Shock Middle East, the UAE radio network behind Dance FM, Heart FM and Radio Hala, has announced it will only air two ads in a row during the commercial breaks on any of its stations.
The network’s management had been toying with the idea since December, and was confident that fewer ads would result in higher engagement. It had worked for Nova radio in Australia, which introduced a two-ads-in-a-row policy in 2001 and kept this up until it fell under new management in 2010. And Virgin Radio in the UK recently relaunched its breakfast show devoid of advertising altogether, bar a one-year sponsorship deal from Sky.
But Shock wanted to be sure, so it asked research firm Ipsos to conduct a survey.
Ipsos polled about 700 radio listeners across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. The demographics of those interviewed varied, and Shock’s management says they provide a fair snapshot of the country’s population as a whole.
Key findings from the research included the fact that 76 per cent of respondents listen to radio in their cars; 62 per cent of respondents prefer having a maximum of two ads in one commercial break, with 96 per cent wanting to hear no more than five; and 71 per cent of respondents will
switch radio stations because of long commercial breaks.
This means that not only do listeners resent too many ads; they won’t hear the later slots in the break, as they are likely to have switched channels.
On top of this, the fewer the number of ads in e break, the higher the recall of brands in those ads.
Respondents were split into three groups, played a sequence of ads, and asked to recall which brands those ads had been for. When 10 ads were played, they recalled an average of 2.8 ads. When five were played, they remembered 1.7 ads. When two ads were played, 1.3 per cent were recalled.
When respondents were asked what factors can grab the attention of listeners in radio spots, 59 per cent said an attractive offer, while 53 per cent said ads that were funny or entertaining. Only 13 per cent said ads read by a presenter would grab their attention.
“We sat down once we had the findings and though, OK, now we need to try and make some listener sense of this and commercial sense of this,” says Cameron Plant, group managing director of Shock Middle East. “We felt that listeners, given the feedback that we’ve had, want less ads in a commercial product. So we thought,
OK, well if we ran only two ads in a row, given that 96 per cent of the population don’t want to listen to more than five, we are over-delivering.”
Plant hopes this will keep listeners from changing channel. “If they know it’s only two ads, and there’s something coming up after the two ads that appeals to them, they are probably just going to hang on.”
Those two ads will include DJ read-outs, but not yet competitions or sponsored content. Running 12 ads an hour, broken into six two-ad breaks, will take up about 15 minutes of the clock, leaving about five minutes for talk and eight or nine for traffic and weather. That means Shock’s stations will have time to play 12-14 songs an hour, which Plant says is “about as good as it can get” in terms of having plenty of music on air.
The two-ad rule will apply across Shock’s existing stations, and will also be applied to a Hindi station it plans to
launch within six months. Plant says a large number of Hindi speakers listen to English- language radio in the UAE, and a new station will help segment audiences a bit. But he also says Shock plans more research in the run-up to its new launch.
Factors that grab listeners’ attention in radio adverts (% of respondents)
IF THEY KNOW THERE’S SOMETHING COMING UP AFTER THE TWO ADS, THEY ARE PROBABLY JUST GOING TO HANG ON.”
Number of ads recalled
Group 1 Group 2 Group 3
Respondents recalled 2.8 out of 10 ads Respondents recalled 1.7 out of 5 ads Respondents recalled 1.3 out of 2 ads
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