Averaging more than 60,000 listeners in both Sydney and Melbourne according to the most recent radio ratings, combined with an average of 32 minutes of people listening in store, Coles Radio has proved to be the 'dark horse' of digital radio.
While only generating half the ratings of the bigger players in the digital radio space, such as iHeartRadio and Edge, Nova Entertainment, which plays the tunes and sells the ad slots, has turned the station into an advertising opportunity different to most.
Nova Entertainment Sydney commercial director and market lead Luke Minto, who is responsible for the operations of the digital radio station which is played across the entire 800 plus store network, says Coles Radio has grown in engagement over the past 12 months due to a combination of engaged listenership and programming style.
While Nova handles the programming and running of the station, it's only able to sell approximately 20% of the advertising space on the station, with Coles taking the lion's share.
"We sell the non-Coles related customer products, so there's a few endemic clients they have across FMCG obviously and other allies in insurance and even hot chicken for instance, but anything that you can buy in Coles that doesn't influence their relationship, we can sell it," Minto says.
"We can also work with them on something if they're not getting support from a certain client, then we're allowed to co-sell it and work with them on it, with these often being clients we have an established relationship with."
Minto says the reason for the station's recent growth and success boils down to a broad listener base that is already in an engaged state of mind.
With more than 14 million transactions every working day across the entire Coles network, advertisers are looking to hone in on customers right before the point of purchase.
The peak shopping times in Coles are between 9am and 12pm and then again from 3pm until 6pm, with most Nova clients booking times within these windows.
"It's all about that path to purchase for us and making sure that you've got the listener at the point of the checkout, the last opportunity to hear an ad before walking out on the radio and then. If it's reinforced or reminded in store, that's the ultimate objective," Minto says.
More recently, the major TV networks including Seven, Nine and Ten have all started to engage with Coles Radio, using the digital station to target those on the way home from shopping, tapping into the live read opportunities from 3pm to 6pm.
Generally, these ads are focused on news updates, encouraging viewers to tune into each station's respective nightly news bulletin.
"That’s quite a smart pick up from the networks because they want to get people at the top of mind on their way out of the register - what are they going to watch tonight? What story are they going to tune into on whichever network? They've clued into this," Minto says.
"Miriam Young runs a live shift where they can jump in and have a daily message updated or if it's a news story on Nine, Seven or Ten, she can talk to it in terms of when to tune in."
An underground favourite
Outside of the supermarket aisles, the station has also become an 'underground' favourite with digital radio listeners, with many praising the varied range of genre, style and generations covered during the daily programming.
This success has been attributed to Nova Entertainment's syndication and DAB+ operations, Sarah Fletcher, who runs the day-to-day programming of the station.
"Of course there are those who shop during certain times of the day and week, such as the older generations during the day and parents on the weekend, but really it's about appealing to a broad audience," Fletcher says.
"Obviously we aren't blasting out heavy metal in our stores, but it is also about balancing a consistency and ensuring that listeners are getting the right mix of music throughout the day."
Despite the success of the station, particularly with the more obvious categories such as FMCG, energy, insurance and auto, Minto says the main challenge for the station continues to be agencies.
He says while those who eventually work the station into their planning and buyer strategy keep it in there, many are still hesitant to include it in their clients' schedules.
"It hasn't really posed too many challenges apart from getting it on the schedule and that is always going to be something we have to work with the media buyers on, just like any publisher," Minto says.
"Agencies see from post-campaign analysis of their campaigns, when looking at attribution modelling, that it normally comes up pretty well and for that reason, we've had a good level of return business on it."
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