The power of radio – an interview with Heart Kent Managing Director Emma Liddiard

In the age of digital advertising is radio still an effective way to reach your audience? Is radio advertising something that only big brands can use? In this the fifth video of our series we talk to Emma Liddiard, MD of Heart Kent Radio to gain an insight into radio advertising in the 21st century.

Emma started her career in radio in 1996 after a brief flutter in the aviation industry. Following studying for a degree at the University of Glamorgan, Emma maintains she was in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people when the job offer came from Red Dragon FM in Cardiff. Seven years with this station gave her the chance to experience working within many areas of the business – sponsorship and promotions, commercial production and advertising – before being seconded to London on special project work.

Here Emma was in charge of producing an integration plan for Capital Radio following the acquisition of Choice FM in London and following it’s successful completion, the opportunity to stay on and manage the Choice, Kent and London Direct Sales teams. In 2004 Emma moved to Kent to manage Invicta Radio  and, following the successful rebrand to Heart Radio, was appointed Managing Director in 2010.

She has also recently been appointed Chairman of the Kent Institute of Directors which she enjoys alongside being MD for Heart, mother to three year old William, a wife and a horserider.


Video transcript:

Is there a place for radio advertising in today’s rich media environment?

Absolutely, I mean, the richer the media environment gets, I think the more important that radio’s place is. I suppose, the main difference nowadays is that people have less time and more choice. Actually what you have got to do is to make sure that you are a medium that stands out and that people can find time to spend with. The beauty of radio is that it is one of the only mediums that you can consume whilst doing something else. The very power of radio is that it is a secondary medium so that most people are engaged in another activity and that in turn means that “ad avoiders” is very low. Where you might, for example, traditionally fast forward the ads whilst you are watching on-demand, or go and make a cup of tea as people used to do, with radio, you are doing something else so you don’t stop to avoid the adverts. You have therefore less ad avoidance and less ad clutter because you are not surrounded by other ads as well. If you count to 30 seconds quite slowly, that’s the average amount of time you have to hold that listener’s attention – that’s actually quite a long time if you were to sit in silence for 30 seconds. You do take a lot of their attention and it goes in in a sub-conscious way.

Is radio advertising just for big brands, if not, how can it benefit SME’s?

It’s for all sizes of brands. We touched upon just now the way we can actually target certain areas, certain audiences so there are lots of ways you can use radio and the beauty of radio is that it doesn’t really have any snobbery – people from all different social demographics listen to radio; it’s not a matter of “I only read this newspaper because I’m within this unique reader profile”. Actually it spans lots of different markets and lots of different ideals. With the brands, obviously a lot of brands have become household names and they are doing great creative across the UK. The beauty of it is you can become a household name just in Kent. And really, it doesn’t matter to the listeners in Kent whether you are a household name outside of that so we can make you as big as you want to be or as small and local as you want to appear. It’s very easy to see the difference sometimes between a local advert on television versus national one but with radio, I think, have a listen to that and they will all be of a similar quality because it’s easy to do that. The biggest benefit I suppose is that a small business might have versus a national one is that we work with the creative. Radio creative is working with people’s imagination and actually all the work is done in your head so radio creative is very cheap. We don’t have to go on location to Africa – we just have to have a few sound effects, for example.

What impact has mobile & apps had on radio?

It’s been very positive actually. I think what we have to overcome is that the fact we are called radio, so Global Radio, but actually we do a lot more. So from our point of view, when you’re advertising, the more mediums you use, the better it works. The difference is making sure that the message you use runs across all mediums. We do like to work with a client to say let us help you to come up with a concept because if we help you to come up with a concept which is going to be the underpinning of all your advertising and we can make it work on radio, we can be sure it will work on other medium because radio is the hardest one to make work. What can sometimes happen is that somebody comes to us with a concept that they’ve already used in print and they try to make that radio themselves or ask us to do it, it is much more difficult that way round. Let us in at the early stages – it’s not a service we charge for – it’s something we want to be involved with because if we get the idea right and then the creative right, then the advertising will work better and you will come back to us; it’s relationship building. So there’s a phrase we have – use matching luggage – to make sure the message is the same across all medium. With the advent of apps and mobile usage, that has give us more opportunities to get messages out there. From our point of view with apps, we have got our own for every brand and we’ve got some great, great science/databases we can use to monetise them and we can put people’s brand on the apps. We also create them ourselves so we’re in that business of helping people engage their audiences through the right use of apps or even creating a new Facebook page. It just gives us more ways to engage with our audience; as I said before the amount of extra communication we are able to have with our listeners, then this fits into this perfectly. The more we are communicating with them, the more often they engage with us, then the harder your advertising will work so that’s been a brilliant opening for us. If anyone wants to talk to us about advertising rather than radio, they will see that there is a big list of things we do now. Our job is to be able to talk to people about other things and help them pull all their marketing together rather than going to separate different agencies doing different things. It makes sense if you’ve got that one story and that’s making sense across all of those brands. It’s something that we welcome.

In a multichannel campaign what role does radio play?

I think for me, radio is kind of like the glue that holds them all together. In my head I have an image of a great chart actually that brings it to life but if you imagine the average day, of an average person, it’s what happens in their working day; what media did they engage with throughout the day? If you start with waking up, there’s a picture of a radio there (usually) and then you’ve got breakfast time so there’s probably a picture of a radio, maybe some TV and maybe a newspaper. Then you’ve got travelling to work or school – it’s going to be radio, radio, radio, unless you are a commuter and maybe then a newspaper. And then you’ve got throughout the day and really television is quite low throughout the day – that comes into it’s own in the evenings – so throughout the day it’s radio on at work possibly. Lunchtime, maybe a newspaper or magazine and then back to radio in the afternoon; going home, picking up children from school or whatever, then it’s radio on in the car. So actually, if you look at those points where different medium kick in, and you think, right I’ve missed my opportunity with them on one, then what is the one people spend most of their day with – it’s radio so if you’re making sure you’ve got those messages going out, then it kind of glues that whole thing together. As I said earlier, if you’ve got your matching luggage right, then that will work together. So if you’re using the same audio on television, then a short clip of that on radio will replay the television ad in your head and again, if you have a good strong phrase that you’re using in print, then use that in radio and it will help those all work together – and work harder together. For me, if there is something that connects them all, in the cheapest way possible, which is involved in people’s life the most prominently then I’d say it was radio – of course I’d say it was radio but I believe it is relevant.


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