Sunday, January 11, 2009


The change-over of a large swathe of the UK's local radio stations from well-loved local brands to the Heart brand is a bit of a marketing challenge. Given that the advantages of the downsizing is all for Global Radio - cheaper to market, cheaper to make - while the listeners don't really get anything out of the deal, how do you sell it?

Badly, it turns out.

These billboards have sprung up around Milton Keynes - probably one out of every four bus stop has started yelling "give it some Heart".

Honestly? When I first saw them my two thoughts were "blimey, the British Heart Foundation's keep fit message this year is a bit scrappy" and then "... but they've got some money to splash on the posters."

The trouble is, you have to get really close to the ads to see that they're related to radio, and announcing a "new radio station" for Milton Keynes. From a distance, seen briefly - as is the case for most posters looking out on dual carriageways - you wouldn't know that's what they're pushing.

It could work, though, as a reminder of a call to action from another medium. And there is a TV advert, too.

This is a rum bit of work. We're supposed to believe that Jamie Theakston is taking the staff photo? Why would that be? Even if things are so tight at Heart that they can't afford a proper photographer, wouldn't it make sense to get someone other than the big name of the network to take the actual photo?

More to the point: Theakston is only on the London station, so it's a bit misleading to have him playing such a key role in the advert, isn't it?

There's also the problem of rebranding so many stations at once. Here in Milton Keynes, on TV, the strapline is "new to Anglia". On the poster, it's "new to Milton Keynes". But the station isn't really new at all - it's an existing brand slapped on a bunch of existing stations. The decision has been taken to pretend that Heart Milton Keynes is all-new, so there's no word on the poster that this is pretty much the Horizon FM you might have known and loved; there are so many different stations covered by the TV advert there's no room to mention the bunch of frequencies they're all broadcasting on. So you don't know it used to be SGR or whatever; you don't know where on the FM dial it is. Googling won't help you. Those posters could have helped solve the problem - scream 'give it some heart' if you must, but put '103.3' in big letters, too.

It was always a rotten idea, but with a bit of thought, at least the switchover to the one brand could have been made friendly for the audience. It looks like the brief, though, was to spend as much money while creating as much confusion as possible.


Anonymous said...

Milton Keynes? *shudders*

darling said...

I gave up on Horizon and Chiltern a lonnnng time ago

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