| 01 Jun 2023
Rochak Kohli: "Advertisers expect a lot from radio"

Having grown as a stable brand over the years, Big FM is climbing the ladder of success with constant programming innovations and creative inputs. The network boasts of a strong team looking after all the aspects involved in taking the station forward.

One of the main man behind the curtains is the National Creative Head Rochak Kohli, who has given the station a new look by constantly working round the clock to ensure innovations on a daily basis. Taking some time off his busy schedule, Kohli takes the readers into the fascinating creative world of a radio station in this week’s Musical Rendezvous:

10 years ago, when radio was a very new medium for the audience in India, it was a simple medium where RJs were perceived as people with a heavy baritone voice using Urdu words. Now, radio has penetrated 70-80 per cent internationally, in India it is still only around 25-30 per cent. So the penetration is increasing and a lot of newer concepts are getting acquainted with people and they are happy to see new innovations on radio. The RJ today does not need to have a baritone voice but they need to engage people and they are getting open to ideas like Yaadon Ka Idiot Box or new innovations on special days. They want more such innovations now, so creatively it’s very demanding.

I have been in the industry for around seven years and have understood that creativity is something that is in-born and one needs to be passionate for the medium. Radio is very challenging because it’s not video supported. Being an audio medium, you need to create that kind of theatre and involvement through an audience. So, it needs constant ideas on a daily basis. I have actually learnt it the hard way by setting up the servers and launching new stations.

The most challenging show for us is the breakfast show because it involves innovation on a daily basis. The breakfast show audience is very demanding. They also shift loyalties because they are not set for the breakfast show unlike the other shows in the day. So it’s very difficult to hold on to that audience.

A breakfast show mainly involves four things. Firstly it should be local and of a particular city. It can talk about the whole nation but it should be very local and the RJs should belong to the city and know the local language. So the difficult part is to find an RJ who is smart, witty, learned yet grounded and for the people.

Secondly the show should be very current, and cannot talk about old news. It should be faster than any news channel, internet and more. Another point is that it should be entertaining. It cannot be just news; it has to involve factors which entertain listeners because at the end of the day we sell music to the audience. It should also involve utilities because a lot of the audience tune in to radio because of the utilities. Doing traffic updates is a job in itself, as the audience is very smart. You cannot give an old update.

In US, traffic updates are done on choppers who click real time pictures of jams and send it across to the station. So it’s like a complete drama. I still feel we are lagging behind in utilities in India because we don’t understand the importance right now.

When we talk to the radio audience, we get the answer that the shows are quite distinct. Firstly, it depends on the personality of an RJ. For example, a Radio Mirchi RJ is a guru, a Red FM RJ is a community crusader, a Big FM RJ is an entertainer and Radio City RJs are friends. So when we talk to the audience we understand why they listen to a particular radio station. Apart from the creativity factor, a breakfast show RJ also needs to work on a daily basis on his personality. We need to make sure that every day they live upto it. An RJ is the face of the channel because they are representing the channel in front of an audience.

Sometimes when the RJs personality is very strong and it is there in the people’s mind, we try to integrate it into the show. If an RJ is new, we try to bridge the gap and develop the kind of a personality the audience needs.

Ad jingles and advertising also plays an immense role in the promotion of an RJ because it sets the sound of a station. The promotions and the jingles need to be very inspirational for the audience. Every promo is based on the strategy of the station and the show, with one objective that we want to achieve after we play it and we also figure out how many times we want it to be played to create the impact.

If a listener is driving a car and a promo is playing based on the same car, it will relate to that listener and so on. So a listener might not wait for that, they may wait for the jock talk or music and they may switch, but that is why a radio station plays a promo only for a particular number of times. Research shows that if I play a promo for five weeks in Mumbai continuously, 20 times a day, it will reach around 50 per cent of the audience.

There are basically three kinds of promos in radio– P1, P2 and P3. P1 is your main activity or main show like a Diwali activity, breakfast shows or more. P1 gets a rotation of around 50 per cent of my total promo time.

P3 are the off primetime shows and one week activities like Rakshabandhan, Fathers Day and more. I first decide what I want to achieve from such a spike and then I categorize it according to the P1, P2 and P3.

These days we are working like an ad agency by providing clients solutions, ideas, ad jingles and more. We also do advertiser funded programs now. So, it depends on how fast and how quick you can innovate. So if I am working with a company, we will take all their products and analyze their objective and their core target group, focus area and accordingly develop ideas like that. I need to think from a client’s perspective and serve him. Radio is very competitive these days. A lot of the stations hire agencies to do client work. Clients expect more in terms of radio and they become very conscious while spending their money.

We always believe in newer ideas and innovations because we think that radio should not be conventional and it should reach to newer audience. So, we collaborated with Talenthouse, where we outsourced this Diwali jingle. We could have done it but we wanted to explore this new aspect so that we can pitch it for our clients in the future as well.

Advertisers expect a lot from radio. We serve the clients also but our core product is music, jocks and audience. So, there is a lot to be explored on the content side and there is a lot to be desired in terms of innovations for clients in radio. I think Big FM has taken a leap in that sphere and we have a separate wing for client solutions and client commercial production.

Radio audience from the last 10 years has really changed. When radio came in, a lot of youth got attracted to it. Youth as an audience keeps on changing so radio over these 12 years has shifted its focus from the youth to the 35 plus. They are the guys who are from the core target group of radio. Today’s youth have a lot of devices like mobile phones, internet and more so they don’t connect as quickly with radio. So, innovating a lot with them is a risk. They want shows which are connecting with them, which involve nostalgia, good music, a good RJ that connects with them and involves a stability of around seven years. So we need to innovate after a lot of thought, research and that’s why it is not happening very rapidly.

Innovation can be done on various points. The trends in programming and innovation keep changing. Currently it is on tickets and IPL, before which it was women. The overall trend being witnessed is the online, internet platforms. But in radio trends are always seen as emotional points, or which hit emotions.

Creativity on radio is that not much of a challenge, you just need spontaneity and a lot of ideas at the spur of the moment.

For Big FM, a lot of things are on the cards in 2013. We will be taking the night time band to the next level, because the night time band in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and more have a dedicated listenership which doesn’t switch. So we are planning an innovation for that. Every spike that we plan now is around our tagline of ‘Life Banao’. This year we will also be involving a new angle to our Green Ganesha campaign.

Quick bites with the Creative head:

Most Creative Show: Yaadon Ka Idiot Box because it involves a lot of creativity on a daily basis.

Most Creative RJ: It has to be RJ Harsh

Five ways that a radio station can attract more listeners on a creative aspect:

1.    Innovations in music by not playing the regular music that every radio station plays, but then identifying the gap and what the audience needs.

2.    On-ground connect to attract newer audiences.

3.    Tie-ups are a must with musical shows and theatres as the presence of a radio station in the creative aspect increase.

4.    Identifying the regular calendar days and making them special for the audience.

5.    Following the passions of people and giving them what they want instead of what you have to offer.

( has been constantly trying to innovate and provide readers with the best information about the goings-on in the industry. We are happy to introduce the special section titled 'Musical Rendezvous'. The objective: delve deeper into the minds of senior professionals from the radio and music industries, to understand trends and developments and get other insights about the way forward. A big thank you to those who are supporting us in this endeavour and giving our reporters the time, and knowledge so that it can be imparted further to our readers.)