The unlikely romance between start-ups and radio

Sandy Rogers, Southern Cross Austereo Sydney agency account manager
By Sandy Rogers, Southern Cross Austereo Sydney agency account manager | 15 October 2019
Sandy Rogers

In media land start-ups are an interesting beast. There an obvious new group of brands growing quickly with dollars to spend, but often poorly suited to the ways of working and structures we have all established from working with large clients and agencies.

Over the last 18 months, I’ve been navigating the rewarding, and often challenging, path of figuring out how to use our Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) media assets to help these brands drive growth. As a result, I've learnt things that I believe are not only applicable to working with a new generation of brands and marketers, but also to how we work with established clients, both direct and through agency partners.

About 18 months ago I walked into mattress brand Koala for my first meeting (suited and booted) in its Alexandria Tree House. I was greeted by black tees, shorts and a pair of Birkenstocks - at the best of times I feel overdressed in agencies, but this was on another level. Outside of all the regular start-up tropes of table tennis tables and nap pods, I found a team committed to big bets, high-speed creative and a ruthless focus on measurement and results.

Yet to that point most of its marketing work had been done online, and we often hear in media land about how Google and Facebook are the first options for these brands due to their low barrier to entry self-service elements. So, the challenge for my team was to figure out how to drag the learnings they had online and bring them to new audiences through our channels.

As a group we decided on a combination of high quality, trust-building radio commercials across premium inventory, with the logic being that people often don’t trust online-only brands and our on-air talent are trusted voices in the media landscape. There was less of a focus on reach and frequency, with the guys knowing that can be found through their existing work. This meant that live-reads, podcasts partnerships and targeted placements were the order of the day.

Koala was also keen to shake things up creatively, with the objective to stand out first and worry about brand guidelines second. This meant we were fed large varieties of different messaging, styles and talent to test for the team.

Through our first few campaigns I was then presented with regular updates on uplift in traffic, revenue and performance and levels of granularity that are possible only when 100% of sales come online. While this sometimes led to cranky phone calls when things were perceived not to have worked, the net outcome was rapid revision of the media until the creative and the media directly delivered ROI.

Over 18 months we have continued to test, iterate, refine and scale, to the point where Koala has been able to grow hugely with the help of radio and podcasting, and broadened its media mix significantly. Outside of this, the case study has driven other new brands to take the leap into radio and understand the role offline media can play.

So, what are the learnings I have taken back to agency land?

  • A drive to move fast and iterate, take ideas, test them and see what works before scaling on that.
  • The benefits of the offline/online blend. We often think of online channels as adversarial, when in reality making the blend work is the key challenge for most brands.
  • The power of measurement and sharing those insights with media partners to evolve planning as a team.
  • Maybe a linen shirt with chinos is a better option.
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