the attention debate, new need states and a pinch of spice

The conference took place in central London on 20 September 2022 and attracted 300 of the leading figures in the UK radio industry, including advertising and media executives as well as top air talent.

Radio still rules

Despite the huge media attention focused on new listening platforms, radio still holds the lead: 90 percent of car buyers say radio should be standard in every new car.

The value of reliable, authentic audio entertainment has never been greater, and this theme ran through all of the day’s presentations. Steven Seddon, Marketing Director at travel specialist On The Beach spoke to Ronan and Harriet about the value of his company’s partnership with Magic Breakfast.

“What’s really important to us as a Challenger brand is making sure the fit is right,” he said. “The energy and fun of the show really aligns with our brand values. The relationship with Bauer has allowed us to shoot longer spots and you have the authenticity of Ronan and Harriet naturally discussing the holidays. We believe this will change the thinking.”

In his presentation, Mark Barber, Radiocentre Planning Director, outlined why audiences keep choosing radio. Linear radio, he explained, satisfies needs that on-demand cannot. It offers a relationship with moderators that are hard to come by for on-demand services. As a result, Barber believes the total number of commercial radio stations has continued to grow, from just over 505 million listening hours in 2014 to over 600 million today.

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MediaCom’s Director of Strategy, Katy Harkness, surprised the audience by beginning with a brief detour into evolutionary biology. She explained how the brain allocates its capacity for both passive and active attention and why radio is perfect for advertising that takes advantage of passive attention.

Given that we’re only actively paying attention five percent of the time, any medium that successfully engages us when we’re passively paying attention is a winner. Radio is that medium.

Meanwhile, Global’s Creative Director Jo McCrostie and Strategy Director Ailsa MacKenzie demonstrated that audio is the best medium for attracting attention because people are constantly listening and can process sounds at different levels.

89 percent of drivers prefer listening to the radio to any other audio medium. That was the message conveyed by Radioplayer’s Laurence Harrison in a high-profile presentation at Radiocentre’s Tuning In conference.

Harrison’s presentation, Automotive Partnership Director at Radioplayer, covered the latest developments in in-car audio. Among other things, he highlighted the trends in the latest in-car entertainment centers, which are increasingly self-contained and customizable with their own app stores, eliminating the need for phone syncing. He also spoke about the success of the radio player, which powers the audio in a third of all new cars.

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What’s next for radio

Michael Gove, MP and former Cabinet Secretary, spoke about the growing importance and international competitiveness of British commercial broadcasting, in particular voice radio. Radio, he told the audience, is not only more trustworthy than television, but also than print media. He spoke of the government’s intention to look again at how the sector is regulated to ensure the framework under which commercial radio operates is tailored to encourage maximum growth and innovation.

In a lively joint presentation, Kim Aspeling, Director of Creative Production at A Million Ads, David Courtier-Dutton, CEO of SoundOut, and Hannah Charman, co-founder of Sister Music, discussed what they see as leading audio trends.

Courtier-Dutton spoke about the increasing use of AI to brand music. He explained that this is an increasingly efficient way to ensure that the music used in marketing is as effective as possible.

Charman spoke of the need for gender diversity in music. Diversity, she said, doesn’t just pertain to on-air talent: It’s necessary across the board, including the commercial breaks. Without gender diversity, she said, it won’t be able to deliver music that’s “unique, proprietary and authentic” as brands demand. Finally, Aspeling spoke of the need for “opaque personalization” that is so subtle that the listener doesn’t realize it’s tailored precisely to their needs and tastes.

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In one of the most moving presentations of the day, Sarah Mayall, Head of Brand Marketing at HSBC, and Mike Watson, Creative Director at Wunderman Thompson spoke about how their campaigns are using radio advertising to address the issues of financial exclusion and homelessness. “The range of the radio is phenomenal,” said Watson. “And what I love about radio is that it’s the theater of thoughts.”

The future looks bright

However, it was not just a serious and topical debate. Spice Girl Melanie C brought glamor and zest to the event, entertaining attendees with excerpts from her new autobiography. She also spoke about meeting King Charles and spoke about the importance of radio in her early career and its continuing importance for new artists today.

Matt Payton, CEO of Radiocentre, summed up the feeling of an eventful event. “The good news for advertisers is that the number of commercial audio opportunities centered on radio is growing,” he said. “There is significant and growing evidence of the power and effectiveness of radio – more than any other medium.”

To see all the Tuning In 2022 presentations, visit Radiocentre’s YouTube channel

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