Radiocentre News

Here’s what you missed at Tuning In: Back to Business

The message from Tuning In: Back to Business was clear. Covid-19 may have created uncertainty, but with this upheaval there will be opportunity and radio is in a strong position to help brands recover faster.

Radiocentre’s conference, timed to coincide with more people returning to the office, was livestreamed from the stage at Kings Place, with sessions from high profile leaders, clients, creatives and radio executives. The sessions are all available to watch below.


Siobhan Kenny opens Tuning In: Back to Business

Siobhan Kenny, Radiocentre CEO, opened the morning conference with the message that things are often not as bad as you think when you are in the moment.

She pointed out that we are a creative, energetic industry which has weathered many storms, comparing forecasts of doom in previous crises against reality judged with the benefit of hindsight. The point being that it is often difficult to judge how severe a situation when caught in the eye of the storm.

Giving an overview of where radio is today, she noted: “Radio is 100 years old, but it’s a medium made for our multi-tasking world”. With live radio still dominating time spent with audio, it delivers a different, shared experience, and reminds us that we are part of a greater whole.  An attribute which is particularly important when socialising is restricted.

With flexibility key to the future – a theme that would come up across the morning – radio has two key advantages, allowing brands to adapt messages quickly and get to-air quickly.

Describing herself as a “glass half full person”, Siobhan closed by noting that there are many reasons to worry – but also many reasons to be optimistic. Radio and the whole ad industry will be able to kickstart the recovery.

Martin Glenn: How to retain your marketing budget in a downturn

One of the most experienced C-suite marketers and CEOs, Martin Glenn gave a masterclass on why marketing and advertising has mattered in other downturns, and why everyone should adapt in the time of social distancing.

The former PepsiCo President and CEO of the FA joked that he hoped he was preaching to the converted with Tuning In attendees, before offering tips on how to make the business case for marketing, which has too often been known as the ‘spending department’. He added that the one big truth was that “business failures are marketing failures”.

The first area to get cut in difficult economic climates, Martin told attendees, was insights – but he said that increasing spending in this area was crucial. He gave the example of how insights informed the values and behaviour of the England football team when he was CEO of the FA, and were integral to the team outperforming expectation and really connecting with fans for the first time in many years during the 2018 World Cup.

Martin’s last tip asked marketers to “speak the language of the boardroom”. Pressing the need of companies to survive both the short-term and long-term, he advised that marketers talk to Boards about how marketing impacts future cash flow.  He said that there are great deals to be had on advertising at the moment, and that, with many companies having ripped up their business plans and started again, this is actually a brilliant opportunity for marketers to make their business case. “Fight the urge to hunker down and cut costs,” he said.

Susannah Streeter: Opportunities to succeed in the 90% economy

Financial analyst and commentator Susannah Streeter gave in-depth insight into the potential shapes of our economic recovery, and what brands can learn from those who have done well during lockdown.

Susannah, whose early career included presenting at Galaxy Radio in Bristol and GWR in Swindon, opened her talk at Tuning In: Back to Business by pointing out how her early career helped her understand the best qualities of radio: agile, fast and adaptable, with high production values for low cost and “that unique relationship with the listener”.

Giving insight into the economic landscape ahead of us, Susannah noted that those qualities would be “absolutely key” in the recession. She described the Scrabble-like guesses at what shape our recovery could be: L, K-shaped or a V. Unfortunately, she added, “the only thing we know for sure is the first part of that shape, that deep plunge of 20.4% contraction in GDP for the second quarter”.

With the push towards digital, Susannah suggested that those retailers with strong pre-existing online platforms have done well – but it’s not too late for companies to catch up. Restaurants have proven adaptable with online bookings and opening up streets for outdoor eating – creating innovative solutions for consumers. Susannah also gave the example of Next partnering with Amazon to receive parcels, providing an opportunity to increase footfall and incremental spend.

Returning to radio, Susannah emphasised that its qualities of agility and adaptability and affordability will be important in the months and years to come. Radio’s “intimacy built up with an audience really is unique”, and would also be key, she said.

Katie Bowden: The serendipity of a crisis

Director of Commercial Audio at Global, Katie Bowden set out how brands can benefit from evolving listener behaviour and how radio has been able to showcase its strengths during the pandemic.

In the early days of lockdown, we all saw a more human side of one another, and this was seen in advertising. With radio being a “human medium” and one-to-one channel, Katie praised the smartest of radio advertisers for having always been aware of this.

She pointed to research by Veritonic that showed how the top six grocery retailers advertising in early-lockdown performed above all previous benchmarks. “The ads were deemed more authentic, more trustworthy, more reliable by listeners,” said Katie. She also pointed to eBay replacing a bike for an NHS nurse who’d had hers stolen.

Finance had traditionally underutilised radio, but they had been challenged by an uplift in fraudulent activity and had to promote digital products to consumers. Katie provided a snapshot of how radio had an opportunity in lockdown to re-engage brands on how they might use radio during this time, and the new brands doing so, with 160% growth year-on-year for the food category.

