My Big Idea: Advertising is music to my ears
AFTER decades in broadcasting, Dublin man Enda Murphy spotted a gap in the market for bespoke radio programmes aimed at shoppers. The father of three promptly launched new company Air Serv, which provides tailored radio stations for shopping centres and other areas with high footfall.
'I saw a need for something more than the generic "muzak" that's played in shopping centres. These are locations where listeners are primed to shop. They are at the point of purchase, with spending on their minds; it's an opportune time to advertise. So I launched Air Serv with my partner Andy Matthews in April of last year.
We offer tailored radio, streamed over the internet from our offices in Sandyford, usually broadcast on the existing PA systems that shopping centres already have. The client briefs us and we build the programme around that. For example, one of our clients is The Square Tallaght, where the majority of customers are in the 25-54 bracket with a female bias, so we programme accordingly.
The broadcasts are music-orientated, with occasional "sweepers" about the shopping centre and station, and commercial ad breaks. There's only one commercial per ad break, to minimise clutter. At the moment we're reaching 1.25 million listeners a week – that puts us in the same league as RTE.
Our first client was Whitewater Shopping Centre in Newbrige, followed by the Harcourt Group, which owns six shopping centres around the country, and then The Square Tallaght. We're also in final-stage negotiations with Dublin's Ilac Centre.
My background is in broadcasting and advertising. I started presenting in 1991 with FM104 and since then I've worked for 98FM and 2FM. I also set up my own radio sales agency, On Air. My contacts have proved to be invaluable, especially in the very early days of the business.
The company has been self-funded so far but if a couple of big contracts come through in the next few months, we will look for outside funding. We're expanding and expect to have hired five extra people by the end of the year, including sales reps and a studio manager.
Our revenue comes from selling advertising space – the shopping centres don't pay any fee. We recently ran a very successful campaign for Specsavers, focusing on their 'buy one, get one free' offer, sending out 10 ads a day, seven days a week. We're in a lucky position – we have been profitable very early in the company's life span. We expect to be making a really decent profit within 18 months. The primary focus now is expanding into more locations.
The biggest challenge in getting the business up and running was getting advertisers to understand why it was a good idea. Surf may not have a physical store in a shopping centre, but it's worth their while advertising there if there is a Tesco.