts of the products. This is imperative for us as we have been innovating on the product front with our new programmes iterating that at Star we are delivering on our promise of "Rishta Wohi Soch Nayi" and as such, certain programme concepts are more or less alien to the TV viewers in the country and they need familiarization with the same."

He further feels it's more about market selection based on business objectives and task at hand. Hence a client might choose to grill certain markets with information about a programme and drop others because different markets may be at different levels of receptiveness to a concept.

Talking about the measurability of the effectiveness in the radio activation process, Vasudev, contends, "RAM data exists for only a few markets and as such is of not much help to us because as indicated we are not using the medium for reach alone, though it is a necessary hygiene factor. We apply measurement to the level of integration and innovation that we are able to secure with each use. In regards to effectiveness of the usage in such manner, we have research to back up our strategy and follow a continual process of renewal of our learnings through surveys and groups."

On the other hand, Janardhan Pandey, Business Director, Mudra Max, says that radio media has excellent connect with its audience. Besides the RJ has tremendous influence over his/her listeners and can drive them to the desired venues and also build up the right mood for any on ground activity. "This works wonders if done correctly. But remember one thing, we cannot overdo it, so it's got to be very sensible and within limits else the effectiveness will suffer," he warns.

He further feels that activation requires a lot many ingredients and not just media support to produce great results. No doubt, radio is one of the best suited media to support and carry on successful activations. However, in any activation the supporting media should be able to extend its awareness boundaries but not the impact area.

"Activation is like cluster bomb, choose your block, hit hard & capture it. Good activation idea works in all markets, big or small," Pandey points out.

Radio activation as a platform to reach more and more audiences and potential consumers seems be the right choice as it builds on the engagement and fulfillment for them. The consumers are not only reached at convenience but reached through their preferred choice. However it should be very important to be careful about the fact that none of the activation initiative on-air seems intrusive of audiences' "favourite" programming. Besides the on-ground activities have important factors to be kept in mind like understanding the environment better and staying relevant to the psychographic tendencies of the populace of a place. Though the platform is a unique one, given its potential reach the radio waves do command over the cluttered market space across the country, but the activation process has to be very well planned out, well executed and must stay relevant. | By Prabha Hegde [prabha(at)adgully.com]

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