Media: Absolute vows to keep Virgin's edge

Changing an established brand name is a bold move, and Virgin Radio has a tough job to make Absolute Radio as well-known a moniker as its Branson-tinged predecessor.

But work is well under way, and a concerted effort has already generated blanket newspaper coverage of its recent £53m buy-out by TIML, a subsidiary of The Times of India.

Absolute CEO Donnach O'Driscoll describes the new brand as 'unapologetic, cheeky and infectious with a long-term brand-building and investment strategy behind it'.

The station's PR campaign has suffered one early setback, though. Last month, Mischief walked out just weeks after it was hired to help launch the station's new brand identity (PRWeek, 15 August), citing a 'disagreement over strategic and creative direction' as the reason for the split.

However, despite this fall-out, the relaunch is still garnering press coverage. The campaign is using the line: 'Discover real music' to promote the station's dedication to 'real' musicians.

The good news for PROs is that the station, which claims to be re-energised, will still offer plenty of opportunities when it officially becomes Absolute next month.

As befitting a station that prides itself on its 'cheekiness', a typical approach by PROs just will not work. Tony Moorey, deupty programme manager, says the rule is 'the more creative the better'.

'Anything that captures imagination will work,' he advises. Such as the day half a dozen Ozzy Osbourne lookalikes turned up to the station.

Freelance consultant John Mayne says the station has a history of being receptive to unusual PR pitches: 'We took pizzas into the station and it covered our promotion.'

Unity associate director Gemma Hunt suggests using big names. A campaign Unity ran for homelessness charity Crisis last year used Paul Weller, Supergrass and The Enemy to increase talkability.

'The station is music mixed with a bit of banter, so give it something that taps into a cultural idea presenters can discuss,' says Hunt.

There have been changes of personnel too. Presenting duo JK and Joel have gone, as has Robin Burke. But station bosses are adamant Absolute will see an increase of personality with more 'topicality, wit, irreverence and edge, demonstrated by the hiring of emerging talent who other stations have previously considered a liability and fired'.

The controversial Tim Shaw, formerly of Kerrang!, has been brought on board to embody the irreverence of the brand.

Plans for the future include new ventures such as downloads, event ownership and TV. These will see the Absolute brand propelled off the radio waves, opening up even more opportunities for PROs.


Audience: Five million listeners per month on air and online

Contacts: Deputy programme manager Tony Moorey

Executive producer: Roque Segade-Vieito;

A MINUTE WITH... Tony Moorey, deputy programme manager, Absolute

- How can PROs best attract your attention?

The more creative the better. There are more opportunities depending on the creativity of the pitch. While the commercialisation of the station limits brands getting involved in areas that are already dedicated to our partners and sponsors, there are other chances to get coverage. Having a celebrity link is a great way to grab attention.

- Are you open to PR pitches?

We are always receptive and every single approach to the station is considered. Get in touch with the individual producers of the shows because they are involved in content.

- Any plans you can tell us about?

As Virgin we have been the most listened to commercial radio station online but so far we have only had Virgin in the UK. Now owning our own brand means that we can expand elsewhere. For example, while we do not have any immediate plans to launch our own TV station, it is something that we would now be able to do.

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