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News Analysis

Why Nova's CMO froze all marketing for 12 months before revamping SmoothFM

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

24 February 2020 4min read

The brand owners hope spending their marketing budget on Robbie Williams pays off

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

24 February 2020 4min read

In one of the most "undeniably tough markets" since the global financial crisis, Nova Entertainment halted all marketing for its station SmoothFM and still managed to post double-digit growth and hold top audience slots in key markets around the country. Nova's chief marketing and programming officer Paul Jackson breaks down the strategy. 

  • Nova Entertainment paused all marketing activity in 2019 for SmoothFM
  • The business did so while working on a complete rebrand of the station
  • Has since launched a new brand platform featuring Robbie Williams, dropping long-time brand ambassador Michael Bublé
  • The refresh will be supported by an extensive marketing campaign and new logo
  • Last year, the station recorded double-digit revenue growth in an "undeniably tough market"
  • It also held top spots in multiple key markets around the country, according to GfK radio survey results
 
A year without marketing

Media owners are the first to urge brands to keep spending in a downturn. Nova, however, had different ideas.

"It was a deep breath internally when we decided to pause marketing for 2019. A shift from normal thinking, but the way we created Smooth in the first place was a shift from normal thinking," Jackson suggests.

"The station had done a lot of marketing for a number of years and had momentum. If we felt across the year that we were running out of steam, that we were getting lost in the pack, then I think we would have taken some action pretty quickly. 

“If it wasn't going to be exactly the right message, I didn't want us to go out with something that was just telling the old story in effect,” says Jackson.

"Our view has always been, whether for Smooth or Nova, to think long term and not to knee jerk. You've got to build your brand, but if your brand is strong, audiences aren't disappearing overnight.” He adds. “So let's not go out and just do a marketing campaign every quarter just because that's what everyone else is doing.”

The new positioning by Nova also sees Robbie Williams joining Smooth as the station's new face, ending the arrangement with long-time ambassador Michael Bublé. Jackson though, says Bublé will still remain part of the station's programming strategy.

Williams will feature in a TVC and multi-platform marketing campaign, to support the station’s new look and positioning. The extensive marketing and media campaign will take place across Sydney and Melbourne in TV, OOH, cinema, digital and social media.

After spending nothing on marketing for a year and posting double digit growth, it will be interesting to see just how much difference Williams and this year’s big splash makes on both the top and bottom line as well as Smooth's ratings.

SmoothFM's new logo featuring its latest ambassador Robbie Williams

A smooth run of results

Below is a breakdown of Smooth's performance across Sydney and Melbourne, including position, cumulative reach and percentage share in audiences 10+.

SmoothFM 2019 Survey Results

Demo #8  #7  #6  #5 #4  #3  #2  #1 
FM Position #SYD 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
FM Position #MELB 2 2 3 3 3 1 1 2
CUME SYD 953 943 976 1,007 1,051 968 942 986
CUME MELB 884 921 989 1,012 972 972 996 996
SHARE 10+ SYD 9.3 9.3 9.2 9.1 9.9 10 9.5 9.7
SHARE 10+ MELB 8.5 9.1 9.2 9.4 8.8 10.3 11 9.7

 

SmoothFM recently increased its offering by creating additional SmoothFM stations, smooth Relax and smooth Chill in September 2019, on the DAB+ spectrum and via Smooth app, broadening the platform and creating new commercial opportunities. Smooth Relax (49,000 listeners in Sydney and 45,000 in Melbourne) has seen strong results in only one survey (Survey 8, 2019) with results for Smooth Chill to be available in survey 1, 2020.

"Last year, we saw double-digit revenue growth in an undeniably tough market, spent a year as Sydney’s number one FM station and secured consistently strong results in Melbourne," says Peter Charlton, Nova Entertainment chief commercial officer.

"We’re incredibly proud of what smooth represents, both commercially and creatively."

Source: GfK Sydney and Melbourne radio survey results 2019

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By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

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