Can Corus give men their MOJO back?

Austin Powers had it, lost it, and found it again in the Mike Myers comedy sequel, The Spy who Shagged Me. He wore it well. It was new and original. Now Corus Entertainment is dragging out their particular brand of 'male...

Austin Powers had it, lost it, and found it again in the Mike Myers comedy sequel, The Spy who Shagged Me. He wore it well. It was new and original. Now Corus Entertainment is dragging out their particular brand of ‘male voodoo’ in the hope that Toronto station AM 640 can get its groove back.

Faced with sagging revenues and a shortage of listeners, the owners of AM radio stations have tried to come up with creative ideas to stop the bleeding and resurrect properties whose market values have tanked thanks to the superior sound of FM.

In a not so subtle effort to usurp the competition’s all-sports focus, Corus launched MOJO Radio, AM 640 April 23 with the tagline ‘Talk radio for guys.’ The effort is akin to throwing the kitchen sink at men with a cocktail of male fantasia, including sports talk that will, according to Stewart Meyers, operations manager for MOJO, amount to approximately 30% of programming. There will be additional installments of news (3 1/2 minutes an hour), investment information, talk a la Humble and Fred, and other talk, mostly about women and sex-related issues. ‘Internal research showed us that if you’re a guy, it’s likely you’re into this kind of programming,’ Meyers says.

On the surface, Corus’ decision to move long-time Toronto morning radio gurus Humble and Fred, from CFNY 102 FM over to MOJO is a strong indicator of Corus’ support of the property. The risk is twofold for Corus as the CFNY replacement must live up to high expectations and Humble and Fred will likely pull some core audience to MOJO.

Clearly, the hope is that the man’s man is back and that the age of Oprah is well behind us. That certainly appeared to be the case at the Toronto Peel Pub launch of the new AM station, where goatees were de rigueur and the hired help consisted of Pamela Anderson wannabes. While this may be the stuff wives and girlfriends have nightmares about, it’s a lay up for marketers who want to reach the ‘mustang’ demo. Or is it?

While MOJO’s numbers are unavailable, there is already a degree of skepticism in the buying community.

Media Experts’ VP client services, Cynthia Fleming, says that it will still be a struggle for MOJO. ‘I don’t believe that format is going to work. They may be able to package on a national level with other male skewed Corus stations and try to force buys. But they will only get a smattering of local accounts.’

Asked if she would move clients – namely Telus Mobility, Danier Leather and Aldo Group – from FM, Fleming says, ‘No, definitely not.’

Dave Campbell, managing partner at Media Buying Services also remains skeptical of the station’s ability to deliver. ‘Quite candidly, what the world doesn’t need right now is another AM station. There’s nothing in [MOJO] that’s particularly unique. You can already reach men through a number of different sources. We have a number of advertisers that are a little bit concerned about what potentially it might sound like on-air, so we’ve taken a wait-and-see attitude.’

Some national advertisers, such as Molson, however, have already bought into the concept. Molson media manager Deborah Komlodi says the buy, ‘recognizes curiosity tuning will peak during [MOJO's] launch phases, as well as its high male appeal.’ Molson is currently committed for the first four weeks and will assess its relevancy after that period. Komlodi expects it will be a key station for certain brands, especially Molson Ex.

MOJO’s goal is to create an audio version of Maxim magazine for men, according to David Crichton, Partner and CD of The Crichton Kim-Kirkland Company, who developed the newly launched multimedia campaign for MOJO and did all the media planning for the new station.

”The best thing to happen to men since women’ is [Maxim's] slogan and so we were taking the same kind of tack.’

Obviously, women are a big draw for the key male demographic. History has shown, however, that Howard Stern’s potty mouth and wicked sneers aside, it is very difficult to actually meet and look at women over the airwaves – two things that tend to appeal to the Hooters set.

But Crichton says it’s not simply the case where you’re throwing a woman up on a billboard or on TV and leaving at that. ‘The fact is that its showing her and playing off that by saying ‘Tools, oh and other guy talk too.” This and other equally witty slogans appear in two TV ads airing on a multitude of stations locally, which will also be running on video boards in washrooms, as well as promotional t-shirt giveaways that say things like, ‘I am man hear me grunt.’ and ‘The corndogs were amazing at Lilith Fair.’

Crichton explained the concept of one TV ad developed for the new station where we see a man taping up the toilet seat: ‘We thought it would be great if we could demonstrate the notion that it’s okay to be a guy again. We’re not going to put our heads in the sand and walk the line and be politically correct. So what if we get slammed a little bit? There is, after all, WTN and other things [for women] so why not? Why not celebrate it a little bit?’

Asked if from a strategic position devoting a lot of energy to AM made a lot of sense, Crichton was optimistic: ‘It’s all new. However, it’s the first time in a long time that AM radio is getting this kind of promotional marketing push behind it. Talk is perfect for AM radio. As far as dollars flowing back it makes a lot of sense. However, I don’t think you’re going to see a huge trend back to AM radio.’