Marginal radio station gets lucrative fish advertising order

SLOVAKS need to eat more freshwater fish, the Agriculture Ministry believes – and it is willing to spend a lot of money to persuade people to put at least one kilo of carp or other locally-bred fish on their plates every year.

SLOVAKS need to eat more freshwater fish, the Agriculture Ministry believes – and it is willing to spend a lot of money to persuade people to put at least one kilo of carp or other locally-bred fish on their plates every year.

To that aim, the Agriculture Ministry recently ordered costly advertising in a marginal radio station, Best FM, as part of its campaign promoting the consumption of freshwater fish in Slovakia. This is not the first time freshwater fish advertising has sparked increased interest in the ways in which the ministry uses the media for this campaign. At the end of 2012, the ministry, led by Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek, had to respond to questions about why it paid hundreds of thousands of euros to the TA3 news channel to produce and air advertising spots promoting the consumption of freshwater fish.

This time around, advertising spots urging Slovaks to buy and eat more carp, trout, and other freshwater fish bred in Slovakia, cost the state €180,000, paid for with EU funds.

The campaign is planned to run on Best FM radio station for two weeks. Another two stations, Jemné and Viva Metropol, are running the advertising campaign, too. While the price tag of the campaign is one aspect of the order that has been disputed, the fact that the ministry chose a radio campaign above other media to promote the consumption of fish has raised some eyebrows among advertising experts as well.

Questionable choice

When asked about the reasons for choosing the three radio stations for the campaign, the ministry’s spokesperson, Peter Hajnala, told the Sme daily that they looked at the numbers of audience shares in the Bratislava region based on a survey by the TNS company. TNS, however, distanced itself from the survey results, saying that the data for the survey were collected by another agency which is not even considered a professional research agency.

Best FM is a mainstream radio station that has been on the market in its present form since the start of 2012. The radio’s programme structure is the typical mixture of popular music and news. The station is not, however, among the most popular in the country: in the Bratislava region, it is only the 10th most-listened-to radio station.

The current list of advertising prices, which the radio claims on its website to be valid as of September 1 this year, lists the prices of production of advertising spots at €200 or €300, excluding VAT. The broadcasting of an advertising spot varies depending on the time of day. For the most expensive air time in the morning, the radio charges €400 per 60-second spot.

Sme claims that these prices were only published on the radio’s website less than an hour after a Sme reporter sent questions to the radio manager concerning the difference between the prices published on the website as of January 2014 and the prices paid by the Agriculture Ministry. The January 2014 price for the most expensive spot was at €180, according to Sme. Best FM manager Richard Dírer claimed to Sme that they had increased the prices of advertising one month and a half before signing the contract with the ministry.

“We have adjusted the price list by over 100 percent due to the increased brand awareness, increased audience, doubled radio signal coverage, as well as the increased interest of clients in our advertising space,” Dírer told Sme.

Sme, however, also pointed out the differences between the advertising prices of Best FM and some other stations available in the Bratislava region. For instance the radio stations of the public-service RTVS would have charged considerably less for the same services. While FM radio (an alternative music radio station) would have provided the same service for more than €100 less, Devín radio (focusing on classical music) would have charged five times less, according to Sme reports. Both stations rank higher in the audience share of the Bratislava region.

Freshwater fish in focus

The ministry wants to increase the consumption of freshwater fish among Slovaks as a healthier alternative as part of the operational programme Fisheries, co-financed from the European Fisheries Fund. One of the aims of the operational programme was to increase consumption of freshwater fish among Slovaks from 4.2 kg per person per year in 2006 to 5.2 per person per year in 2015. The ministry at this point does not have data to prove whether the consumption has increased thus far, as the data will only be available at the end of the programme period in 2015.

The 2014 radio advertising campaign is not the only one of its kind under the current government. In late 2012, the Slovak media reported that the ministry paid €684,000 to the private news-only channel TA3. The television received €171,000 for the production of two advertising spots, 10 documentary movies and a dozen 20-minute long educational programmes. The airing of these materials was then charged at €513,000.

At the time, Sme pointed out that the ministry was close to signing a contract on making 26 short movies with another company for €150,000. These would have been broadcast by the public-service RTVS free of charge.

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