The Power of Radio: Talk host, media buyer and a sales director

• Mediaweek Podcast with 2GB’s Ben Fordham, Wavemaker’s Philippa Noilea Tani & SCA’s Brian Gallagher

A special all-star panel joined the Mediaweek Podcast this week to talk about the power of radio advertising, especially around the time of elections in NSW and soon federally.

The discussion was set against the backdrop of good times for the sector. Radio ad revenue was up 3.4% YOY to $809m in 2018 because audiences have been growing – up 12% over the past five years and by 22% over the past decade.

Our guest panel was Ben Fordham (2GB drive), Philippa Noilea Tani (Wavemaker’s Sydney trading director) and Brian Gallagher (Chief sales officer, Southern Cross Austereo).

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Things got off to a nervous start when Fordham asked SCA’s chief sales officer why people would possibly advertise on his FM stations when they could be advertising on 2GB.

“They could advertise on both Ben, if they are really smart,” said Gallagher, being very diplomatic.

Stuck in the middle was Noilea Tani who asked both the media veterans to “play nice”!

Mediaweek also took the opportunity to ask Fordham if he had any update about contract negotiations underway at the station.

“It may not surprise you James, but I am not privy to any of those negotiations [between Alan Jones and management].”

Fordham added he’d love to be able to eavesdrop while the contract talks are underway. He also noted he hoped 2GB contributor Andrew Bolt might continue with the broadcaster after contract talks. As to his own future: “I’m not going anywhere, I am locked in for the next four years.”

We also asked Fordham about his decision, several years ago now, to step back from TV to focus on his radio career.

“Radio has always been my thing and I started in radio when I was 15 as a work experience kid on Alan Jones’ show. I hope TV will always be there in some way, shape or form, but my base is always radio. I love radio, I get the most enjoyment out of it and I find it the most rewarding thing I do.”

The 2GB host loves live reads

One of the big revenue earners at 2GB and other stations around Australia, is live reads. Fordham immediately warmed to the subject.

There was a day last week when I only has seven and I texted sales to asks what was happening. I am much more comfortable when we have about 20 because that says to me the money is coming through the door.

He added: “We put a lot of effort into the live reads and we put a lot of creativity into it as well to ensure they are as good as they can be to capture people’s attention.”

Fordham also explained the instant feedback advertisers can get. “If I read the ad at 4.45pm and the phone starts ringing at 4.46pm then they know I have done my job.”

Later in the podcast he detailed the live reads he was doing that day.

Gallagher said that live reads are also important to FM radio, “they are a major part of the way we go to market. Some advertisers are more comfortable with a live read and require them more often. Some of the big brand advertisers are fairly focused on their 30-second commercial module so they can run it ubiquitously across all the stations.

“We work closely with a lot of advertisers on their live reads not only for cap city stations, but right across our regional feeds as well. We run hundreds of live reads a day.”

Noilea Tani said what you recommend to a client comes down to what you are trying to achieve with radio. “Some big brands have well-established products and established messages and it is just about frequency of messages. You might have other brands that have credibility challenges or trust issues and for us that is where live reads are so much more powerful.

“You can also tell much deeper stories when it comes to live reads.”

As to how many times an ad needs to be played to get the message across, Noilea Tani said: “It is a balancing act. We have some clients where we identify that frequency is exactly what they need. But we never want to get to the stage where we are that annoying ad.”

Fordham asked the Sydney trading director if ads get a better reaction when run on FM radio.

“I have to be careful what I say here. [Laughs]”

He tried again: “Do they get a better bang for their buck out of the AM?”

Noilea Tani: “It comes down to targeting. There is a good place for 2GB on a lot of our recommendations and we have an annual commitment to 2GB and Macquarie Radio.” She also added the agency spends with the FM networks: “They are all our friends.”

Election time: Opportunities and challenges

Gallagher said he expected political parties would soon start ramping up their radio spend on ads prior to the federal election. He said there had been some recent significant activity ahead of the NSW vote this week.

He said the parties recognise the real advantage radio has: “We are very connected to our communities. The #1 attraction to radio is the level of trust.

As to brands avoiding the noise around and election, Noilea Tani said there was no hard and fast recommendation for clients. “You can get a lot of clutter around elections or other major events like football finals and Olympics. Some advertisers tend to go live before the event or go live after it. For other advertisers who are always on, they don’t change their approach. They remain advertising 52 weeks a year.”

She said because the ad market is so short term at present there hasn’t been too much disruption so far.

When asked about the size of radio audiences around major events, Gallagher said: “I don’t think there is a massive shift in consumer behaviour around the way people choose to listen to their favourite radio stations.” He said they are able to track listening patterns in real time by looking at the consumer traffic for the SCA digital signals via listening on its apps.

Fordham noted some brands hold back a little with concerns consumers are careful to lock in major investments around the time of an election.

Top Photo: Ben Fordham with James Manning, Philippa Noilea Tani and Brian Gallagher

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