Radio: Focus on audience research: Ancillary opportunities add value to radio buys

The radio industry is tuning into promotions, newsletters, and listeners' clubs as a means of providing advertisers with specialized niche market opportunities.With an increasing number of clients wanting to buy radio not simply on the basis of audience numbers, radio stations...

The radio industry is tuning into promotions, newsletters, and listeners’ clubs as a means of providing advertisers with specialized niche market opportunities.

With an increasing number of clients wanting to buy radio not simply on the basis of audience numbers, radio stations are using promotions and other value-added opportunities to give marketers another reason to advertise.

This summer, Vancouver-based Koala Beverages, a mineral water and fruit juice drink manufacturer, is teaming up with Toronto fm rock music station Q107 to promote Koala’s new line of non-carbonated fruit drinks, ‘The Ultimate Fruit Quencher.’

Radio is being used live to promote the presence of Koala Beverages at more than 150 community events this summer in the Toronto/Golden Horseshoe (southwestern tip of Lake Ontario) area.

Each event is tied together with the appearance of a custom-made 10-storey-high hot air balloon.

Bright yellow and shaped like a Koala Beverage bottle, the Koala/Q107 balloon comes complete with a giant Koala bear clinging to its side.

On-site activities include the appearance of Koala special events vehicles, which will sample Koala products, and the Koala Hot Air Balloon Team.

Manfred Schultz, president of Koala Beverages, says the company chose radio to support its marketing efforts because of its ability to marry a high energy presentation with a live setting.

Schultz says the company looked at Q107′s demographics and psychographics before it selected the station as the on-air component of the integrated promotion.

Q107 has a weekly audience of more than 800,000. Its audience is largely made up of adults age 25-44 and families with children ages five to 12.

Both of these categories are primary consumer segments for Koala Beverages.

But, more importantly, psychographic research shows there are two groups within Q107′s primary target segment of 25+ listeners that Koala Beverages wanted to reach: ‘family-oriented’ consumers and ‘self-confident young adults.’

Schultz says Koala chose Q107 because of the overlap in audience and target market in terms of age and lifestyle, and also because the station is promotion-oriented.

‘We looked at four different stations, and, in addition to other criteria, Q107 has a growing female audience and strong numbers on a daily basis,’ he says.

‘Plus, they’re willing and able to do much more than a simple media drive, and we like that approach. We’re comfortable getting involved with Q107-type events.’

According to Schultz, the idea for the promotion sprang out of a need to lift Koala’s profile above the barrage of summer advertising.

‘We needed a vehicle that provided excitement and pizzazz at the consumer and retail levels during the critical summer volume period,’ he says.

The three-month promotion officially set sail June 12 and will conclude with Koala giving away a Q107-sponsored trip for two to Australia, a trip that will culminate in a hot-air balloon ride over Aussie landmark Ayers Rock.

According to Darren Wasylyk, marketing director for Q107 and AM640, the promotion is working in part because the medium enhances the message.

‘The benefits of radio advertising are its immediacy and coverage of special events, both of which are used to enhance the whole marketing package,’ Wasylyk says.

‘Unlike television, there’s interaction with the station’s listeners and the client’s customers,’ he says. ‘Your spot doesn’t simply run.’

Schultz agrees, and says that radio is a more viable medium for summer promotions when people are normally on the go.

‘I strongly believe in a moving medium,’ he says.

‘We have to be present – in people’s faces – and I think radio does that for us. It gets in people’s cars, in the summertime, during our peak season.

‘As much as tv delivers lots of numbers, the cost of doing it supersedes the benefits.’

It is early in the promotion, but both Koala Beverages and Q107 are satisfied with the results so far.

Jim ‘J.J.’ Johnson, program director for The Mix 99.9, a Toronto-based contemporary music station, speaks for a growing number of radio industry representatives when he says:

‘You’re not selling your numbers anymore – you’re selling your quality of audience. And selling the quality of your audience means understanding who that audience is.’

Open to advice

According to Johnson, national advertisers are starting to recognize the niche market opportunities radio offers, and, further, are becoming more open to advice.

‘They’re coming to us and saying `I’ve got an idea but it’s not carved in stone,’ he says. ‘Here are my objectives. What do you think?’

