Profile-raising radio advertising is a perfect way to reach customers when cash is tight. Carlton Reid speaks to Alan Cotty of Studio 24 to find out more...

Reaching out to your customers? Tried radio advertising?

When I think of bike shops and radio campaigns a cheesy but catchy jingle pops into my head. “Hardisty Cycles –home of the Mountain Bike… top of Shields Road, Byker.” It loses a lot without the music and the lilting, lyrical presentation.

Hardisty Cycles was on my home patch of Newcastle upon Tyne and was one of Metro Radio’s best-known early advertisers. The shop was sold to Edinburgh Bicycle in 2003, but many North Eastern cyclists could still hum that old tune. A survey of the general public in 2000 found that, when asked to name a bike shop, most people on Tyneside chose Hardisty Cycles. In other parts of the country, Halfords always came out top.

Hardisty Cycles didn’t just run the odd radio ad here and there. It was a master of the airwaves, splurging most of its promotional budget on audio awareness. Hardisty Cycles’ then co-owner, John Hardisty, told me his ad campaigns weren’t running in spite of poor trading conditions, but because of them.

Radio advertising need not be expensive. The plethora of commercial radio stations means competition is fierce and ad rates can be nearly as cheap as chips, especially out of prime-time when ad rates plummet – but, then, so do audiences. Radio advertising is hyper-effective because it’s hyper-local. There’s a community feel to radio, a feel that’s not present in, say, Yellow Pages advertising.

Radio advertisements reach individuals when they are in their homes, in their cars, while they are on the internet or while they’re out and about in a public space. It’s even possible your radio ad could be heard in a rival shop. Peter Hargroves, owner of Hargroves Cycles, a four-store chain in Hampshire and Sussex, is a big believer in radio: “Every time we advertise on radio it significantly increases our sales.”

Hargroves uses Alan Cotty of Studio24 to plan, produce and implement his store’s radio campaigns. Cotty is the younger brother of Cannondale’s marketing manager Mike Cotty. “I’ve provided radio services to Hargroves Cycles for the last 18 months, most recently for their end of season sale in September,” said Cotty. “The ad campaigns are run on a regional radio station when there’s a need to reach an older audience, and on a younger focused radio station when there’s a need to generate local awareness to a young audience.

“The format of the Hargroves’ campaigns range from general brand awareness adverts to very specific call-to-action ads depending on their specific requirements at any particular time of the season. Their adverts tend to be standard productions of 30 second duration with one voice and background music.”

Cotty believes radio advertising is good for building brand awareness, and generating sales, from a new audience. It’s also personal: “With radio, when your advert is broadcasting it’s the only thing on-air gaining the audience’s attention.”

Radio ads can be tweaked, almost on the run: “Radio is flexible and the format of the advert or campaign can be changed quickly. Radio also reaches people at key times of the day, which can be tailored to the season. It’s a very powerful medium.”

What about podcasts? Does Cotty believe bike shops would benefit from internet audio? “I feel there is a lot of value in a bike store producing a podcast. The more angles a store uses to appeal, connect and reach its audience the better. A podcast provides a great way of keeping customers up-to-date with latest news, products and special events in an entertaining and informative fashion.”

But invest in some good quality kit, or pay a professional outfit: “A pro sounding podcast gives the impression of a pro store. A home-made podcast on the other hand may give a negative reflection on the store, potentially sounding tacky and low-end,” said Cotty.

Radio Daze

Jingle: Some may annoy, but boy, are they catchy. A good jingle is worth paying through the nose for. It becomes a signature tune, part of your business. If you get it commissioned, it will be more expensive to ‘buy out’ the copyright but it will be worth it in the long run.

Catchphrase: Bruce Forsyth has a load of them, you need just the one. Roll all your USPs into one short, punchy line. And then repeat it ad infinetum.

Laugh: Radio ads which raise a smile are more memorable. Getting a jingle, a catchphrase and a side-splitter into a 30-second radio ad is not easy but radio advertising, done right, can be extremely cost effective, especially in an economic downturn.

Talk to your customers

Got a member of staff with a good speaking voice? Put him or her on a shop podcast. It’s easy to produce a podcast, even on a tight budget. Buy a cheap, but good quality, omni-directional mike and a digital tape recorder. Record somewhere quiet. Add a free jingle or music loop (Apple’s Garageband has plenty). Upload the resulting MP3 file to a podcast-specific file server such as This adds your content to iTunes, the world’s biggest podcast library.

Don’t risk podfade –publish content on a regular basis. Once customers subscribe to your podcast RSS ‘feed’, via iTunes or feedburner, you can auto-send them audio files and anything else digital.

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