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Exploring Innovation in Branded Content

It’s been a while since I explored innovations in audio and radio marketing and advertising, and this month the column takes us from Australia to London via the South African N3 highway.

Coles Radio

Retail radio is a vibrant and interesting space, with a number of our big retailers opting for their own in-store radio stations. The programming varies from curated music playlists to mimicking traditional radio formats but I doubt anyone locally has aspirations other than giving you something to hum along to while trying on jeans or buying bread and milk. Not so Australian supermarket behemoth, Coles.

Launched in 2014 as a traditional in-store station, it decided to extend Coles Radio as a DAB station. DAB stands for “digital audio broadcasting”, is widely available in Australia in most cars and homes, and doesn’t require an internet connection. The supermarket station is currently the no. 1 DAB station in the country, with over 250 000 listeners. Fans of the station liked the easy-listening format and playlist while shopping and so took it home with them, along with the specials of the week.

It’s a branded content experiment that has become part of normal Australian life.

N3 Radio

Next up: radio that finds you. I love South African audio innovation and N3 Radio by Highwayapps is something we should all know about. [There’s also Platinum Road Radio and Magaliesberg Biosphere Radio — ed-at-large.]

How often have we been on that N3 stretch between Johannesburg and Durban, and wondered about the landmarks on the way? N3 Radio brings you true stories of the places you’re driving past and news about what is coming up on the route.

N3 Radio is app-based and allows you to listen to an audio stream of a handful of popular stations — or you can choose from your own playlist of music, podcasts or audio books. If you’ve activated your GPS, when you’re in range of a landmark, you get location-based audio stories on topics such as the Spookbrug, Heartbreak mountain and historical battlefields. You may also opt in for news about promotions along the N3 route or info on where to eat, stay or play; most helpfully, you may choose to receive live traffic updates, too. The location-based stories are world-class and voiced by Proverb, David O Sullivan and Ashley Hayden.

When great audio content and technology meet, we all win.

Radio 1’s Hide & Seek

Winning was the order of the day on one of London’s biggest breakfast shows. Greg James and Nick Grimshaw’s Giant Game of Hide and Seek returned to BBC Radio 1 in late July 2019. It’s just that, a giant game of hide and seek (those familiar with the popular Fugitive promotion should relate) but, this time, famous radio presenters are the ones who need to be found. The whole station is disrupted and parts of London sent into turmoil as normal programming can’t resume until they are found.

I love the one-day takeover nature of the stunt as you don’t lose momentum, which is crucial in our attention-poor society.

The best part is that listeners didn’t do it for cash — BBC doesn’t do prizes — but to be part of a new experience.

James is doing amazing things on radio right now; earlier this year he locked himself in an escape room with a secret code. Listeners had to help him figure out the six-digit code in order to be released. Thirty hours later, he was out and a new standard in radio promotions was set.

There’s life beyond the 30-second spot and these are just some of the ways we can find it.

Paulo Dias