Ad agencies have been investing in interesting side businesses for some time now -- Bartle Bogle Hegarty's Mrs. O blog, Mother, New York's former sausage fest, etc. So, considering the eclectic nature of some of these ventures, a leap into internet radio isn't all that outlandish. On Jan. 5, Wieden & Kennedy launched WK Radio as a way to "inspire creativity through provocative conversations, interviews and artistic expressions relating to arts, culture, media, and music," according to the agency's blog.
The brains behind the operation are Janice Grube, program director of WK Radio, and Radio Sloan, audio engineer of WK Radio and guitarist for Peaches' live band, among other musical endeavors. Grube said she thought it would be cool to start a radio station that not only showcased music but featured art and culture that could inspire people at Wieden & Kennedy.
When asked whether the station will be used for marketing purposes, Mark Fitzloff, exec creative director of Wieden & Kennedy's Portland office, responded, "We're kind of winging it, to be honest. We don't want it to be a PR vehicle. We don't want it to be a mouthpiece for clients. There are no ulterior motives."
Bill Davenport, creative director of the agency's long-form content department, WK Entertainment, said there has been talk of having ads on the station, but nothing is set in stone yet.
With the station in its infancy, the format is still evolving. For now, there are morning shows -- with music and talk about various employee projects, like books, for instance -- on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays that are repeated in the afternoon the same day. Tuesdays and Thursdays are an all-music format.
Of course, radio stations have licensing fees to pay, and WK Radio handles them through Live 365, an internet radio company who provides licensing/royalty coverage.
The shows are produced primarily out of the Portland, Ore., office, but the goal is to get all seven of the agency's offices to produce shows, eventually filling up more hours in the day and on weekends. The DJs are a mix of Wieden & Kennedy employees and some people outside the agency involved in the art and music scenes.
Visitors to the site are prompted -- by giant bold letters -- to "stick it in your ear hole." Music nerds that we are, our ear holes were pleasantly surprised when we tuned in and heard Joy Division, Brian Eno and Gordon Lightfoot (not ashamed!) in addition to more recent artists like The Knife. In between songs, you can hear WK Radio's audio signatures; our favorite is the Andrews Sisters-style jingle, created by Portland swing-jazz group The Stolen Sweets.
~ ~ ~
Maureen Morrison is a research editor and analyst for Ad Age's Data Center in Chicago.