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Big audio power // Distance learning, adland-style // The NHS brand

06 Apr 2020  |  Dominic Mills 
Big audio power // Distance learning, adland-style // The NHS brand

Dominic Mills kicks off the Future of Audio with a look at how lockdown has drawn us towards radio. Plus: St Dominic’s School for Distance Learning; and the origins of the NHS brand

I’ve never really done opera. But I always thought I was missing something. So why not teach myself opera? I’ve got time on my hands and the shutdown is the perfect opportunity for a little self-improvement.

But how? I could have sent away for The Only Opera Album You’ll Ever Need, 30+ tracks of, well, I’m not sure what exactly. I could have gone on Spotify.

No. What I need is a helper. Someone to sit beside me (metaphorically, of course) and guide me. Radio, of course — Radio 3, Classic FM or Scala — and there’s also the Opera for Everyone podcast.

As for many during this time, I suspect, radio has become my go-to companion; always present and infinitely varied, sometimes to the fore (the daily press conference — a vicarious sort of experience), sometimes in the background, providing news, fun, conversation, entertainment. Sometimes, it feels just like being in the office.

So it seems entirely appropriate that Mediatel should kick off its season of virtual events with a stream dedicated to the Future of Audio on April 16. Sign up here.

Mind you, audio’s having a pretty good ‘present’ too right now. The Radiocentre says online reach is up by around 15% for some broadcasters, and hours up similarly. Of course, revenue is down (whose isn’t?) but it will be interesting to see when and how it picks up again.

Amidst all this, it’s a timely reminder of the characteristics of radio: intimate, companionable, trusted, both local (DC Thomson’s local stations, for example, are doing especially well, according to the Radiocentre) and national.

Looking back, as Torin Douglas does here, it’s interesting to note that radio played a critical role during WWII: not just for news, public information and entertainment, but also where the nation gathered to hear Churchill’s speeches.

Casting forward though, radio — in fact audio is now a better all-encompassing word — has become that rare creature: a medium to which technological development has become, not just a friend, but also a boost.

That’s worth a tune-in to the Future of Audio then, even if it means temporarily skipping the Magic Flute. Expect a host of audio-themed editorial on Mediatel News starting today (6 April), with lots more goodies - including presentations and streamed interviews - hosted next week.

St Dominic’s School for Distance Learning

So... on the one hand, you’re having to hold down your day job in the ad and marketing industry, dealing variously with last-minute campaigns, redrafted media schedules, a gaping hole in the budget and so on; and on the other you’ve got to home-school the kids. Aaaaargh!

Here at St Dominic’s School for Distance Learning, we’ve come up with a simple curriculum that allows you to translate your real-life experiences and problems during the coronavirus into valuable life lessons (GCSE level and above) for the children. Here’s a sample.

Home Economics: Agency income has halved, and so has the family budget. Identify savings you can make immediately to the weekly food shop that avoid long-term damage to the agency/family health.

Maths: Mum and Dad have been furloughed. Showing your working, explain what this means to the family monthly income and how long they can keep paying the mortgage and the gym memberships.

English: Compare and contrast William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Albert Camus’ The Plague, explaining which has more relevance to society today.

Ethics/RE: The agency employs six cleaners, all of whom are migrants, and one of whom also cleans for you at home. They are all on the minimum wage. Should you sack them, furlough them, or keep paying their wages? Or pay the wages of only the home cleaner?

Engineering: Dad is missing out on his MAMIL time. Using the contents of the garden shed and your old tricycle, assemble for him a static exercise bike. Extra marks will be given if you can also draw a picture of his favourite Surrey Hills route.

Media Studies: Client X’s sales have fallen by 65% since the shutdown. Demonstrate to them that, despite this, bargain prices on all media mean now is a good time to run a multi-media brand campaign and the long-term benefits of a dominant share of voice.

Examine what lessons the advertising and marketing industries learnt from previous crises (for example, the financial crash in 2007-8, ebola 2014-16 and 9/11), and how they could be applied today. Note, if you cannot find any lessons from earlier crises, explain what you think they should have been.

Art: Using current social-distancing rules, show how you would art direct and write an ad for a well-known beer brand that incorporates men meeting in a pub before going to a football game.

Science: Show how resveratrol, a phytoestrogen present in grape seeds and red wine, could form part of a coronavirus vaccine thanks to its chemopreventive qualities. Extra marks will be given for estimates of how much red wine you would need to drink every day to maximise your chances of immunity.

NHS — origins of the brand

However much the organisation itself would wince at the term, and its many staff equally so, there is nevertheless much truth in thinking of the NHS as a brand.

Over many years it has expanded, developed, progressed, re-organised (multiple times) — and struggled — but it remains true to its founding principles: for all, free at the point of delivery, and based on clinical need rather than the ability to pay. There are not many institutions, or brands even in the narrower sense of the word, that can say that.

Here is its original statement of mission, taken from the leaflet sent to every household in July 1948.

It’s a masterpiece of both clarity and brevity. Copywriting at its finest.

Between 6 - 17 April Mediatel is hosting The Future of Audio - a free digital event to experience during lockdown. Click here for the full agenda, which includes live-streams, presentations and audio-themed editorial.

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08 Jul 2020 

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