Call goes out to introduce radio ratings

The Middle East’s radio industry has been hit by a clamour of calls demanding more professionalism in the market.

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By  Tim Addington Published  November 27, 2005

The Middle East’s radio industry has been hit by a clamour of calls demanding more professionalism in the market. While creatives have warned of the dire quality of most locally-made radio advertisements in the region, the stations have urged they do not get left out of the growing debate about auditing. Kamal Ani Mohandas, sales and marketing manager for Emirates Media Incorporated’s stations Radio 1 and Radio 2 in the UAE, said the time had now come for a radio watchdog to create a ratings system to measure audiences. While the debate surrounding television people metering and publishing audits has intensified over recent months, radio has so far been largely left out of the discussion. She said it should be “mandatory” for all radio stations to be held accountable to advertisers, which would then help to stop the constant “undercutting” of prices between stations. “Every single advertiser wants to be on breakfast or drive time,” Mohandas said. “How do you tell them that if they want to be on prime time they have to pay this much. Currently I can’t justify that. If someone turns around to me and says ‘prove to me that this show is popular’, besides me giving the spiel, I can’t quantify it. There has to be a governing body for music policy and advertisements. We as an industry should be held accountable.” In other countries around the world, radio ratings are issued frequently and are based on a sample audience recording what they listen to in diaries, or the use of technology that is able to monitor what station they are listening to and at what time. But Mohandas said that it was up to media agencies, which she says make up 65% of radio ad sales, to demand that the radio industry adopts a measurement system. “I would think that because they [media agencies] have such a strong hold on the media, they should insist. It should be mandatory that this should happen. “How are they proving to clients that their ads are reaching their audience? “We have been struggling to prove that it works by doing SMS competitions, by giving them [advertisers] e-mail addressees and telephone numbers, because that is the only way we can prove that we’ve even done a competition.” She added: “Radio has always been considered a subsidiary medium. We need to educate people on how radio works and how powerful it is, and the only way we can really do that is if we have ratings.” Tim Klassen, head of programming at Channel 4 FM in Ajman and presenter of the breakfast show, backed the call. “It would be great if everybody knew where they stood,” he said. “One of the issues is that we have never had a formal system here. People have made radio buys based on intuition.” Meanwhile, radio creatives last week poured scorn on the advertising industry’s creative efforts for radio. Abraham Varughese, a copywriter for TBWA\Raad, told Campaign: “There’s nothing really memorable out there.” And Nadim Attieh, station manager of Jordanian station Beat FM, said advertisers themselves were to blame. “They are not yet ready to accept creative commercials, like funky ones or funny ones,” he said. Michael Fillon, a radio copywriter for Leo Burnett in Dubai agreed: “They think that for radio you don’t have to be creative.”

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