Dear Radio: Forget being hip — keep it real and simple
by Paulo Dias (@therealptp) I often wonder why we’re not comfortable in our own skin, especially in South Africa, where radio is such a relevant and important source of news and entertainment to the vast majority of our population?
It’s been that time of the year when the “Radio Trends in 2017” roadshows and articles have been in full force, a time when those of us in the radio industry scream loudly about how innovative we are, how we’re embracing technology, how we may compete with digital, how this is the year we steal TV spend.
We say fancy things such as “Well, Norway switching off FM transmitters for DAB is a game changer” and “Millenials are consuming more audio than ever” — because, you know, who are you in marketing if you’re not obsessed with millennials? And who are you in general if you’re not obsessed with Norway?
I worked on a radio promotional campaign towards the end of last year that really reminded me why we should be celebrating radio and not work up too much of a sweat “chasing the hip” or trying to keep up with the #joneses. The premise of the campaign was a simple one — hear a sound on air, text the station, and answer with a phrase that pays.
I have personally run that concept 1523 times; it’s a radio staple. It gets people listening longer and engaging with a client’s brand. It’s not going to win us awards or get me featured by James Cridland but it does what radio is intended for: resonating with millions of people at any given time.
What radio is in this country is an equaliser. We may sometimes get caught up in our “video on demand”, “fibre to the home”, “streaming music subscriptions” little bubble and we are spoilt by the fact that technology, the devices and the bandwidth to consume the latest news and information are easily available.
Part of the conversation
If you’re reading this, you’re at least literate in English, have some sort of smart device or computer and have access to the internet, whether at home or the office. Those circumstances give you access to entertainment from around the world and puts news at your fingertips. Those circumstances gave you the choice of streaming Donald Trump’s inauguration or following it on social media and sharing the memes as they happened. For the vast majority of this country, those circumstances don’t exist — but radio allows them to be part of the conversation. Speaking to them in their own language. Not costing anything. Not needing anything other than a simple FM radio.
The campaign I’m talking about didn’t need hashtags or trendmaps, or retweets or follows or views, it needed a simple text to a radio station that the listener trusted implicitly. Now this same campaign with the same mechanic ran across every station in the country, those with extremely connected audiences and on those with less so. But it worked universally across all.
The reason it worked is simple: radio works in South Africa when it’s real, shares our voice, doesn’t discriminate against your education level, salary, living conditions or social status, and, even better, doesn’t cost us anything.
The most-valuable advice I was given about radio was this: “Radio is very easy: play some music, give away some prizes.”
We owe it to ourselves and to our listeners to be more complicated and adventurous than that, but let’s not forget it — because, no matter what the trends are, being real and simple will always be in fashion.
Paulo Dias (@therealptp) is the head of creative integration at Ultimate Media. He works closely with the programming teams at leading radio stations to help implement commercial messaging into their existing formats. He contributes the regular column, “Dear Radio”, looking at the changing radio landscape in South Africa, to MarkLives.com