Thought Leadership

Growth, brand safety and new tech: radio has it all

Last week, Radiocentre held its annual Tuning In event, focused on how marketers should re-evaluate radio. This is an important issue to address as the advertising world continues to move at an unprecedented fast pace. So, what are the issues confronting radio today and how is it faring?


Firstly, radio is growing, as evidenced by this week’s Rajar results. This is mostly driven by the increase in digital radio listening, up 3.9% yoy; this rises to a significant 5.6% yoy when it comes to commercial radio specifically. Advertisers are listening to this consumer demand and understand the power of radio – the latest Advertising Association and Warc Expenditure Report showed a predicted 3.3% ad spend growth this year.


Secondly, radio must also play a key role to address the ongoing question of trust and transparency. I sat on a panel discussing brand safety at Tuning In, alongside Alexi Mostrous from The Times, whose piece on Google and YouTube kick started this snowballing conversation for brands. I do believe that we live in exciting and fast moving times, with technological innovation a key part of our industry, but context and the power of brands is incredibly important and somewhere along the way, this seems to have been forgotten. Radio can be confident in its credentials as a brand safe environment – there is no question over where customer ads are placed. When it comes to transparency in measurement, Rajar ensures everyone plays by the same rules; I can’t help thinking what would have happened if it had suddenly admitted its measurement was wrong? We all need to be accountable and as an industry we need to keep measurement and transparency at the top of our priority list.


Thirdly, there is the challenge faced by the fast rise of digital technology. Across the media spectrum, traditional media has (rightly) fought back against this argument, pointing out that whilst digital offers something new, likewise there are aspects that are unique to each medium. When it comes to radio though, digital has genuinely offered a new perspective, leading to an evolution of an industry in rude health. The principles of creating influential brands remain the same – we pride ourselves on the powerful combination of audience insight and editorial instinct across all brands and radio is no different. By taking on aspects such as podcast development, playlist curation and new ad tech, radio has proven its ability to adapt to new technology and use it to its advantage, remaining relevant. We see this as an opportunity to deliver more influential content to multiplatform audiences, even for brands that didn’t start out in audio. A great example of this is The Debrief, which recently launched its first podcast in association with the Financial Services Compensation Team, proving that the opportunities in audio can add a real advantage to brands. Looking more at playlists, Three’s partnership with KISS was the first in-app commercial content for one of our radio brands. This consisted of a bespoke playlist in the KISS Kube mobile app – something we’re seeing growing demand for. On ad tech, our InStream+ technology allows commercial partners a much more targeted approach, using data provided by ‘logged in’ listeners. We’ve seen real success for the likes of Jaguar and Lidl using the technology and the next step for us is moving it into dynamic creative. We see that as a real opportunity, with brands able to serve different creative depending on data.


New research from Radiocentre, launched at the event, looked at another big trend for this year – the rise of voice-activated technology and its relationship with radio. Interestingly, it showed that the explosion of voice activated tech is facilitating radio’s growth, with 72% of all audio entertainment time on the Amazon Echo (which at the time of research was the only offering in the UK market) is spent listening to radio. Considering that 9% of UK households own one or more Amazon Echo devices, and that’s only since its launch last year, that provides a huge opportunity for radio. It scores highly as the reason people use Echo throughout the day – the second most popular reason in the morning (63%) and third in the evening (54%) – and 71% of Echo users listen more often to radio as a result. For advertisers, the key headline is that despite the debate around whether the traditional paid for advertising model will work on screenless voice activation devices, the evidence suggests that it will. The devices do seem to foster a positive environment for advertisers’ messages, with 51% of daily users recalling hearing advertising via the Echo; interestingly radio is seen to be the most natural home for audio advertising within this. One note of caution - brands should be careful not to be seen as intruding in the user/Echo relationship and should handle consumer interactions with sensitivity. Another challenge is audio search and how advertisers go about getting your brand front and centre of Alexa’s mind? Other opportunities lie in brand skills, but as with other branded content, advertisers need to ensure they are bringing genuine value to the user.


In conclusion, radio is growing, in both its traditional and digital format, and also remains credible and brand safe. Building on this, the evolution of audio tech means that opportunities for brands are exploding as radio continues to grow with the times. Marketers need to consider radio’s merits when it comes to spend, as it brings together the best of a traditional medium with the most exciting digital development.