Flow-etry in motion

The first campaign for Flow 93.5 was edgy, fresh, irreverent, and helped an upstart radio station make its mark in Toronto. This time around, Nicole Jolly, Flow's VP operations and marketing, is thinking growth.

The first campaign for Flow 93.5 was edgy, fresh, irreverent, and helped an upstart radio station make its mark in Toronto. This time around, Nicole Jolly, Flow’s VP operations and marketing, is thinking growth.

A new print campaign, set to break Aug.30, is designed to build on the station’s strong youth listener base, invite non-listeners and hopefully knock down some stereotypes: ‘A lot of people still think that [the station] is for young black thugs,’ says Jolly.

So with this inclusiveness in mind, Toronto’s Taxi has come up with the ‘Anybody can Flow’ campaign. In the three ads, different heads, of varying gender and ethnicities, are sprawled on a street corner, on a streetcar and on the dashboard of a car, ready to be screwed onto a headless body. The campaign

is an evolution, says Zak Mroueh, Taxi’s VP/ECD, and uses the same colours, irreverence and hipness that made the previous ads such a success.

It was Jolly who championed this campaign which won awards and put Flow on the map when it became Canada’s first urban commercial radio station back in February 2001. ‘Media advertising has a formula,’ she says, ‘and we didn’t follow it.’

The ads, which bypassed the banal use of radio personalities and artists, played on the iconic use of equalizers and LPs to reflect the downtown attitude of the station.

But the higher-ups weren’t as easily convinced. ‘People were nervous about it,’ admits Jolly. ‘But I thought, you know what, I’m not afraid of the controversy.’

She says that precisely because Flow execs didn’t get the campaign meant that it would resonate with youth. Her instinct said to push harder, a trait Taxi thinks is one of her strengths.

Mroueh recalls the controversial transit ad for the launch effort in which a stereo’s equalizer was made to look like a middle finger sticking up. ‘She knew right away that it felt right,’ he says. ‘The fact that [Flow execs] bought that…she played a huge role.’

When plans for the follow-up TV campaign were first presented to Jolly in 2001, ‘She said, ‘We’re not ready for it this time; one day we will be,” he says. ‘Six months later she called to say they were ready for it.’ The campaign was a huge success (The folks at Apple’s iPod certainly seemed to think so).

‘She has a vision for the station,’ he adds.

And it’s clearly paying off. In 2001, after three months on the air, brand awareness of Flow was 49% among 15- to 44-year-olds in Toronto and ad awareness was third behind CHUM-FM and CHFI, according to independent pollsters Solutions Research Group. In June 2003, the last time the station conducted a survey, brand awareness was 73% among 15- to 39-year-olds.

And according to BBM’s spring 2004 numbers, the station has a solid 7.7% market share of the enviable 18-to-34 female demographic. While the teen audience numbers are forever in flux, Flow is consistently in the top three says Toronto-based media consultant David Bray.

Jolly credits the six years she spent at Toronto-based brand and communications specialists Goldfarb Consultants (now Millward, Brown, Goldfarb), where she worked heavily in advertising research and positioning, with helping her understand the Flow listener.

While at Goldfarb as a VP client service, Jolly worked with clients in retail, finance and automotive, among others. For Ford Canada, one of her main clients, she supplied consumer profiles, which became the foundation for the marketing launch of the Lincoln LS and the Jaguar S series. ‘I got a PhD in the mind of the consumer,’ she jokes.

So when the licence for Canada’s first urban radio station was awarded to her father Denham Jolly’s Toronto-based Milestone Radio, Jolly senior asked if she would be interested in the top marketing post.

At Flow, she continues to stress understanding the lifestyle of the listeners. ‘People make purchase decisions based on criteria that are bigger than the features of the product that you’re offering,’ she says. ‘We’re playing Beyoncé, well guess what, so is everybody, so it needs to be a little more than that. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are.’

So who is Flow? ‘Flow is about the whole experience, the culture of the music,’ she says. ‘One of the things our campaign has done is take into account that people have these whole lives and we reflect that.’

Flow has been successful reaching a young audience through its on-air giveaways, live broadcasts from clubs and permission-based e-mail newsletters of over 17,000 subscribers. Jolly is particularly proud of Team Flow, a group of five full-time young people who attend community events, speak at schools, and tutor other young people. Partnerships with other youth brands have also been aplenty: More recently, Sprite, Mitsubishi and NBA Hoop-it-Up have all signed up for cross-promotions.

A born and bred Torontonian, the thirtysomething Jolly studied economics at McGill University in Montreal and completed a Master of Science in Social Behaviour at the London School of Economics. But music, she says, has always been her passion – despite a lack of talent. ‘A lot of the people in the office can sing but I sing like a dying cat,’ she laughs.