Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Hooked to FM radio

Published Apr 30, 2018 03:56pm
How advertisers and radio stations must work together to benefit from the full power of the medium.
Internationally acclaimed actor, writer and stand-up comedian Saad Haroon enjoys his breakfast during a break while hosting the Breakfast Show on CityFM89. Haroon was one of the first comedians in Pakistan to perform in English. Cheeky, irreverent and witty, Haroon brings his own brand of enthusiasm to the Breakfast Show. CityFM89 is part of The Dawn Media Group and started broadcasting in 2004. It rapidly acquired a sizeable audience due to its innovative and eclectic programming. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Internationally acclaimed actor, writer and stand-up comedian Saad Haroon enjoys his breakfast during a break while hosting the Breakfast Show on CityFM89. Haroon was one of the first comedians in Pakistan to perform in English. Cheeky, irreverent and witty, Haroon brings his own brand of enthusiasm to the Breakfast Show. CityFM89 is part of The Dawn Media Group and started broadcasting in 2004. It rapidly acquired a sizeable audience due to its innovative and eclectic programming. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

Given the lack of entertainment options (and electricity), Pakistanis are turning to their electronic devices to connect with others and enjoy the things they like best. Whether it is a chat show, music specials or interactive game shows, audiences are involved and engaged. Radio’s greatest asset is its reach; it has become a built-in feature in people’s lives.

For FM channels to move forward, it is essential that they maintain the delicate balance in providing equally for their audiences and their advertisers. It is equally important that advertisers leverage their relationship with a radio station in order to gain the maximum exposure for the least expenditure.

Global surveys have shown that people tend to believe that ‘a lack of advertising indicates that a business is struggling’. These surveys also report that a large majority of consumers think businesses that continue to advertise are competitive and/or committed to doing business. Radio needs to position itself as a medium that can provide that reassurance.

Advertisers need reach and they need it at low costs and a good, collaborative relationship between radio stations and their advertisers will ensure that the medium makes progress, and that soon enough, marketers will be ready to pay premiums for innovation.


Show hosts give huge amounts of detail on products and leaving audiences with a suboptimal experience.


Advertising on radio is one of the cheapest ways to put a message out. The cost of creating a radio spot is affordable and can be very effective if the message is kept simple. Radio spots do not afford the time to be complicated, cute or tricky. They need to focus on benefits, not features; demonstrate value and encourage their audience to take an action. Attempting to pack in more than this within 30 seconds and still be effective is rarely possible.

The trend in Pakistani radio is one of heavy show branding and product talk. Show hosts give huge amounts of detail on products and leaving audiences with a suboptimal experience. Although advertising minutes are not supposed to exceed 10 minutes of every hour, it often goes on for as long as 15 to 18 minutes.


Radio stations and TV channels must take care not to clutter their advertising with little other than spiels about bank products, snack food, telecom options, etc.


Brand managers have become exceedingly pushy and will only offer business depending on how hard a station is willing to hammer their brand’s name (at a discounted rate). It would be far more effective for all stakeholders (radio stations, advertisers and audiences) if the advertisements were effective, subtle and based on the show or time band in question.

At this point, where much of the Pakistani public is both open to suggestions and to becoming active participants in their entertainment, radio stations and TV channels must take care not to clutter their advertising with little other than spiels about bank products, snack food, telecom options, etc.

A balance has to be found so that intelligent and informed programming is not perceived as boring, thereby encouraging advertisers to seek affiliation with a programme based on its quality and reach. Advertisers need to have a strategy in mind when they place their communication.


It is a sensitive time but a very good one for radio stations to stop competing against each other and come together to sell the medium’s strengths.


Marketers should look at undertaking brand activation on air and thereby create a situation where the brand and the audience come together. Giveaway competitions will ensure the product is frequently mentioned and provide top of mind recall, while at the same time, enabling the radio station to offer a new experience to its audience.

To maintain their connection with their audience, radio stations need to sustain a stream of creative programming and be constantly attuned to what they want. Audiences want to be a part of the global conversation; they want information; they want to share their opinions and they want to be entertained.

There are plenty of directions a radio station can take in terms of programming, but it is also vitally important that all of them uphold the integrity of the medium. It is a sensitive time but a very good one for radio stations to stop competing against each other and come together to sell the medium’s strengths.

Article excerpted from ‘From nowhere to here’, published in the May-June 2008 edition of Aurora. Munizeh Sanai is former General Manager, Programming and Marketing, CityFM89.

First published in THE DAWN OF ADVERTISING IN PAKISTAN (1947-2017), a Special Report published by DAWN on March 31, 2018.