Abraham Thomas, CEO, Radio City 91.1FM believes that creativity in the broadcasting industry had hit a flat note in the past two decades. Clients and advertising agencies were sending creatives that were created for TV rather than for radio. That’s when it hit him – why not create an in-house integrated branding solutions division that could offer clients 360° marketing experiential solutions?
He tells Vinita Bhatia that since Audacity was started in January 2016, it has worked with big ticket brands including Colors, ITC and OLX. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Since you joined Radio City in November 2015, what are some changes that have you made in the company?
There were a few things that we introduced since I joined, but it was more of the brand’s ongoing evolution. We launched Audacity, an in-house creative hotspot that we put together of the best radio talent to create various radio solution for clients. It works like an internal ad agency and we work with customers across markets to create musical logos, 360° marketing experiential solutions, etc, to improve creative options we offer to our clients.
“We launched Audacity, an in-house creative hotspot that we put together of the best radio talent to create various radio solution for clients” – Abraham Thomas, CEO, Radio City
What necessitated the creation of agency for a radio broadcasting company?
It was because radio innovation had reached a plateau. Everyone was doing some content, but there was some need to create some differentiating brand solutions. Advertising agencies per se are very focused around television and radio creative is typically an offshoot of what they have created for TV. Even the talent that works on it are more familiar with audio and TV, whereas radio has its own intrinsic properties that only a radio professional understands.
So, we decided to take creativity in radio solutions to the next level and have had some fantastic results in the past six months.
How are brands reacting to this idea?
Since they began, radio companies would write a script, record a scratch – that is how they educated clients about radio content. 15 years later, we were still doing the same thing and had reached a certain flat terrain. It was time to offer integrated brand solutions; and that is what Audacity is all about.
Interestingly, advertising agencies are beginning to use us, because they see the value we are bringing in given that their primary focus is around TV. And brands are also appreciating it. We have created solutions for brands like Colors, ITC, OLX, etc.
We are in the business of creating value for our clients, so Audacity was a logical extension for us to move up the value chain. Clients were relying on their existing agencies to do radio creative, though most focus on that, since they were more concentrated on TV. It is not uncommon for an agency to send us audio of a TV scene and play this as the audio track. But they forget that radio is a medium that has to be treated differently. Hence we saw a gap for a dedicated radio creative here to be fulfilled and we launched Audacity in January 2016.
You have repositioned your brand recently. Why did you take that decision?
People are not listening to radio, but are consuming content across multiple media. We currently have stations in 28 cities and we will soon be across 39 cities. However, what differentiates us is that we are positioning ourselves are 39 local brands driven by one common brand – Radio City.
That explains our tagline, Rag Rag Mein Daude City. That re-emphasises our positioning that we represent the city and the city runs through our vein. We went for micro-city programming where despite being a national brand, we don’t talk about cities as a whole, but have broken cities into zones and talk about micro-cities, with features like ‘Radio City Ke Kone Kone Se’.
“Ultimately consumers will go wherever they will get relevant, interesting content. And today they are spoilt for choice.” – Abraham Thomas, CEO, Radio City
Will Radio Mantra cease to exist now that Radio City is going to be present in 39 cities?
Radio Mantra, which is owned by the promoters of Jagran Prakashan Ltd (JPL), is getting integrated into Radio City’s holding company, Music Broadcast. So soon we will be one uniform network, but that is in process (JPL had acquired Music Broadcast last year). Currently, Radio Mantra and Radio City are two different brands. But operationally, they are run as one network. So their sales and marketing are common.
Radio is becoming a very visual medium with technologies as globally consumers shifting towards concepts like live broadcasting. Do you see that happening in India too?
Oh yes, because consumers are not concerned about the platform, they just want good content – either information or entertainment. They will consume it wherever it is conveniently available to them; in a relevant platform, in a format that they like. Hence, we do not look at radio as a frequency, but as a platform where we disseminate content.
We already have a very active online platform, planetradiocity.com. Similarly, we have some great on-ground properties, going by our belief that consumers consume content, irrespective of the platform.
What innovations are you doing on your online platform to grab more eyeballs?
We already have some distinctive work on planetradiocity.com in the form of Freedom Awards, which we instituted in 2001. Additionally it hosts over 4000-odd songs of indie artists, so we are giving lot of impetus to independent song makers there. We are now moving to other genres like comedy.
How are you trying to monetise these alternative platforms?
There are synergies we are exploiting along with the frequency as well as with on-ground activities as part of our integrated monetisation strategy. Some of our revenues are standalone for the online platform, but some are combined for the network.
This year around 345 stations are expected to start operations in India. How are you going to deal with this increased competition vying for the same set of audience?
Radio is a very local medium, so you are competing at a city level and not a national level, since the frequency is not available in other markets. Having said that, as cities get more radio frequencies, of course, the competition will increase. Hence, it is always about creating great content, because ultimately consumers will go wherever they will get relevant, interesting content. And today they are spoilt for choice.
So, we will come up with one big idea every quarter. We just launched Gig City, where we signed up with leading artists to provide a live multi-city simulcast of a concert. Spanning across 12 weeks, our radio stations will broadcast live performances which the audience can catch up with without having to struggle to reach at a given venue.