independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Talk not so cheap as station spends ?1m on advertising launch

George Hook . . . 'will need to raise profile'

OVER ?1m will be spent on persuading people across the country to tune in to Newstalk, with regional newspaper advertising kicking off the campaign.

The station will have two challenges when it goes national from tomorrow - to get people to sample it and to turn its relatively low-profile line of presenters into household names.

Michael Markey, Newstalk's marketing manager, has been been responsible for the launch campaign, which assumes that listeners around the country will not know the station.

As well as raising awareness nationally, a second objective is to retain and recruit more Dublin fans.

Newstalk has modernised its logo, focusing on the word 'talk' in the new branding.

Mr Markey said that the initial campaign will be a brand-building one rather than a personality-driven campaign, although national names such as George Hook and Sean Moncrieff will feature.

Paul McCabe, of media buyer MCM, said that one of the biggest challenges for the station will be the fact that a major name is not included in the line-up.

He said that he was surprised that Claire Byrne was joining the station - describing her as "an unknown quantity" - and by the fact that Newstalk has opted for a dual presenter format.

The success of the breakfast show hangs on the on-air relationship between Byrne and co-presenter Ger Gilroy.

"If the chemistry is not right, it could be dreadful," he said. "But they're both young, which is fantastic and could be appealing."

Mr McCabe said that the new schedule would have a challenge to make an impact nationally and the revamped programming would make "a lot of sense if it was reconfiguring for the Dublin market".

On the plus side, he said that the fact that Newstalk had appointed a regular business reporter for its morning slot could "really give RTE a run for their money".

Mr McCabe believes that George Hook will need to build his profile outside of Dublin, but added that he had "huge expectations" that the success of this show would work outside of the city.

He said that he did not believe that RTE Radio 1's response to the threat of Newstalk was radical, although he expects Derek Mooney will be very successful in his new home.

However, he points out that Newstalk "didn't really batter Radio 1 in Dublin" and that Newstalk actually brought more listeners into talk radio, attracting "disillusioned" listeners. Gary Power, of Saor Communications, also said that he was surprised that there weren't a few bigger names on the line-up, but added that the station had to provide an alternative sound.

He said that getting the morning show right would be crucial to the success of the station. "It's key - if you get people listening at the start of the day, there a good chance that you will keep them."

Mr Power also said that the format has worked well in more developed radio markets and that there is definitely an appetite for a lighter take on the news. "Radio 1 has excellent content, brilliant research, excellent journalism - but I don't particularly want that all the time," he said.

Mr Power said that Newstalk will take time to take off around the country, but he is optimistic about its prospect. Should RTE be worried? "Not this year," he said.

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