‘This is a smart way to go about it because it’s our job to know the audience, and we know what works and what doesn’t,’ says Johnson, who remembers the day a pet food client asked him to run a radio contest that depended on listeners knowing the digestibility rate of dog food.

This summer, Toronto-based Canada Pure Spring Water signed on with The Mix to market its line of spring water-based beverages.

The promotion links into The Mix’s ‘Show Us Your Mix’ contest, which asks listeners to create and display signs that say ‘Mix 99.9′ in return for a chance to win prizes that include $5,000 and a new Ford Aspire.

Starting last month and continuing until the end of June, Canada Pure ‘taste-cruisers’ travel to the sight of audience-designed Mix 99.9 signs and set up sampling booths while the station does a live broadcast.

Listeners are responding to the contest enthusiastically and advertising the station in a variety of ways: mowing it into lawns, painting their cars, flying over Toronto’s SkyDome with a banner, and holding up ’99.9′ signs at a National Hockey League playoff hockey game, to name a few.

According to Martin Forget, product manager for Canada Pure Spring Water, the campaign is drawing attention to Canada Pure products.

‘Successful so far’

‘The promotion’s been successful so far,’ Forget says. ‘People are definitely talking about it, and it’s had a positive impact on our distribution network. We’re very visible.’

He says Canada Pure went with radio as its primary advertising medium because of reasonable cost and the summer season.

‘Radio is effective in the summer, versus television,’ Forget says. ‘tv is too expensive for what it provides in the summer.’

Johnson says The Mix’s audience offered Canada Pure an almost identical demographic match with its primary consumer market, plus it let the company single out the active part of its target market.

‘Canada Pure bought a station which has an identical demographic core to their own,’ he says.

‘Links up’

‘Our target is 25-34, and so is theirs. They know our listeners are affluent, and we have a physically active audience which links up with their psychographics.

‘They’re looking to find the active element of their target, which is what we offer them.’

Forget says that although the station’s demographics were Canada Pure’s primary advertising incentive, the athletic, healthy profile of the station’s audience also encouraged Canada Pure’s participation.

‘We looked at Mix 99.9 primarily because of their variety of people, income level, et cetera, but their activity level was part of it,’ he says.

‘Our product has half the sweeteners of other products in the category, and are made with pure spring water, so we tend to target health-oriented people.’

While some stations are using psychographics to sell niche market opportunities to advertisers, other stations are in the early stages of using newsletters and listeners’ clubs to gather, and, potentially, market data on their listeners.

For the past three years, Toronto-based easy-listening station chfi has published a newsletter for its core listeners.

Paul Fisher, the station’s vice-president of programming, says, in the future, he wants to use the subscriber database to increase the niche-marketing potential for advertisers.

Individual data

‘We’ll be able to know which listeners are planning on making a home furniture purchase in the next few months, and then be able to tell our furniture advertisers, who will send them value-added coupons on an individual basis,’ Fisher says.

Vancouver rock station 99.3 The Fox has been compiling a database on its listeners for the past two years through a listeners’ club that is now 40,000 strong, says Mary Ann McKenzie, assistant program director.

Made up of 63% male and 37% female listeners, club members receive a loyalty card which they can use to gain admission to special events and get product discounts.

These deals and programming news are publicized in a newsletter.

Specific segments

According to McKenzie, one of the advantages of the database is its ability to target specific segments within the club membership.

For example, a company making cd-Walkmans would be able to have access to those club members that bought cds every month.

‘We could find a way to talk directly to those people, and send them a discount coupon, or devise a contest to win a free Walkman,’ McKenzie says.

‘This way, advertisers aren’t just throwing a message out there and hoping cd buyers are going to catch it,’ she says. ‘They’ve got a guarantee.’

McKenzie says The Fox established the listeners’ club because it saw advantages for the station in terms of advertising and expanding its relationship with its audience.

‘Many advantages’

‘There are many advantages: you can use the newsletter as a way of reaching your core listeners outside of your on-air, and you can keep in touch with them, and inform them of programming and promotions,’ she says.

‘This can prove to be a very valuable tool.’

McKenzie says the challenge for the marketing department is to demonstrate the newsletter’s ability to reach a guaranteed niche in the market.

‘The better we learn how to present this strategy to national advertisers, the more national advertisers will actually look at it,’ she says.

‘But, it’s up to us to do it a few times successfully, and present the idea to them in a way that makes sense.’