Station bosses must decide if Prendeville is a tarnished brand

 

MEDIA & MARKETING:UTV BOSSES face a tricky decision over whether to part company with Neil Prendeville, the star broadcaster on their 96FM radio station in Cork, following revelations about Prendeville’s behaviour on a flight from London to Cork in October.

Prendeville has been a mainstay on 96FM since the station launched in 1989. He started his career on pirate radio in 1978. He moved to Canada where he worked on radio and TV before coming back to Ireland and ending up on Radio South, which later changed its name to 96FM.

Prendeville’s daily chat show airs from 9am to noon and garners a larger audience than local or national rivals. The latest JNLR ratings, covering the period October 2009 to September 2010, show that Prendeville’s audience declined 15 per cent year-on-year to 86,000. However, the outspoken jock is still the mid-morning market leader in Cork, garnering a 32 per cent share in the time slot compared with 26 per cent for RTÉ Radio 1.

As gardaí investigate complaints about Prendeville’s behaviour on the flight, the presenter is on leave of absence.

While his antics have provided much-needed light relief around office water coolers in the South, the story has also received a lot of media attention in Belfast, where UTV is based.

David Sneddon of advertising agency Mindshare observes: “Neil Prendeville’s listenership has been declining but he is still dominant in Cork and his show has three times as many listeners as the local competition. People in Cork tend to be loyal to their local media. It’s the opposite in Dublin where Radio 1 is by far the most popular station.”

Radio insiders speculate that the main reason Prendeville has not graduated to a national station is that his show is so quintessentially Cork. According to Frank Cronin, chief executive of Newstalk: “The way a presenter can talk to his or her listeners on a local station is very different to how they can communicate on a national station. Neil Prendeville has a rare broadcasting skill and it would be very difficult for UTV to replace him.”

But how tarnished is the Prendeville brand as far as advertisers are concerned? “Advertisers always take into account sensitivities if they are trying to target impressionable young adults or children,” says Sneddon. “Mid-morning is a very strong slot and would be attractive to advertisers whoever was sitting in the presenter’s chair.”

An Post’s revamped shopping website I Love Shopping is a no-brainer for retailers because it costs them nothing to have a presence on the site. But what’s in it for An Post?

The venture is an attempt by An Post to boost its parcels business. The State company faces increased competition for parcels delivery from private operators and the idea is that orders made through I Love Shopping will be fulfilled by An Post delivery vans.

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An Post first attempted to get into online shopping when it launched anpost.ie/ onlineshopping. An Post’s marketing director Liam Sheehan concedes it wasn’t the catchiest of names but says its success surprised the company.

“Click-through to member retailer sites has gone from 78,000 in December 2009 to 220,000 in September 2010,” says Sheehan. “With the name and new look, for this Christmas I would like to see that figure quadruple. There are over 700 retailers on I Love Shopping and we get an average of €5 for every parcel posted from the site.”

There are 17 retail categories on I Love Shopping. Each member retailer gets a profile comprising its logo, a brief description and a link to its website. An Post is spending €300,000 advertising the site, including producing a direct mail brochure that will be delivered to every household in the State this month.

Sheehan says two to three retailers are contacting An Post every day trying to get on the site. An Post has refused a number of retailers because it wasn’t comfortable with their product offering, he says.

Children’s clothing company Puddle Ducks says membership of I Love Shopping has resulted in a 10 per cent uplift in traffic to its website. Also on the site is online gift store Pressieport.ie, established by Fred Schelbaum in 2007. Says Schelbaum: “Very few websites will put up your listing for free. So far the conversion rate has been higher than any other online promotion we have done.”


siobhan@businessplus.ie