Closing, Katie said: “For me, the strengths of radio have always been clear: flexibility, big audiences, and accessible to both brands and listeners. It feels like there has been a serendipity in the crisis that has given us the opportunity to showcase the medium, and while there is still uncertainty ahead, I really believe that radio brands will play a vital role to rebuild the economy.”

How brands can benefit from evolving listener behaviour

Has upheaval from Covid-19 led to people swapping habits of a lifetime and trying new brands? Yes, according to our latest research, which found that since the start of lockdown, 30% of commercial radio listeners have tried a new brand, 25% higher than non-listeners.

Planning Director Mark Barber and Insight Manager Kamilah Kamara presented the findings of their third wave of Covid-19 research, Radio and the road to recovery, which shows commercial radio listeners are 54% more likely to be influenced by advertising as one of the main reasons for swapping their usual purchase for something new.

The research, conducted with DRG, also investigated listening habits as lockdown has eased and people have begun to return to work and reveals that uplifts in radio listening captured in early lockdown have been maintained following relaxation of lockdown measures, as new behaviours became established. The data highlights how 36% of commercial radio listeners are consuming more radio than they were before lockdown, listening for an extra 94 minutes each day on average.

The duo also revealed that a third (31%) of those surveyed said that they are resuming normal shopping and social activities – especially true of key workers and those returning to work. Those working from home are also leading the charge in supporting the local economy, with 46% spending more in their local areas (compared to 31% on average).

Ian Leslie talks ‘Curiosity and conflict’ at Tuning In: Back to Business

Author and creative strategist Ian Leslie explored the right kind of mindset for companies and individuals to survive and thrive beyond these strange times.

He advised attendees to “think beyond the moment you’re in”, encouraging attendees to prioritise creating future memories – and for brands, to focus on creating brand equity, pointing to the IPA’s research by Les Binet and Peter Field, The Long and Short of It, which suggests 60% of budgets should be spent on brand equity, and 40% on brand activations. Ian pointed out that when we’re in an “economic hole”, media becomes cheap and opportunities open up.

Ian’s second principle focused on curiosity, calling now “the time to ask the big questions”. He said that companies that become incurious about the environment they operate in tend not to last in the long term, pointing to Blockbuster and Kodak as examples. This is particularly relevant when the environment is changing, as it is now – “dragging us into the future”.

The final mindset rule was to use the power of positive conflict. Ian posited that when everyone agrees with each other over something, the chances of that decision or point of view being good are lower than if there had been a real debate. Even if it is the right decision, debates and interrogations of that decision raise its quality, as it becomes more fleshed out.

Radio branded content: How Wickes does it right

Simon Kilby, Bauer Radio’s Chief Revenue Officer, sat down with Shelley Allison, Head of Marketing at Wickes, to discuss the Wickes partnership with the Absolute breakfast show, and how it works so well for both the brand and the radio station.

When its latest deal expires, the partnership will have been in place for 10 years. Shelley was quick to point out that, though the deal is a sponsorship, “it is a partnership in the truest sense,” adding that it is a really important part of Wickes’ channel mix. She described the need to be mindful of what customers were going through, and how they were able to utilise radio to help make sure they were being sensitive to the mood of the nation. Being able to pick up the phone and speak to people at Bauer enabled the brand to flex and change based on what the station was picking up from listeners, with radio the fastest to adapt in March.

She added that radio was a point of certainty for people whose lives had been made uncertain, with the Dave Berry breakfast show still there for people at the same time every day, providing companionship for listeners. Shelley showcased the Good Deed Register during lockdown as a feature that listeners responded to, as it captured the mood of the nation during lockdown of people wanting to help others.

Tune in or lose out: How listening to the mood of the nation is good for creativity and business

Vicki Maguire, Chief Creative Officer at Havas London, gave a rousing call for adland to listen to the mood of the nation, and set out why doing so is crucial to creative success in tough times.

Eight weeks into a new job Vicki found herself working from home, trying to do the best for her brands. “The sad truth is that we as an industry have always been a bit behind the curve in terms of knowing what the nation is thinking and feeling,” she said. Vicki called for attendees to get out of their advertising and London bubbles and “listen, then talk”.

The shared experience of Zoom calls in spare rooms has lifted the veil between client-agency relationships, offering a side to people that might have never been seen otherwise. The forced intimacy has given insight into lives that is worth valuing, according to Vicki. She also warned brands not to Covid-wash with “now, more than ever” ads.

Vicki started a vintage sweet shop business in 2008, because she knew sherbet lemons could help people feel better during the recession. Speaking positively, she added that she knew creativity would find a way, and that when your back is to the wall, “the only place you can go is forward”. Things will get better.

Vicki’s final point was: “Don’t be afraid.” Praising the industry’s creativity, she called for advertising to celebrate what it does and find a meaningful role.