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Abraham Thomas, CEO, BIG FM BIG FM
BIG FM, by thinking out of the box, is ensuring that it has the best to offer to all its stakeholders, be it its audien...
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There’s an urgent need to evangelise Radio and the role it can play in the revival of the economy: Abraham Thomas, BIG FM

BIG FM, by thinking out of the box, is ensuring that it has the best to offer to all its stakeholders, be it its audien...
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  • Radio, like many other sectors was impacted adversely after the lockdown when ad spends plummeted.
  • However, a lot of players have been experimenting a lot to make sure they stay relevant for all their stakeholders.
  • BIG FM recently launched a digital platform to get closer to the younger audience, it has also been offering brands innovative solutions to reach out to their consumers, Abraham Thomas, CEO, BIG FM tells us.

When the government announced its decision of a nationwide lockdown in the end of March, nobody was prepared for what was to follow. Its been over three months, and while the country is slowly opening up, a lot of businesses are still dealing with the business impact of the lockdown.

The lockdown led to a lot of advertising expenditure being cut down. Sectors like experiential and OOH witnessed almost a complete shutdown. Sectors like live events, Radio and even TV had to write to the government to ask for its help in ensuring organizations can weather the storm.

Meanwhile, ad spends on other traditional mediums like Print also plummeted.

However, in the middle of all this, the organizations that have been able to be agile and open to change and experimentation are the ones who have felt lesser impact on their businesses.

For radio, while digitization had been happening for a while now, the lockdown gave the needed push to the entire exercise. BIG FM recently forayed into the Live web radio space with the launch of its platform BRO – Big Radio Online.

“We believe Radio + Digital is the new normal,” said Abraham Thomas, CEO, BIG FM, when we asked him about the launch of the platform. He said that while the radio station had been working on evolving into an audio entertainment network, the pandemic gave it the much-needed impetus.

“While our journey to evolve into an audio entertainment network started before the pandemic with the relaunch of our website bigfmindia.com to an OTT-esque platform, the lockdown gave us a further impetus to expand our medium and create multiple touch-points for our audience. The launch of BRO is an important milestone in our journey towards evolving into a platform agnostic audio entertainment company. BRO serves as the perfect platform for the young adults who seek content that is entertaining as well as motivating,” said Thomas about the platform.

He added that the aim of the platform was to touch every aspect of life that is important to the youth of India. Apart from the platform, BIG FM also launched a one-stop destination for the long tail of advertisers to create solutions, create packages, buy spots and make payment on buyadsonbigfm.com.

The increasing importance of Digital Radio for BIG FM
Thomas believes that for organizations, the need of the hour is to become digital-first entities. On why they thought of speeding up the launch of BRO, Thomas added, “We did it because it enabled us to reach out to a wider set of audience. Through the platform, we wish to provide our listeners an immersive audio experience through podcast content coupled with music. The content has been curated keeping the interests of the young adults in mind and the platform boasts of a wide repertoire of shows spanning across genres ranging from Bollywood, career and lifestyle to romance, information and fashion. The focus has been to strengthen our offering in a way that will instantly connect with the young adults.”

The business impact of the pandemic
The initial few weeks of the lockdown had a huge impact on almost all sectors and even Radio was impacted. On what kind of impact it had on BIG FM’s business and how they tried to minimize the overall impact on the organization, Thomas told us, “April and May saw a steep decline in advertising spends, certain categories have shown a quick recovery in June. At BIG FM, our primary focus is to innovate whilst being flexible and agile to cope up with the changing times. Such crises lead to changes in consumer preferences and it is important to understand them. Since Radio plus digital is the future, the focus will be on adding incremental reach through multiple touch points. So we are adding digital audio, podcasts and web radio to our offering.”

The radio station is also working on creating a lot ofs non-music content that can be consumed as podcasts on audio streaming platforms to newer audiences. It is also expanding the reach of its content IP’s.

“We recently collaborated with Spotify for a content partnership which sees some of our most-loved shows and marquee properties be available on the audio streaming platform. Through our initiative Big Small Shots, we are also providing clients customized IPs that address a specific and immediate objective. We are also looking at taking a step further by making the concept of storytelling more hyper local and relevant to the regional language market in order to convey various brand and product messages through weekly storytelling,” he added.

Bringing advertisers back to radio
While things are slowly inching back towards normalcy, the task at hand is now to get back advertisers to invest on the medium. Things already seem to be moving in a positive direction as there are visible signs of recovery in a few sectors.

On what are some of the sectors who have started putting their marketing monies on Radio, he shared, “The first category to start advertising was the banking, finance, insurance sectors. With safety and assurance coming to the fore, categories like insurance are taking up multiple opportunities to drive their message with the live yet safe content that we are continuously creating. This is closely followed by the FMCG sector that is seeing huge opportunities in personal hygiene, sanitizers, soaps, ready-to-cook products and branded commodities that are related to the requirements of the current pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Healthcare, Pharma and Ayurvedic products are also witnessing increased demands. FMCG is seeing a lot of launches and since a lot of them are local brands, are also using radio as a medium. There’s also been an increase in activity in e-commerce, Entertainment, Automobile and Local Education, he explained. “Emerging markets are leading this recovery. Radio with its high local reach and playing a key role in calming, assuring and engaging their audiences, advertisers are exploring numerous opportunities to synergise their messages on radio,” he added.

On why marketers should still consider Radio as an important medium in their mix, Thomas said, “Radio has evolved over the years from being a mere music and entertainment led platform to a much more responsible, informative, credible and purpose-driven network. It has always stood the test of time on several occasions, the most-recent being the on-going crisis. As per the recently released AROI report, 82% of the population tuned into radio during the COVID-19 lockdown along with the average daily time spent listening to radio increasing by 23% up to 2 hours 36 minutes daily during this period. In addition to the above, the study also reported that radio listening at home has moved up from 64% to 86% underlining the love of the medium. It also revealed that Radio is rated the second most credible medium by listeners bypassing TV, Newspaper & Social Media by a huge margin.”

On what they are offering to advertisers, he said, “Through our initiative Big Partnerships, we are exploring synergies with different platforms to offer amplified reach to our advertisers and our content. We have signed up over 20 partnerships where clients can get a potential audience reach of 15 crore. These include audio streaming apps, digital platforms, OTT platforms, TV, OOH and we are in active discussions with multiple partners. These are win-win partnerships where the incremental audiences can be monetised.”

Making Radio future-ready
If there’s one thing that most organizations have learnt from this experience, its being more agile and ensuring you stay relevant to changing consumer needs. On what he learnt from this experience as a leader, Thomas said, “Embracing technology across functions has become crucial. At Big FM, we continue to be more agile and resilient by adopting digital led solutions. From creating multiple touch-points to reaching out to our audiences and communicating with them in a manner they relate to the best, to adopting remote work from home model across each of our 58 stations across the country, we are moulding ourselves with the changing times. Our RJs are also doing their shows from their homes using their sound equipment systems connected via VPN ensuring seamless business continuity.”

About what the radio industry needed to do to become more resilient and future-ready, he said, “Radio as a medium has grown exponentially. The urgent need is to evangelise Radio and the role it can play in the revival of the economy. The cognizance that it is a completely free-to-air medium that’s immensely credible and also instantly available to the masses 24X7, makes radio the perfect companion for brands and partners in the post-lockdown world.”


COVID-19IndiaCases: 2.21MDeaths: 43.3kRecovered: 1.48M
COVID-19WorldCases: 19.46MDeaths: 722kRecovered: 12.06M
COVID-19USACases: 4.89MDeaths: 159kRecovered: 1.65M