Flow 93.5 should help advertisers reach youth

Any marketer with teenaged children knows of their very real appetite for urban music and culture. Whether they're suburban brats or they hail from the deepest part of the city, it is safe to assume that their lives are being touched...

Any marketer with teenaged children knows of their very real appetite for urban music and culture. Whether they’re suburban brats or they hail from the deepest part of the city, it is safe to assume that their lives are being touched daily by hip hop and other forms of urban culture.

All one has to do is take a stroll along Toronto’s Queen Street West where, on any given weekday, you can see the hordes of teens lined up at MuchMusic to see the likes of Eminem, to realize that this is true.

The obvious question that springs to mind – other than ‘Why aren’t these punks in school?’ – is ‘How can I, as a marketer, reach these people effectively?’ The answer, some believe, is a radio station that speaks to them in their favourite language – music. Or more specifically, urban music.

On Feb. 9, Milestone Radio CEO Denham Jolly launched Flow 93.5, marking the end of a 12-year struggle to pry a licence out of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the long-overdue birth of the first urban format radio station in Canada.

Urban music encompasses some of the most popular musical forms in the world, including reggae, hip hop and R&B.

A good portion of the station’s projected audience is one of the most sought-after demographics in the market. According to a Marketresearch.com study (‘The U.S. Urban Youth Market: Targeting the Trendsetters, January 2001) 15- to 24-year-old hip hop-savvy youth tend to act as ‘leaders’ in setting trends for a wider demographic of ‘followers.’

It is also a group, the study says, that spends a disproportionate amount of their income on categories such as fast food, athletic footwear, alcoholic beverages, consumer electronics, personal care products, and telephone services.

The first black-owned and operated station in Canada could provide marketers with some exciting new opportunities previously available only in the U.S., where the urban format is firmly entrenched. According to a study conducted by Solutions Research Group on behalf of Milestone Radio, there is at least one urban entry in the top five stations in each major U.S. market.

The study, conducted in 1999 among adults 18-54, suggests that as many as 65% of respondents in the Toronto area would likely tune in to an urban format station. Overall, 30% said they more than likely would.

According to SRG, Buffalo, N.Y. stations have a significant following in the Toronto market. One in five Toronto residents 18-34 tune into at least one station originating from Buffalo on a weekly basis and 14% tune in to urban format WBLK.FM 93.7.

Given this, Flow’s launch should have Canadian advertisers excited, says Keith Davis, general sales manager with Flow. ‘They’ll now be able to repatriate advertising budgets currently spent at U.S.-based urban stations,’ he says. ‘Flow 93.5 gives advertisers access to a significant demographic group that traditionally has been difficult for them to reach.’

Ammirati Puris media director Darryl Nicholson says it’s early days, but he likes the idea of a more independent station. ‘It should give Energy, Kiss 92, and Z 103 a run for their money.’

Nicholson says the new Toronto station should be able to capture some of those ad dollars currently being spent south of the border. ‘If the Flow catches on with a young, hip audience, it will start to attract advertisers that are trying to reach them.’

Although its bedrock audience will fall into the 18-to-35 demographic – 81% of whom the SRG study indicated would support such a station – Flow also hopes to attract the more sedate listener with jazz and gospel programming, as well.

Now the station just has to let listeners know it exists.

To that end, Flow recruited Toronto-based TAXI Advertising & Design. The launch campaign, which debuted Feb. 11, includes animated TV spots that air on MuchMusic and on TSN and CTV Sportsnet during Toronto Raptors games, as well as billboard and transit executions. The executions – one of which features a black vinyl record under the Flow 93.5 logo – are the same no matter what medium, except that the TV spots are animated.

On March 5, with the addition of talk programming, the station will begin a round of on-air promotions, concert ticket giveaways and tie-ins with headlining performers. One planned promotion, to be called ‘What would you do for a Badu?’ will allow audience participants to compete for tickets to popular performer Erykah Badu’s next concert in New Orleans.

Flow has also mounted a formidable street-level campaign to increase awareness around Toronto. A team of over a dozen employees have been visiting school campuses, malls and stores throughout the Greater Toronto Area distributing hats, T-shirts, and stickers, and talking up the new station.

Efforts to market the station in Toronto bars, restaurants and clubs will begin in earnest this summer.

Heineken and Bacardi are sponsoring Flow’s March 1 official launch party, which the station is billing as an industry-only event replete with ‘big name’ musical acts.