CKAC finds a word is worth a thousand pictures

As the oldest French-language radio station in North America, Montreal's CKAC 730 isn't used to worrying about brand recognition.

As the oldest French-language radio station in North America, Montreal’s CKAC 730 isn’t used to worrying about brand recognition.

In fact, back in 1970, CKAC quickly became known across the entire country, thanks to the fact that it was the station that the FLQ kidnappers called only a few hours after abducting British consul James Cross.

However, CKAC’s reputation for newsgathering and opinion rests mainly with the 50-plus set. Last year the station decided to revamp its marketing to both listeners and advertisers, giving it a chance to refresh its cachet with a slightly younger demographic. To accomplish that goal, the station found that newspaper had a critical role to play.

The goal

‘We did not want to skew too young but we wanted a bit of an edge,’ says André Allard, VP of marketing and sales for CKAC. According to BBM figures supplied by Allard, the station already boasted the region’s top-ranked morning show, with a 22.5% market share (the closest competitor only reaches 12%) – but the average age of the listeners was 56.

Given the reality of an aging population, an older audience is not necessarily a bad thing, but Allard says that the station still hoped to bring it down slightly, to 52.

Mainly, however, the station simply wanted to grow its market share against the plethora of local news stations. To do that, it needed to remind listeners that CKAC offers not only information – but also opinion. ‘We’re the only station that enjoys that niche,’ he says.

The strategy

To emphasize its distinct positioning, CKAC wanted to do something different. ‘All radio stations do the same kind of advertising,’ Allard says, adding that billboards featuring radio personalities with their mics are so clichéd.

So using TV, billboard and newspaper, the station devised a new way to promote its shows. By twisting an old adage, it created a tag that summed up its stance perfectly: ‘Un mot vaut mille images’ (A word is worth a thousand pictures).

TV and billboard advertising focused on overall branding for the station, and the newspaper ads played on the medium’s quick turnaround times to increase reach for specific programming. The word-rich medium was perfect for the station’s new tag.

Montreal’s Cossette Comm-

unication-Marketing came up with the proposition that each newspaper ad would feature the one word (worth a thousand pictures) summing up the main topic on one of the following day’s shows. For example, when the morning show was to tackle bio-terrorism, an ad was created that featured the word ‘Envelope.’ For a show devoted

to discussing the state of the

world after Sept. 11, the newspaper

ad displayed the word ‘Peace’ in Arabic.

‘Typically, radio stations use newspaper as an afterthought,’ says Jacques Labelle, VP, creative director at Cossette. A newspaper buy typically might have more to do with bartering contracts than creativity.

But CKAC’s strategy was to use newspaper in a way that took advantage of the medium. Its flexibility meant that when something important was going to be discussed, it was easy to place an ad saying as much, he says. Furthermore, the ads could be placed in the sections that made sense, depending on the topic. When Tiger Woods was in the city, a one-page ad simply said ‘Tiger.’ When placed in the sports section, no one needed any further explanation.

The results

The station is currently running a second wave of advertising, and Allard says that the first wave was a huge success. ‘We used to be totally similar to other radio advertising campaigns,’ he says. ‘Now we’re seen as different.’

Results for the first wave show that reach went up by 80,000 listeners in the station’s spring BBM result, as compared to figures from the fall of 2000. Even better, market share rose by 28% among males and 12% among women.

He says that national advertising sales are up as well, thanks to the station’s concurrent campaign targeting advertisers.

So pleased was owner network Radiomedia with the results that the strategy is now

being used for its five other AM talk stations in the province, with each station buying space in local newspapers to highlight

specific topics.