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Opinion: Radio’s Future Looks Bright

With yet another solid set of figures from the JNLR last week and the work of Radiocentre Ireland set to kick off in earnest in 2022, Peter Smyth, CEO of IRS+ predicts 2022 will be a good year for the sector.

From our perspective and looking at the past year, radio-friendly brands increased spend, those that hadn’t used the medium for quite a while returned in numbers, national campaigns were tailored to local audiences to boost engagement and tap into a potential €60 billion local economy spend we recorded a noticeable uptick in the level of creativity being deployed on-air and digitally to carve out new market share where it mattered most – locally. We also believe that there are many positives that will carry through to the New Year.

I predict the following for 2022:

There is no retreat – more than ever before and because it has proven its revenue and share building credentials, local radio will have an embedded place in 2022 media plans. In fact, it has now moved up the priority list – we don’t see brands retreating from the medium in the next 12 months – quite the opposite, they’re embracing it more. Already, our Q1, 2022 pipeline is very busy and the prospects for the remainder of next year are robust.

Brands are adopting a local voice: That’s only going to get bigger. Rather than simply applying national campaigns to local formats, brands are now thinking in terms of National and Local voices, adapting national messages to fit and sound like local ones. As a result, they are enjoying a “bounce” in engagement between the listener / purchaser and the featured product or service.

Pulling on the Green Jersey: This will continue – In many ways, local radio has now become synonymous with support for the local economy. Consumer research continually underlines the importance of buying local and boosting neighbourhood makers, retailers, artisans and service providers. Radio is a tangible and important amplifier of that sentiment. Crucially, it allows national brands to tap into local conversations seamlessly and be viewed as “local” – regardless of their national profile.

Local Radio is Easy: Speed matters. In this industry where speed and quick turnaround is important, radio is super-agile. For instance, it’s possible to create a “ready to go” campaign from scratch to on-air in just one to two weeks. Our “Ignite” range of off-the-shelf packages, produced in-house by our experts has been a big success this year thanks to a simple, no-fuss way of working.

Trial and Error: There’s a new trend emerging where brand owners and media agencies are deploying Local as a test bed for potential national campaigns. When they don’t want to go “full tilt” nationally and commit serious spend against a “hunch” idea, they will trial run it with a local campaign, assess the level of response, judge what level of fine tuning is required and decide whether to progress to a full national campaign.

Radio is Resilient: Whether you’re in the car, on the bus, working at home, you have immediate access to a radio. As a medium, it’s minimal fuss – one push of a button or tap of a screen and you’re straight into the heart of the community. It adapted quickly and professionally at the start when the pandemic commenced and now as we face into an uncertain situation with a newly discovered variant. No matter what, radio will continue to play a central role in our lives.

Digital Footprint Expands: For whatever reason, brand owners were reluctant to see local radio as a digital medium. However, the past 18 months has absolutely erased that outdated attitude. Digital engagement locally matters as much as national. Busy, on the go consumers have proved that they are happy to expand their interaction with digital-driven radio activity. Just ask any number of national brands in Retail, Motor and Telecoms.

More than 18 months into the pandemic, Local Radio has become an embedded part of consumer behaviour. With more of us working from home – full-time or hybrid – the radio is always on in the background informing, entertaining and engaging with us. As a trusted source of information, it’s future in 2022 is very bright. The term “Local is Loud” has never been more relevant.”

Peter Smyth is CEO of IRS+