Radio connects for Web planners

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Nortel networks wanted its foray into radio to be anything but typical.

The Internet technology company turned to Westwood One to launch "A Minute on the Internet," a weekly radio vignette hosted by Alan Webber, founding editor of Fast Company.

"It gives us a real opportunity to showcase our brand and messaging," says Bruce Horner, director of corporate advertising and marketing at Nortel. "It lets us talk about what we are doing for our customers. We provide business solutions that address the topics that Alan covers."

Fast Company touts the program with an ad in its publication each month. The ad provides a URL so readers can connect to Nortel and listen to the vignettes online.

"A Minute on the Internet" airs on Westwood One's CBS Radio Network 15 times a week.

The vignette is introduced as being sponsored by Nortel and carries a closing comment on the company's work developing technology systems. The theme music from Nortel's general branding campaign, a rendition of the Beatles' "Come Together," plays in the background during Mr. Webber's 60-second speech featuring how-to tips on driving traffic to Web sites, creating online partnerships and handling order fulfillment.

Before settling on radio, Mike Bracken, media director at Nortel agency Temerlin McClain, Irving, Texas, had been searching for a marketing idea for his client that wasn't blatantly commercial.

REACHES DECISION MAKERS

"This particular [campaign] was a recognition of the fact that there are many different decision makers when it comes to [computer] equipment," he says. "You have the [information technology] people who care about the detail, but this targets the [corporate level executives]. It's an attempt to speak directly to the business people and do it in an unintimidating and useful manner."

In March, Nortel began sponsoring a similar program in Canada that is hosted by Canadian author Jim Carroll. Nortel also plans to roll out a kindred program in Latin America.

The radio shows are just part of Nortel's global marketing efforts. Mr. Horner refused to detail costs for the program. The company spent $33.8 million in U.S. measured media during the first quarter of this year, including $1.69 million on network radio, according to Competitive Media Reporting figures.

"Integration of multiple media has helped really elevate [Nortel's] exposure," Mr. Horner says. "We've had terrific feedback from customers."

SIMILAR TO SPONSORSHIPS

Mr. Webber, who says he still hasn't listened to any of his radio segments, described the radio vignettes as similar to Fast Company's sponsorship of conferences and events.

"It really is a different kind of positioning," he says. "It's very true to the Fast Company spirit that says, `We're not just trying to sell you soap, we're actually trying to help you.' "

While radio show sponsorships aren't new, Natalie Swed-Stone, managing partner and director of national radio services at Omnicom Group's Optimum Media Direction USA, says the format isn't often used by advertisers.

"I think it gets the name out there and builds awareness of the name and creates the association with technology, which is what they are trying to do," she says. "It's an excellent use of the medium."

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