By John Plunkett: Hearing a U2 song on Absolute Radio – the station formerly known as Virgin Radio – is nothing new. What is, however, is hearing the new single, Get On Your Boots, followed in quick succession by a 10-second advert suggesting you download it from iTunes. Welcome to the world of the “blipvert”.
In a world where traditional spot advertising is on the decline – generating less than 60 percent of Absolute’s revenue – the station’s management hopes the new breed of radio commercial will provide a fruitful source of income and be picked up by other artists and record labels keen to follow U2’s lead.
But it is also a potential minefield. Absolute had to seek approval from media regulator Ofcom, which wanted reassurance with such a short ad that listeners would know when they were being advertised to, and that the U2 link would not confuse them.
There is plenty of U2 on Absolute at the moment, including an hour-long interview between the band and breakfast DJ Christian O’Connell, to be broadcast next Thursday. It also has two exclusive tracks from the new U2 album, No Line on the Horizon.
“We had to get approval from Ofcom because we are in uncharted territory,” says Absolute Radio chief operating officer, Clive Dickens. “The song was already in the highest rotation it could have on Absolute Radio – 27 to 30 times a week – so they were confident any commercial relationship between us and [U2's record label] Universal was not influencing the number of times we play it.
“And they wanted to be confident that the consumer would know when they were being advertised to. We felt we came up with a creative that made it clear this was an advert. U2 typically don’t market their stuff on the radio, and we sold it at a significant premium over normal spot advertising.”
Short and sweet – depending on your taste in music – the ad tells listeners: “Get On Your Boots, the new single from U2. Download it from iTunes.” It was made in-house at Absolute Radio by Geoff Bargas, with planning and buying handled by ad agency Mediacom.
Interesting but entirely predictable that the band’s marketeers should go straight for iTunes and not bother to give the high street record shops – AKA HMV (LSE: HMV) – a mention. So much for the days of “available from all good record shops”. One day radio stations might be able to direct listeners to a download store of their own.
“The idea of blipverts is not new – LBC was probably the first to introduce them in the UK and Australia was the first market to do them,” says Dickens. “But the idea of actually doing it immediately after the song, about the song you have just heard, is a first as far as I am aware.
“I think it is a really interesting way that the music industry can work with the radio industry at a challenging time for spot advertising. The listener knows they are getting advertised to but hopefully it’s slightly more entertaining commercial content than some of the other stuff people produce.”
We know what you mean, Clive. Some commercial radio ads are enough to drive you to distraction. Does this? Or does it drive you to iTunes instead?
(Photo: Adam Bowie)
This article originally appeared in Â© Guardian News & Media Ltd..