A strong case for campus radio

Ten years ago, placing an advert on campus radio was a gamble – there was no guarantee that student presenters wouldn’t garble your live read or remember to air your advert. Today, campus radio presents a different picture.

January 28, 2013

Ten years ago, placing an advert on campus radio was a gamble – there was no guarantee that student presenters wouldn’t garble your live read or remember to air your advert. Today, campus radio presents an entirely different picture – modeled on their commercial counterparts, they are professionally run and advertisers are assured of effective results.

“There are a number of reasons for the evolution of the industry,” says MD of Student Brands, Daryl Bartkunsky. “The playing field has become increasingly competitive with every campus station fighting to get there first, do it best and offer something unique to their listeners. Moreover, commercial radio stations are starting to use campus radio as a resource to find new presenters, often poaching the top student presenters for themselves. Of course, this is a great motivational factor for the presenters to be as slick and professional as possible,” he continues, adding that today’s campus stations are run as profitable businesses.

Student radio essentially falls into the category of community radio – radio stations that are driven by the loyalty of their listeners. And while campus radio was initially designed to unite university students, enrich their experience of campus life and provide them with a voice, today the listenership of these stations has extended beyond campus to the general public.

So what does this mean for advertisers? “Advertising on commercial radio stations is expensive,” says Bartkunsky, pointing out that campus radio stations provide a more affordable option that can work just as effectively, giving advertisers more bang for their buck.

“Today’s campus radio stations are more aligned with professional standards of broadcasting, with station managers ensuring that scheduling is efficient and scripts are checked and tested,” Bartkunsky explains. “This gives peace of mind to advertisers,” he adds. Another benefit of campus radio is its flexibility – advertisers are able to select more time slots than are traditionally available on commercial stations.

It is also true to say that the nature of advertising has evolved over time, with advertisers realising that they need to maintain a constant presence over a prolonged period, and support radio advertising with additional activity on mobisites and email. Bartkunsky adds that research has shown that live reads are better received by the youth market than pre-recorded adverts. “Essentially, students listen to student radio. When they hear one of their peers speaking about a certain product on air, it lends more credibility to a brand, giving it that ‘word of mouth’ influence.”

While it goes without saying that not all products and brands find campus radio an appropriate platform, it provides effective results for a wide spectrum of advertisers. “Campus radio encompasses everything about student life – so anything from jobs to holiday destinations; concerts; movie releases; hair products and clothing will find their target on these stations,” says Bartkunsky. He adds that it is important for advertisers to remember that students will not be students forever, and aspirational brands (that students will be more likely to use once they are part of the working world) can win the loyalty of this market from an early stage.

In most instances, the stations themselves are able to assist advertisers to ensure they are sending the most appropriate messages for their markets. “After all, it is in the best interest of the stations to provide good ROI and secure repeat business from advertisers,” says Bartkunsky.

Ultimately, if you want to address the student market, what better place to engage with them than on their own turf – “talk to the students where they are listening,” Bartkunsky advises. Of course, there are a few golden rules to ensure that the campaign has optimal impact. “Make sure your message, and your time slots are spot on – you don’t want to be broadcasting when no one is listening. Radio also needs to form part of a greater campaign, while audio is great, it needs to supported by something more visual for best results.”

“With online radio listenership on the increase with streaming audio, I am looking forward to a more integrated footprint, further increasing the reach and effectiveness of advertising on campus radio in the future,” Bartkunsky concludes.