4FM sells itself as Ireland's version of BBC Radio 2

Thu, Feb 19, 2009, 00:00

MEDIA & MARKETING:Ireland’s first multi-city radio station has talent on and off air and is aimed at older listeners jaded by RTÉ Radio 1

RADIO LISTENERS who are weary of current radio fare will be cheered on Friday, February 27th, when 4FM, Ireland’s first multi-city radio station, starts broadcasting.

The easy-listening station has been licensed to broadcast to Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Clare. 4FM’s brief is to serve a diet of intelligent chat and golden oldies for people who grew up on the sounds of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

To lure the greying listeners, the line-up includes veteran presenters including former 2FM DJs Gareth O’Callaghan and Jimmy Greeley, former Newstalk broadcaster Damien Kiberd, Derek Davis and RTÉ’s Tom McGurk, who will present the evening drivetime show.

The 4FM consortium was put together by Martin Block. Shareholders include The Irish Times, Thomas Crosbie Holdings and some founding investors in Dublin pop station FM104. So the venture has experienced backers with deep pockets, and now marketing director Dave Hammond has to persuade advertisers to buy some airtime.

He said: “The first assumption advertisers have is that 4FM will sound like something that is already in the market place. So we have to go into some detail to explain how the station will be totally different. I describe our new station as Ireland’s version of BBC Radio 2. We will have a playlist of 10,000 tracks compared to 1,000 for most other stations. We are chasing the RTÉ Radio 1 audience who aren’t getting the entertainment they want on Radio 1.”

A key battleground will be the morning and evening drivetime shows. Listeners need a reason to retune the presets on their radios in a very competitive market.

Aidan Greene, managing director of the ad agency Mediavest, believes that the most important market will be Dublin: “In the evening drivetime slot, 4FM will field Tom McGurk. The obvious target must be Radio 1’s evening Drivetime with Mary Wilson. Nine out of ten of Wilson’s audience are aged over 35 and the programme showed double-digit growth in this audience in the latest JNLR. So making an impact against Wilson may prove too challenging for a station taking its baby steps. An easier target could be Newstalk’s Right Hook, which suffered a drop in its Dublin adults over 35 in the latest ratings.”

Greene is broadly positive towards the new station but notes that advertisers covet young consumers. “In a market that has too many stations targeting under-35s, it is a relief to have more choice for older listeners. However, the reason there are so many youth stations is because that’s where the money is. No one argues that older adults don’t have disposable income, but there is simply less appetite from the big brands to go after them.”

Another issue for 4FM is that while O’Callaghan and Greeley resonate with the target audience, the 20-something media planners may not be so familiar. Yet Eimear Duggan (28), who works with Mediaedge:CIA, is cautiously optimistic about the new station.

She said: “Getting their music playlist right will help 4FM enormously. 4FM will also be able to take listeners from local stations if they can reach beyond a Dublin bias. As a media buyer you can’t be personal about your buying choices, but of course it can be an issue. What’s good about 4FM is that their targets are realistic.”

Aidan Greene added: “4FM’s rate card is competitive. However, the station is launching in a climate where rate cards have never been more meaningless. Big agencies are putting all media owners under intense pressure in order to deliver increased value for clients with reduced budgets.

“But the station has talent both on and off air. The bottom line is that if the station can deliver the right listeners at the right price, the advertisers will come.”

Hammond said 4FM plans to spend €2 million marketing the new station over the next 12 months. The frequency in Dublin is 94.9 while in Galway it’s 104.9 and 94.8 in Cork city. For more details, see www.4fm.ie.

Over on Radio 1, Ronan Collins is proving that silver-haired DJs can still pull in big audiences. His show recorded a 14 per cent increase in listenership in the last 12 months. RTÉ has secured the programme’s first sponsor with Ballymaloe Country Relish signing up for a six-month run.

siobhan@businessplus.ie