Indian Telco Giant Airtel Creates Radio Shows Across Africa

Branded Shows in English and French Reach 17 Countries

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New Delhi-based Bharti Airtel Ltd is launching branded radio shows across 20 countries in Africa, broadcast through 35 different radio stations, in a move to raise brand awareness for its Airtel wireless brand.

French host Jed
French host Jed

Radio Express, an audio company based in California, has produced two weekly chart countdown shows -- one in English and one in French -- with each featuring global and local musical hits that appeal to the diverse communities it is targeting.

Tom Rounds, CEO of Radio Express, said, "In the last decade there has been a rise in African music that crosses borders, which is why this idea works. The current No. 1 song is by a group from South Africa that is played all over the place, and that's what the show is about -- a celebration of African unity through music. It matches Airtel's strategic marketing plan devoted to crossing borders."

Mr. Rounds made his name in the 1960s and 1970s when he launched the American Top 40 countdown radio show in the U.S. Many of the Radio Express sponsored shows are still based on this popular top 40 format.

The African continent is so big and varied that in some remote areas, the radio shows cannot be distributed digitally and have to be delivered to local stations on CDs. Airtel Music Express is the English-language show, hosted by African broadcaster I.K., while the French version, Airtel Musique Express, is hosted by fellow African TV and radio personality Jed. The English version started Oct. 21, followed by the French version Nov. 4. No ratings data is available yet.

Airtel's brand is promoted during the hour-long shows through ads and mentions as well as features including "Airtel app of the week" and "Airtel Backstage Pass," where an artist is brought in to the station for interview. Ogilvy Africa, Airtel's advertising agency, has supplied the spots and come up with the media plan, selecting and negotiating with appropriate radio stations in each country. In each show, Airtel is mentioned 20 times and runs four ads. Other ads are also broadcast during the hour, but not for rival telecom brands.

English host I.K.
English host I.K.

Radio Express also works with Coca Cola extensively in Africa, particularly on the Fanta brand, which is popular across the continent, linking music and football in order to reach the target audience. In Mexico, Radio Express recently created a 13-week series of radio shows for Ford Motor Co. that ran in 70 cities, providing topical coverage of music festivals all over the world and offering VIP tickets to the Coachella festival in California as prizes.

Andre Beyers, Airtel Africa's chief marketing officer, said in a statement, "Radio is the world's most accessible and personally engaging mass medium…We think listeners will love the mix of global music and local hits in the show's countdown format. Airtel Music Express helps communicate our commitment to supporting up and coming performers and their music."

Airtel has operations in 20 countries in Asia and Africa and claims to be the fourth-largest mobile operator in the world by subscriber numbers.

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