Announced just weeks after GCap London's managing director Fru Hazlitt called for better-quality radio advertising, the winning entries at this year's Media Week/GCap Radio Planning Awards will serve as a timely reminder of the potential for innovative and effective campaigns, even with limited funds.
The success of the Grand Prix-winning Autoglass campaign, planned by Universal McCann, is testament to the power of radio to take advantage of that experience, in this case by communicating the need to address windscreen damage when customers are staring right through the problem.
Russell Place, chief strategy officer at Universal McCann, says: "Radio was the standout medium because of the in-car environment, the flexibility to scale up or scale down the campaign and, finally, because of the huge reach."
Radio offers a low avoidance medium through which to hit consumers with a simple and consistent message, in an authoritative manner. It is also unique as the only in-car medium, says Andrew Harrison, chief executive of the RadioCentre and member of the judging panel.
"For Autoglass, that makes for a very strong call to action and a fantastic contextual fit," he explains.
Starcom's winning campaign for the Home Office, which aired listeners' experiences of the new Stop and Search scheme in a live forum on Choice FM, was achieved on a budget of just £134,000. As commercial radio fights for advertising spend in a market increasingly crowded by online media, radio planning has evolved beyond traditional spot campaigns, says Starcom's radio manager Thomas Balaam.
"Commercial radio attracts as many if not more listeners (than in the past), but the audience is more fragmented. That does mean you can be clever with radio planning, hitting niche audiences in a niche way, with little wastage," he says.
Being clever means working more closely with media owners - using their knowledge of listeners' lifestyles to create targeted campaigns, rather than buying off-the-peg solutions from a creative agency.
For instance, Vizeum partnered with the station it felt represented the home of grassroots football, Virgin Radio, to promote sports drink Powerade through coaching teams of amateur players. Similarly, Balaam said teaming up with Choice FM was a "no-brainer" because it spoke to the campaign's target audience of young urban communities.
For the Home Office in particular, building trust among listeners and awareness of what could easily be dismissed as a partial, and patronising, government message, was a key focus of the campaign.
Starcom wanted to capitalise on the positive relationship between station and audience, spreading the word via Choice DJs, who offered friendly advice to young people on their rights vis-a-vis the police.
Advertisers have long used DJ endorsement to tap into editorial content and promote brand loyalty. More than ever, they are seeking to engage listeners on a personal level through live recommendations, confident in the knowledge that radio remains one of the most trusted sources of news and entertainment.
Krane Jeffery, associate director of sponsorship at Carat, worked with sponsorship manager Janet Dinger to boost the perception of Royal Mail's Special Delivery service as a cheaper and more reliable alternative to courier bikes.
They came up with the idea of using Royal Mail to deliver prizes won in on-air promotions, which increased the credibility of the message and exploited the immediacy and excitement of radio.
"Looking at the entries, you can see that radio planning now is about much more than buying tactically. It's about trying to use the listener experience," Jeffery says.
The RadioCentre's Harrison believes that radio's strength is twofold. Firstly, it acts as a natural complement to TV or press advertising, amplifying the core brand message as part of a multimedia campaign.
"Radio is solely an audio medium, whereas every other medium is visual," Harrison points out. "So, radio complements all media and all activities."
Secondly, it meshes particularly well with online. According to research by the Radio Advertising Bureau, 67% of internet users listen to the radio while online, which provides opportunities for advertisers to drive listeners to relevant websites.
Moreover, radio still has a big reach: 60% for commercial radio and 90% across all radio. Harrison says: "There is more reach overall because there are more occasions for reach. It used to be the case that people listened to the radio while showering or driving, but now it's available on more devices such as mobile phones and iPods. Radio is uniquely portable and accessible."
- Grand Prix Award and Outstanding Campaign above £250,000
Winner: Amanda Barrett, Russell Place & Anthony Reilly, Universal McCann
Result: 21% increase in calls direct to Autoglass, 150% increase in unique visitors to website
- Outstanding Campaign below £250,000
Winner: Thomas Balaam, Starcom
Client: COI Home Office
Result: A huge response to Stop and Search live forum on Choice FM
- Outstanding use of radio in a multimedia campaign
Winner: Phil Grimmett, Vizeum
Result: 60% increase in volume period on period. Volume share in February 2007 was more than 33%
- Outstanding creative use of radio
Winner: Krane Jeffery & Janet Dinger, Carat
Client: Royal Mail Special Delivery
Result: Among consumers, radio activity raised awareness of Special DeliveryTM Next Day by 10% and Special DeliveryTM 9am by 16%.