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Ideas and technique to help you promote and image radio

Coming next, the past with Radio 1 Vintage

Nick Grimshaw and Tony Blackburn strike the official radio DJ pose.

Nick Grimshaw and Tony Blackburn strike the official radio DJ pose. Photo: BBC

If you work in a promotional environment your natural focus is on the future. It’s our job to love the new, the next and the coming soon.

This instinct to look ahead and our duty to draw the attention of audiences forward with us can make it easy to dismiss what went before. If the next thing is the best thing ever then clearly everything before it has to be inferior.

Radio habitually thinks and behaves like this. Presenters don’t refer back, preferring to promote what’s next. Sometimes they depart a station without the chance to say farewell to listeners.

Through marketing activity we can be equally brutal: a new graphic logo must immediately be on every touchpoint, yesterday’s strapline is suddenly a hideous embarrassment and any new on-air branding must eradicate instantly every tiny vestige of the last stuff we made.

Before the control offered by centralised digital playout I used to go round the studios to get rid of old imaging, removing tapes and carts to minimise the risk of inconsistency on air. Young, blonde and eager working in Scotland this habit earned me the nickname “the Hitler youth” from one newsroom journo. At least being English was no longer an issue.

Gosh, I’m talking about the past. What a segue…

Radio 1 Vintage

BBC Radio 1 marks its 50th birthday this year. How do you use that opportunity to deepen your relationship with a young audience without losing the relevance of today? To break the habit of always looking forwards without dampening anticipation?

For a start, the station has chosen to put a digital pop-up station, Radio 1 Vintage, at the centre of the celebrations. This move puts a lot of the heritage audio in a safe space for nostalgia, allowing the main BBC Radio 1 station to frame the station’s past appropriately for its current audience of 9 million weekly listeners, very few of whom were alive when the station started.

Sidebar: if you’re in a country yet to adopt digital radio, the ability to launch short-term pop-up services on a DAB multiplex may not be the first appeal of the technology but in the UK it has proved to offer rather successful added benefits. Pop-ups have further driven take-up of digital listening. Content with promotional value yet again.

The station has also linked its current identity to its past through a message of “Where it began”; a cheeky twist on the positioning line “where it begins” that has featured in recent marketing campaigns. Loyal listeners will make the link and this audio-led, cleverly-visualised promo tells the story with respect and love:


Mix by Beat a Maxx
Audio research and editorial by Liam Hadley
Animation and motion graphics by Joseph Bullivant
Project led by Sam Bailey

As the video demonstrates, Radio 1 has worn many identities in it’s lifetime. It modernised progressively, almost imperceptibly by stealth at times and then by Trevor Dann and Matthew Bannister at another. Their more intense reinvention lost listeners in the 1990s but, arguably, saved the station for us to enjoy today.

Consistently through the main station and its urban brother 1Xtra, Radio 1 has remained a credible home to new music and youth culture in the UK and, for much of its audience, a primary source of news through the legendary Newsbeat shows and punchy bulletins scheduled unconventionally on the half-hour.

Just how much it matters to today’s listeners that their favourite station has been championing new music for 50 years we’ll find out when Radio 1 promises to “bring together generations of listeners, through their shared memories of much-loved broadcasters and their most memorable on-air moments”. The ambition is impressive.

One thing has definitely changed: if you listen back to early Radio 1, there’s relatively little acknowledgement that the station is part of the BBC. In today’s media environment brand attribution is a hot topic for content providers everywhere. It’s a measurably real issue on social media where research suggests many people think they “get their news from Facebook” but it matters on air too.

Today, it’s inconceivable that audiences would be left to join the dots themselves, especially by a public broadcaster which has to communicate to licence fee payers what they get for their £2.82 per household per week.

Radio 1 Vintage runs for three days from 30 September 2017. It’s one of those projects that only the BBC could pull off and, more than most of the past, I’m looking forward to it.


BBC press release about Radio 1 Vintage
Classic Radio 1 jingles from JAM Creative Productions

One Comment

  1. No Chris Evans in the video??