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Postscript: What 2015 holds after an intriguing year

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Big surprise: Ray D'Arcy's return to RTE.

Big surprise: Ray D'Arcy's return to RTE.

Irish and Munster rugby player, Simon Zebo is a race ambassador and driver of the Catcher Car for the Irish race of the 2015 Wings for Life World Run

Irish and Munster rugby player, Simon Zebo is a race ambassador and driver of the Catcher Car for the Irish race of the 2015 Wings for Life World Run

?INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Mary Curtis UTV Ireland

Mary Curtis UTV Ireland

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Big surprise: Ray D'Arcy's return to RTE.

With the festive season a dim memory, and now fully into the swing of 2015, it's worth considering how those in Irish marketing and media started off this time last year. With cautious confidence in job prospects and budgets, a survey for Murray's MCSquared consumer division pointed to further growth in digital brand communications. Almost 60pc of the 142 senior Marketing Institute members interviewed planned an increase in their digital spend.

Digital accounted for a quarter of marketing spend. Some 8pc of brand owners allocate over half of spend and 23pc commit between a quarter and half to digital. Only 4pc of brand guardians ignore digital entirely. Yet many marketers struggle with how best to use and integrate digital marketing into their overall strategy and assess its contribution to the bottom line.

The study pointed to a more upbeat mood, with 39pc of marketers expecting staff levels across the business to increase, with 27pc forecasting a boost in marketing recruitment.

So while most marketers were upbeat about prospects for the year ahead, they knew they still needed to grapple with how best to get their businesses up to speed with the plethora of social media channels. Many clients said they struggled with the balance between their in-house resources and their agencies.

Grainne O'Brien, director of MCSquared, said the marketing outlook was more positive than at any time in the past six years. All in all, not much appears to have changed. A stream of new forecast reports will be released in the coming weeks. While the economy is in recovery mode and the pace is gradually picking up, the marathon still has a long way to go.

* Such was the slow motion movement on the barometer for Irish radio audiences - the Joint National Listenership Report (JNLR) - media agencies must have thought they fell asleep and woke up again repeatedly in recent years only to find the latest book had only the most minor changes.

But the latest JNLR threw up some interesting headline trends. Four years ago, everyday listenership of all radio among the 65 and over age group stood at 14pc, now the figure is at 17pc. On the other hand, the radio market among 15 to 24-year-olds is down four points to 18pc. Yet the irony is that while overall demand for radio is ageing, youth stations saw audiences jump.

While FM104 still leads the music scene in Dublin, 98FM made a comeback with a 2pc rise, largely due to the Ray Foley breakfast 'experiment', and Spin 1038 was up by 4pc.

Pat Kenny's morning show on Newstalk doubled its audience in the last year, up from 78,000 to 143,000 listeners. But more dial movement is needed as his replacement over at RTE Radio 1, Seán O'Rourke still has over twice Kenny's audience with 295,000 listeners.

As the year came to an end, the big surprise was Ray D'Arcy's return to RTE, after 14 years at Today FM. The presenter, above, will take over from Derek Mooney on Radio 1 weekday afternoons from February.

Today FM's loss is most definitely RTE's gain. It remains to be seen as to whether Ryan Tubridy, buoyed by his much-needed 27,000 gain in listeners to take him to 171,000, will replace John Murray on Radio 1 weekday mornings.

As regards 2fm, no truer words were said last year than by the station's boss, Dan Healy. Known for his candour, Healy told the Radiodays Europe conference in Dublin's Convention Centre that radio stations have to be "destroyed" before they can be restored and that's why the loss-making 2fm had to undergo a radical overhaul after Gerry Ryan's sudden death. 2fm's national audience share plummeted from 12pc in 2010 to 7.6pc. But as Starcom's managing director Craig Farrell later remarked, 2fm was "screwed" before Healy's appointment.

* More so than radio, the focus for media agencies and advertisers in 2015 will be on TV. UTV Ireland's full-on arrival in the Republic sees more competition for TV3, RTE and Sky. The new station aims to take about €25m in ad revenue in its first year and industry sources are adamant that TV3 have most to be worried about.

The Doughty Hanson-owned company is not ignoring the threat. A host of new shows are being rolled out as UTV Ireland pushes its news and current affairs offering. All eyes will be on TV3's new soap, Red Rock, to see whether or not it call pull in viewers and compensate for the loss of Coronation Street and Emmerdale. UTV Ireland's head of channel, Mary Curtis, managed to convince Pat Kenny to join them, which was a relief all round in Macken House and gave the new channel some respite from its critics in adland. Since then, a host of accomplished news journalists have signed up. But locally produced shows will be the big challenge for UTV Ireland as the year progresses. UTV's launch may start as a battle which could end up in all-out war.

* Munster and Ireland rugby star Simon Zebo took to the Vico Road in Dalkey to promote his role as race ambassador and driver of the Honda Catcher Car for the Irish leg of the international Wings for Life Run coming up on May 3. Runners of all abilities from six continents and 34 countries will take part in the race where runners are told "the finish line catches you". The race starts in Dun Laoghaire and moves southwards along the coast to Greystones. All of the €20 entry fee goes to fund spinal cord injury research.

Michael Cullen is editor of Marketing.ie: cullen@marketing.ie

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