Driving radio ad revenue higher: CRA’s Joan Warner on sector’s challenges

New Radio Alive ad campaign key to growing radio ad dollars.

• Commercial Radio Australia CEO Joan Warner explains strategy, radio ratings innovation, restricting gambling ads and Jaime Chaux’s new role

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) has launched the next wave of its Radio Alive campaign in its bid to convince business not currently using radio as a medium that it should get on board.

The campaign includes four radio ads created by radio and specialist audio agency Eardrum that use more than 15 different sound effects to tell the story, including the honking of a cruise ship, the rev of a sports car, an angelic choir and sauce squeezing from a bottle.

“Given the great interest in audio at present, it is a really good time to be reminding media buyers about the power of radio,” CRA chief executive Joan Warner told Mediaweek. “We see radio continuing to get around 7.5-8% of ad spend.

“Some people think we are lucky because we haven’t lost revenue like some others. We actually think because of our growing audience reach and the role cross-platform broadcasting is playing that we should do better than 8%.

“We need to keep ourselves in front of the media buyers in an amusing and interesting way, and using our own airwaves, to try to bring this about.

“Our members are very competitive broadcasters, but we do come together on a lot of things and this is one of them. We feel our influences far outweigh our share of the ad dollar.”

At the CRA Conference last year the radio trade body announced four pillars it would focus on for the next year – engagement, insights, measurement and innovation.

Warner: “This campaign is all about marketing success stories, results and the fact that radio is an amplifier and it can raise your brand to prominence and we have the audience that wants to hear about that.”

Although increasing the share of revenue that radio attracts is a key result from this campaign, Warner said it won’t be the way they measure the success of the ads.

“We usually do a pre- and a post-campaign survey of media buyers and we will again this year. We found last year that we got really good results and we know that using radio to get our message out works. It is all about awareness as well and we will do some consumer insights studies.

“If the ad dollar dial moves a little, that will be great, but we are doing a lot more than just this.”

The other projects for CRA this year include the expansion of its Radio app and continuing its automated holdings project, which is about to move from stage one to stage two with an improved offering for agencies.

“There are a combination of things we hope will move the dial, and this is just one of the elements.”

Meanwhile on the radio ratings front, GfK has embarked on a measurement innovation program as part of its new multiyear contract with CRA.

Warner told Mediaweek: “With that we hope to be making some announcements later in the year about a hybrid approach to measurement. Not throwing out the diary system – which will form the basis of measurement for the foreseeable future – but adding some more qualitative and perhaps some quantitative elements to it too.

“We moved from full paper diaries to introducing online diaries, which now account for 30% of diaries.

“We are also asking GfK to look at an app for collecting listening data, which could give us more insights into audience behaviour.

“The message is we are working across a whole range of areas and Radio Alive is the most tangible example that people will see.”

Warner said her organisation is also looking at the metrics that radio uses to report on podcasts and social engagement.

As to growing the number of online diaries, Warner said she feels 30% is about right for the time being.

“The problem is if we jump to something like 50% quickly the results could be skewed. We take the best advice we can from survey experts and how we attract people continually to our survey panels.”

The new gambling code of conduct is something that has an impact on CRA members. Gambling ads are being banned during live sport and Warner and her members are very keen to see if the online code reflects the broadcasting code.

“When we negotiated this with government as part of the media reform package we were told the online code would come into play the same time as ours – March 30 – and have the same restrictions.

“We have already seen some exemptions for cable TV in terms of timezone and audience numbers so that is not the same as ours and television’s.

“There is still no code in sight for the online broadcasting of sport and it remains regulation free.” Warner is concerned even if it remains like that for only a few months, radio or television could lose an advertiser for that period who will be attracted by another regulation-free platform.

Former PodcastOne content director Jaime Chaux has just started work at CRA and Warner said he has a number of projects to get stuck into including working on the Radio app with Sonos, Google, Amazon and Apple.

“We also have him working on digital research, which is having a look at the metrics radio is reporting for digital assets – social engagements, podcasts and web visits. He is also working with the DAB+ group on putting the app into cars. He has a lot on.”

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