Does the revived Virgin Radio have what it takes to win over listeners and advertisers?

30/03/2016

Today the iconic radio station Virgin relaunched in true rock n’ roll fashion on a Virgin train from Manchester to London. This may come as a surprise to those who hadn’t realised it had even left our radio waves back in 2008.

Flora Ballinger Flora Ballinger Account Director, AV Planning London Virgin Radio Relaunch
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The new Virgin DAB digital radio station is arguably the most exciting new station as part of the digital multiplex. Although the music features an eclectic mix of Brit pop, classic rock and up-and-coming artists (which is admittedly very similar to the Absolute stations), there will still be plenty of difference if the presenters live up to the standards set by the original line up.

When it launched in 1993, Virgin Radio was instantly successful. However, it went on to become even more so after Chris Evans was recruited to present the breakfast show which attracted an almost cult-like following.

The Virgin relaunch is following this same pattern of presenter recruitment as before, bringing across a presenter from a well-established BBC Radio show. In this case, Edith Bowman is moving from BBC Radio 1 to become the breakfast show host potentially bringing many loyal listeners with her. Edith is a great choice for the show as her music credentials fall solidly within the Virgin Radio music playlists. She is known for her laidback manner and whole-family appeal so it will be interesting to see the results of her show in the first RAJAR in August.

The key challenge facing Virgin is living up to its previous reputation in order to gain strong listening figures. The content needs to recapture the previous audience whilst being fresh and original enough to engage a new audience with no previous loyalty to Virgin. Striking a fine balance between heritage and innovation will be a responsibility shared out between the programme director (tasked with coming up with the creative concepts), the station producers (tasked with implementing them) and, ultimately, with the presenters themselves (who must deliver the ideas with charm and good humour).

The good news however is that there seems to be an appetite for ‘comeback’ shows as demonstrated with recent TV programming. Shows like The X Files and TFI Friday have both been recreated and have been successful in gaining strong viewing numbers.

And if the first song is anything to go by, the new station has pulled off the impossible and struck that fine balance between heritage and innovation. With a nod to the past, but a definite step to the future, a relative newcomer Gavin James’ cover of David Bowie’s Changes is a genius selection and a strong sign of things to come.

From an advertising perspective, it’s also great to see plenty of big brands already investing in the revamped station, with Virgin Mobile (who are also breakfast sponsors), BMW mini and VISA kicking off the station’s first commercial break at 12:40 today. It will certainly be interesting to see which brands follow suit in the weeks and months to come.

We are all keeping our fingers crossed that Virgin Radio lives up to its full potential and is a great success.

This article first appeared on the Drum on 30/03/16

Flora Ballinger Flora Ballinger Account Director, AV Planning London Virgin Radio Relaunch
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