Radio Nova name tunes in to nostalgia for original station


MEDIA & MARKETING:Despite a struggling marketplace, a new broadcasting venture is set to take to the air

RADIO NOVA was a pirate radio phenomenon in Dublin in the early 1980s; from September, a new entity with the same name will return to the airwaves.

This time the station is licensed and, while it’s a smart move by the promoters to cash in on the goodwill associated with the name, some Radio Nova originals are not impressed.

The driving force behind the pirate Radio Nova was Chris Cary, who died in 2008. Cary cut his pirate teeth with the legendary Radio Caroline in the 1960s before turning up on Ireland’s shores with Robbie Robinson. They set up Sunshine Radio in 1980 and, a year later, Cary launched Radio Nova, whose broadcasters included Anne Cassin, Bryan Dobson, Dave Harvey, Scott Williams and Gareth O’Callaghan.

Another Nova star was Cary’s wife, Sybil Fennell, who now lives in England. “I think it’s in bad taste for them to use the Nova name but legally there is nothing I can do about it,” she says. “But they definitely won’t be able to use any of the old Nova jingles because I own the copyright to them. They can’t use the original logo either because Chris created that too.”

In fact, the logo design for the new Radio Nova, which hasn’t been officially unveiled yet, is strikingly similar to Cary’s branding. Unlike the original, the new station will be exclusively spinning classic rock tracks. The target audience is men in their late 30s and early 40s.

Radio Nova’s backers include experienced radio investors Dermot Hanrahan and Maurice Cassidy; and Ulick McEvaddy, Des Whelan and Kevin Brannigan, who between them also own 45 per cent of oldies station 4FM.

Radio Nova is likely to be the last station launch for some time as the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has indefinitely deferred plans to advertise for new regional country music stations.

Industry observers wonder whether there is room for another Dublin radio station in a market where advertising revenues fell by more than 25 per cent last year. The most recent radio stations launched in the capital – 4FM and Phantom – are struggling, with 4FM engaged in discussions with the BAI about a format change.

Nova will have its own offices in the Dublin Docklands but it is sharing some financial and advertising scheduling functions with 4FM. The advertising sales functions will be kept separate.

According to Radio Nova chief executive David Tighe “there will be a touch of nostalgia about the station because of the name and the type of music. We’re planning to spend about €300,000 to launch the station with advertising, including television and promotions. There are a lot of radio stations in Dublin but the radio business is primarily driven by recall and having a name like Nova can only be a benefit.”

Mark Lynch, director of advertising agency Vizeum, observes: “It’s going to be a challenge as radio is a hugely cluttered market and they will have no hard data to present to advertisers for at least nine months. But coming up to Christmas, Nova could creep on to schedules for advertisers who can’t get slots elsewhere.”


Despite the financial storm clouds surrounding the banks, Ulster Bank is in negotiations to renew its sponsorship of the GAA All-Ireland football championships.

Ulster Bank’s three-year deal meant it paid the GAA €1.5 million for the right to be a title sponsor. As part of the contract, the bank also had to commit to spending at least the same again on advertising and promoting its sponsorship.

This week, the bank unveiled its new tagline, “Help for What Matters” and launched a national outdoor poster campaign to promote its GAA connection , while a television advertising campaign will debut next week. Also new is a Twitter and Facebook presence and a free iPhone app which lists GAA venues countrywide, with information on car parking and ATMs, as well as match feeds.

Says Edel O’Leary of Ulster Bank: “Our football sponsorship has been the mainstay of our marketing activity for the last three years. Given the financial crisis, it has been fantastic to have a local presence at community level. Attendance numbers at matches have been falling but TV viewing numbers are up and that’s what matters to us.”

Ulster Bank has to contend with two other football title sponsors. Vodafone has stuck with its three-year commitment, but Toyota was replaced earlier this year by SuperValu.

Research by Behaviour & Attitudes gives the Ulster Bank sponsorship 22 per cent awareness compared to 30 per cent for Vodafone and 19 per cent for Toyota. One advantage Ulster Bank exploits is that 13 of its employees, including Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, Kieran Donaghy and Kevin McGuckian, play for county teams. The bank gets these players out on tour visiting schools and GAA clubs and it also does a lot of promotional work in Northern Ireland, unlike the other sponsors.

“For us it’s about the empathy and presence the sponsorship gives our bank with local communities,” says O’Leary. “We estimate that we have received €5.9 million worth of free television coverage from advertising and €2.4 million worth of free press value.”