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Supporting Agencies and Advertisers

Continuing our weekly series of what life in lockdown is like for for those on the coalface of the Irish advertising industry, Peter Smyth talks about how media sales agency IRS+ is dealing with the Covid-19 crisis while managing the radio sales for 15 local and regional radio stations.

Little did we know three weeks ago when we officially launched our Local Is Loud positioning just how challenging a time the entire media industry would face as we progressed through the month of March

Of course we’re biased but, for us, what’s been extraordinary since then is seeing the resilience and flexibility of local radio, how the 15 independent stations we represent have responded to the needs of the communities they serve and how, as an “always on” trusted source of information, radio is currently experiencing significant levels of engagement.

As the media sales and marketing hub serving these stations, we’ve been working with agencies and brand owners to develop off the shelf and bespoke creative, advertising sponsorship and digital packages that make their message both resonant and relevant.

1.2m Listeners

In targeting specific demographics at local and national level we have a reach of 1.2 million listeners every week, connecting with 1.1million people on social media. Our stations consistently delivering a 20% share of the total market.

Importantly, as we self-isolate and/or work from home, local radio is also an entertaining form of distraction that keeps us connected to neighbours, the wider community and outside world.

As an agency, working from home was not something that we would typically do.  We had basic WFH solutions in place for the odd time it was needed but generally everyone came to the office every day.  We’re a small team with a great dynamic and would often have a bit of fun together and motivate each other; something that the team is challenged to do virtually.

Like most, we embraced technology that delivered new ways of communicating.  Virtual meetings have become the norm, while our Team message group has never seen so much action.

As matters began to escalate, we invested in new hardware and the technology needed to keep the whole team running from home.  The first learning, especially for those with young children, was that flexibility and understanding fosters trust and personal growth.  The team have often gone above and beyond, working strange hours despite their own personal challenges, to deliver for our clients.

Supporting Brands & Agencies

In normal, pre-coronavirus times, we pull together creative solutions for agencies and clients every day. However, in recent weeks we’ve pivoted to becoming creative in our ways of working.

For clients and agency partners we’re working with them to support their brands and initiatives as effectively as possible.

Recent research undertaken by Kantar highlighted just how important it was for them to continue to advertise and communicate during this time to ensure long term brand health. Just 8% of consumers expect brands to cut advertising, so there’s little risk of it being read as insensitive. It also shows that there is huge risk in the long term if brands cut back radically on their spend.

Listeners Up 67%

The dramatic uplift in listenership and engagement across all our stations strengthens this point.  Collectively we’ve seen a rise in listeners across all stations. Engagement with listeners has also risen with a 67% increase in station website traffic, a 27% average increase of online listens and a 41% average increase in engagement across our social channels

Through our own research we’ve shown how brands who demonstrate commitment and support to local communities through local advertising can reap the rewards.  Recent research from an independent agency, commissioned by IRS+ clearly demonstrated the impact of local radio advertising on online sales.

In response to what’s happening in the marketplace, brand owners have sought to diversify their media mix. We recently introduced a new product ranged called IGNITE and as a result, we have been able to offer “off the shelf” ready to activate radio products. These not only make things easier for agencies but also inspire brands to build creative, authentic connections that resonate with communities around the country. One of these products, “Spotlight” has proved especially popular. Why? Probably because it goes far beyond a so-called standard radio campaign blending radio with social media to inform, educate and serve the needs of listeners and followers.

The Multiplier Effect

What has also been a revelation is seeing brands experience the multiplier effect of combining radio and social media engagement

So, what lies ahead? The answer is that none of us knows. However, I think that it’s safe to say that, after we emerge from this temporary period of Covid-19 that the advertising industry will look different in ways we may not recognise. Meantime the best that any of us can do is to be good citizens personally and corporately, keep the faith and believe in the power of the work we do to help communities and clients through this period.

Peter Smyth is CEO of the radio sales and media solutions agency IRS+